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Seasonal Home Improvement Tips

Summer – August

The defining characteristic of summer is of course — heat. Warmer weather doesn't just let us get outside and get to work on a new set of home improvement projects, it often defines our working techniques. Just as we have to be careful of frost in the winter, we have to be careful of overheating and fast drying in the summer.

If you are spray painting on a very hot, dry day, the paint can easily dry before it even hits the wall or fence. So, in hot weather, keep the spray gun as close as possible to the surface but not so close as to cause dripping. If the paint doesn't dry before hitting the surface, but the surface is too hot, it will cook before it can stick. Even if you are using a brush, if the surface is too hot and the sun is beating down on it, the paint can dry before it has a chance to flow, and you will see more brush streaks and overlap marks. That's why we always say to never paint in direct sunlight. You also need to be careful about spray painting on a windy day because the paint just doesn't go where you want it to go.

Just as asphalt roofing should not be worked on when it is too cold because it becomes brittle, at 2pm on a hot summer day asphalt roofing almost reaches the melting point. If you walk on it when it is too hot you can force the granules deep into the asphalt or even deform the roofing. Granules or gravel need to be on top of the asphalt to protect it from the UV rays of the sun.

If you are working with mortar, or small batches of concrete, work in the shade and always mix it on wooden boards that have been soaked in water before you start. The mortar will want to dry out quickly in the heat and if you allow a dry wooden plank to drink water from the mortar mix, you will be working with too dry a mix. Don't add any extra water to the mix — that will only cause shrinkage and cracking. Mix it properly and then, as soon as it has set, cover it with a wet canvas to keep the water in. Keep the canvas wet with a water spray for at least three days so the concrete stays humid while it cures.

In most parts of the country, summertime means high humidity and wood swells compared to other times of the year. So if you live in a humid area and are building a deck, take into account the fact that deck boards will shrink later on. In humid areas — on the two coastlines and often around lakes — decks built in the summer should have the boards pushed closely together. A small space will appear between boards as they shrink later. But if you are in the dry part of the prairies, the summer is actually the driest time of the year and the boards will expand in the fall, so leave that traditional little gap. The same goes for hardwood flooring. If you're building where the summer is humid, lay boards tightly together so the gaps will not be too large in the middle of the winter when the heating system dries out the house. If the relative humidity is at its lowest in your area in the summer, then install them just slightly loose so they have a little room for expansion in the fall.

Remember that the UV light from the sun can not only give you a sunburn, it can also damage many building materials. Never leave foam insulation or plastic sheets exposed to direct sunlight for the whole summer. These materials need to be protected from the UV rays. That is one of the jobs of house siding. If left too long in the sun these materials will dry, crack, or even turn to powder. They can take a few weeks of sunlight, but not a few months.

Building materials aren't the only thing you need to protect in hot weather — you also need to look after yourself when you're working. If you need to work inside the attic under that hot roof, you need to follow some very special summer precautions. First, avoid the attic completely at mid-day. Work in the evenings, or better yet, in the early mornings before it begins to heat up. Never work alone in an attic in the summer. The chance of heat stroke is too high. And always have a partner who is not inside the attic with you, just in case you do get into trouble. If you must go into a hot attic, install a garden sprinkler on the roof to drop the temperature a little.