53% of homeowners in the United States have made some kind of home improvement in the last year, according to Scarborough research. And with summer almost here, more and more people will be thinking about rolling up their sleeves to work on outdoor home improvements. From HVAC service to roofing repairs, the following are our top recommendations for outdoor home improvements before spring is over.

Stain Your Deck

As the sun comes out and the weather starts to become more consistent, you and your family will want to start spending a lot more time outside. Having a nice porch or deck to hang out on can completely transform your outdoor space. If your deck is looking a bit run-down and faded, one of the easiest outdoor home improvements you can make is to stain it. Adding a new coat of stain is good for you deck, beyond simply making it look nice. Besides changing the color or accentuating the beautiful wood gain, staining helps protect your deck from the elements. Home improvement experts often recommend staining or sealing your deck once every year, so it’s a great task to get out of the way around the first days of summer.

Install a New Railing on Your Porch

While we’re on the subject of deck upgrades, how’s your railing looking? If your front porch is looking kind of dull, installing a new railing can make all the difference. Using classic wood-tone railing can give your home’s exterior a natural feel, while a brightly colored railing will add a pop of aesthetic interest. You could even go crazy with elaborate latticework for the railing.

When you consider outdoor home improvements, you should think of your deck or porch as your outdoor living room. Not only will it look nice when you fix it up, but it can also be a way to increase your living space. While deck upgrades might not be as complex or risky as asbestos removal, you should still consider hiring a contractor for complex improvements. Structural woodworking can get complicated if you aren’t sure what you’re doing.

Prepare Your Central Air Conditioner for Summer

While an AC repair should be reserved for a professional serviceman, there are certain cleaning and maintenance tasks you can perform to have your central air conditioner ready for summer. Not only will this ensure efficient operation of your AC system, but it will also keep repair costs to a minimum.

After shutting off the power to your air conditioner, you will want to clean or replace the AC filters. This is the most important step to having your air conditioner ready for summer, but it’s also the easiest. Your system should have at least one air filter in the furnace or air-handler cabinet, which should be replaced at least twice per year to prevent clogs from the dust it collects.

Next you should turn your attention to the outdoor AC unit. Ideally you keep it covered during the winter, but if not, then it’s probably collected a bunch of leaves and other debris over the year. You’ll need to open it up to remove the large debris, and then you should clean the refrigerator coils with a special brush or vacuum. If there’s any stubborn dirt clogs between the fins, you can help remove these with a commercial AC coil cleaner which you spray on from inside the unit. Just be careful not to spray the fan or electrical components, and make sure you’ve turned the power off before opening up the unit.

For more detailed instructions on setting up your AC for the summer, just run a quick web search.

Install a New Mailbox

Want some easy outdoor home improvements that make a big difference? Why not start by replacing your old mailbox?

The right mailbox can add some delightful character and charm to your front yard. It doesn’t even have to be a new mailbox — you could use the one you have and give it a new paint job, decorate it with wood or metal embellishments, add some stylish number plates, or simply plant some flowers around the base.

While we’re on the subject, you might consider adding security features to your mail delivery process. Have you often worried about having mail or packages stolen while you’re away from home? Maybe you should get a smart mailbox or package securing system that will protect your deliveries. Whatever your priorities are, a new mailbox can enhance your home’s curb appeal and create a great first impression.

Update Your Address Display

Similar to upgrading your mailbox, changing your address display can give your doorway a fresh look and feel. If you have a picky homeowner’s association, your options may be limited, but if you’re allowed to make the change, upgrading your house numbers is a great way to personalize your doorway and brighten your front yard.

There are lots of ways to make your address display stand out. You could choose numbers that better match your mailbox or vinyl siding. You could set lights behind the numbers for easy reading at night. You can even place numbers onto colorful planters, tiles, or painted bricks.

Build a Fire Pit

A fire pit can provide some cozy ambiance, and it’s sure to be the highlight of any weekend gathering when you break out the marshmallows. Perhaps best of all, it’s not that difficult to build one yourself.

First you’ll need to choose the right spot: it needs to be a flat patch of ground without any low-hanging branches or bushes nearby. Next you must choose the materials to build with: large stones and cast-concrete curved blocks are probably the most popular choices. Then you’ll decide on your pit’s size and shape, and on whether it should be gas- or wood-burning. You can find easy-to-follow instructions on the internet for building a fire pit, or your local hardware store may provide instructions. Besides being a delightful addition to your summer yard, the building process can be a fun family project.

