Portland Summer Maintenance Tips

During the height of the heat of Portland summers, it can be easy to come up with excuses for putting off chores in and around the house.

The problem with putting off annual tune-ups and inspections is that many of your home's key functions, such as plumbing and air conditioning, could fail unexpectedly. These items and more need to be regularly maintained in order to keep your house operating efficiently and to prevent long term structural wear and tear.

Not to mention, you definitely don't want to miss out on Portland's dry season for getting yard work and other outdoor tasks knocked out.

So let's get to work on your home's summer upkeep, that way you can rest assured – at least until next summer comes around!

Use the following list of items to make your own checklist, to ensure you address each of your home's specific maintenance needs.

Note that the information is intended to address weather and issues that Portland homeowners often face; however, most activities listed are applicable to property upkeep around the world.

Summer Maintenance Homeowner Checklist for Portlanders

There is no better time than now to begin tackling summertime home maintenance tasks. Here is our list of things to knock out while the weather is still warm. So without further ado, here's what you should be doing, if applicable, outside while the weather permits.

Outdoor Checklist: 13 Outside Maintenance & Upkeep Tasks

When it comes to summer annual maintenance, 'tis the season to get outdoors and break a sweat. Depending on your particular home, you may need to address each of the following items or just a few.

When working on your property, especially on a hot day, be sure to hydrate before, during, and after.

#1 Gutters

With Portland receiving approximately 43 inches of rain per year, it's important that your home's gutters are clear of debris and functioning as intended.

If the downspout gets blocked with leaves, debris, or anything else, it can end up creating standing water, which, eventually, will overflow or seep under the roof and ultimately into the foundation. 

Additionally, leaves that clog up your gutter may start to decay, causing an unpleasant odor, if not removed.

#2 Power Wash

Also known as pressure washing, an annual power wash in Portland is necessary for many homeowners due to an abundance of mold, algae and mud build-up on concrete, brickwork and walls.

Additionally, pressure washing can remove chipping paint, dirt, plus debris in grout lines, concrete contraction joints, and gutters, to name a few.

Here's a list of the most commonly power washed fixtures around the home:

  • Driveway
  • Pathways
  • Exterior
  • Deck
  • Patio
  • Siding
  • Windows and sills
  • Garage floor
  • Fences and walls
  • Outdoor furniture
  • Outdoor kitchen areas
  • BBQ grill
  • Air conditioning condenser
  • Garbage cans
#3 Windows

Usually, the outside window collects more dirt and unsightly water stains on its glass. While there are many tactics, tools, and products designed to wash exterior windows, we recommend the following approach:

  1. Hose down the windows, then add a few drops of liquid dish soap to a pail of cold water.
  2. Use a microfiber cloth to scrub the windows and remove dirt. Many DIY stores carry extension poles, for reaching second-story windows.
  3. Use your hose or a low setting on a pressure washing machine to thoroughly rinse.
    This is usually sufficient for most households; however, if you really want your windows to shine or have stubborn stains, continue with steps four through six below.
  4. Use a professional cleaner or vinegar and water mix to give the glass extra protection.
  5. Use a squeegee to dry the window – working from top to bottom while angling the squeegee toward the bottom of the window. Dry the squeegee after each pass with a towel.
  6. If tough stains, like bird droppings, persist, saturate completely with vinegar and water and let the solution rest for a few minutes. If needed, use a non-abrasive sponge, to prevent scratching, to dislodge any remaining gunk.
Don't forget to clean off screens or shutters, if your home has them, with your hose or power washer set to low. Allow screens to fully dry before reinserting them.
#4 Spray for Insects

Portland is known for its rain and wet climate, which makes it the ideal place for insects and pests to procreate and thrive. The area is home to a variety of insects, animals and rodents, which can quickly lead to an infestation.

Before blanketing your yard with potentially harmful chemicals, consider whether your property's insects are truly a nuisance or part of a healthy ecosystem and the impact the insecticide could have on pets or family members.

Portland's most common vermin:
  • Voles
  • Mice
  • Rats
  • Spiders
  • Termites
  • Cockroaches
  • Ants

#5 Spray for Weeds

Portland, like everywhere, is susceptible to weeds – many of which are invasive species.

Here are the weeds that grow most often in the Pacific Northwest:

  • Blackberries (invasive)
  • Yellow Archangel
  • Old Man's Beard (invasive)
  • Lesser Celandine (invasive)
  • Garlic Mustard (invasive)
  • Hogweed (invasive)
  • American Pokeweed (invasive)
  • English and Irish Ivy
  • Spurge Laurel
  • Water Primrose (invasive)

When spraying, do so when the weather is suitable - namely on a low wind day. Rainwater runoff can cause herbicide to travel into surrounding flower beds or other locations where it will kill plants, so be mindful.

Carefully spray and target just the weeds you wish to remove.

Put on personal protective gear, particularly gloves, and wear pants and shoes.

After spraying, avoid bringing clothing and gear into the home before washing thoroughly to avoid contact with glyphosate and other potentially harmful chemicals.

#6 Trimming & Pruning

The optimal time to prune trees is during their dormant season, which, in Oregon, typically lasts from late winter to early spring. Branches that are dead, diseased or simply large and potentially hazardous, should be cut off as soon as possible.

In order to make quick work of your yard's plants, you'll want to have most of these tools at your disposal:
  • Pruning shears
  • Lopper
  • Pruning saw
  • Hedge shears
  • Pole pruner

You'll also want to prevent as many trees, bushes and other plants as you can from touching the house. Not only can plants cause structural damage, but insects and rodents use them as superhighways to gain access to your home's interior.

#7 Lawn Edging & Trimming

The large majority of homes in the Portland area have bright green blades of grass in their yards – much in thanks to the region's persistent rain. If you want your lawn to look tidy, you may want to spend some time edging.

Edging involves making a physical cut on the grass. This "edge" creates a break between the grass and its borders – driveways, sidewalks