Clean Out the Gutters

The gutters along the roof of your house are crucial for avoiding water buildup and moisture damage, but they must be free of clogs to work. After spending the winter collecting leaves, twigs, and dirt, your gutters probably need to be cleaned out — ideally before too many heavy spring rains. Once again, this is a task you can perform yourself without too much trouble, so unless there’s actual damage, there’s no need to contact the local gutter services.

There are a few different ways you can clean your gutters, but the first step is always to assess the damage. Safely and carefully go up onto your roof and examine the gutters. Is there any significant buildup, or are they mostly clear? Note where any buildup has occurred so you know where to target when you’re ready to clean the gutters out.

Next, you have a few options. You can clean the gutters using a leaf blower with a nozzle attachment built for gutter cleaning (just be careful to avoid blowing leaves into the downspout). You can also use a commercial wet/dry vacuum, available at any outdoor home improvements store. Or you can use a power washing system, which is especially a good idea if it’s been more than six months since you’ve cleared your gutters. Finally, if your house is small or you simply don’t want to bother with equipment, you can always wear gloves and remove the debris by hand.

If your downspouts are clogged, you can use either a plumbing snake or the pressure washer to break up any obstructions.

If you cleared your gutters with the vacuum or leaf blower or by hand, you’ll want to follow up by spraying down the gutters with a garden hose. This will wash away any leftover dirt. If you’d like to avoid big cleaning jobs in the future, you should consider having gutter covers installed to prevent leaves and sticks from getting caught in your gutters. If you’re not the hands-on type, you can find a local roofer or other professional to do it for you.

Build a Garden

One of the more elaborate outdoor home improvements, constructing a garden or raised bed can be a fun project with lots of benefits. Working in the sun with plants and soil can be therapeutic. A carefully set-up garden can be very beautiful, and you can raise plants for food as well as aesthetics.

If you consider gardening as a home improvement hobby, try to think of things outside the usual perennials and flower beds. You could build simple raised beds to grow herbs and a handful of vegetables in. Or you could plant a butterfly garden, which is good for the environment as well as beautiful.

Spruce Up Your House’s Exterior

Painting your house is not an annual checklist activity, but if it’s been a few years since your walls have been painted, it’s not a bad idea. If the outside of your house is starting to look worn-down, a new coat of paint might do the trick — no need to call the siding contractor just yet.

Before you choose a paint color and get to work, inspect your walls for any damage that might have occurred over the winter. Watch out for any cracks or holes that burrowing insects could get in through. Broken siding and other materials should be patched or replaced before you attempt to beautify the house. If you notice water stains on the walls, it might indicate that your gutters aren’t containing roof runoff effectively.

Once you’ve gotten an overview of the condition of your walls, you might want to spray them down with a pressure washer before painting. This will ensure that things like cobwebs won’t be in the way while you’re trying to paint, and it will also help the paint to stick.

When you’re ready to buy paint, keep in mind that choosing the right colors is an art unto itself. You should consider looking up an array of color schemes that you like, based on the mood and temperature you’d like your home’s exterior to have. You might even want to consult an expert on design before you finalize your decision. And use paint samples to test out your chosen colors before investing in the paint.

When you’re finally ready to begin painting your home, do some quick research to make sure you have all the tools you need. Few things are more annoying than starting a project, only to realize you forgot an important accessory. Your outdoor home improvements store should be able to recommend everything you need.

Have Your Roof Inspected or Repaired

The roof of your home is your first line of defense against severe weather, and neglecting your roof is a recipe for trouble. Too many homeowners place blind faith in their roof for years, only to discover a range of preventable problems after noticing water stains on the ceiling.

If you’ve had a commercial roofer inspect your roof within the last year, you can probably get away with inspecting it on your own. Between a pair and binoculars and a keen eye, you should be able to notice any critical problems yourself. Cracked or missing shingles will need to be replaced. Any shingle-lift could mean you need new fasteners. If you see a buildup of leaves, pine needles, or sticks on your roof, you will need to gently dislodge and remove them. Like many outdoor home improvements for spring, this is something you can easily do yourself.

If it’s been a year or longer since you had your roof professionally inspected, you should call a roof repair service and have that done right away. A professional roofer can spot problems you might not, and they’ll also know exactly what needs to be done about them and what repairs will cost. This is essential for maintaining the structural integrity of your entire home, so don’t skimp on this important part of home maintenance.

And with that, your home and yard should be all ready for the summer. Hopefully you found our top suggestions for outdoor home improvements helpful!

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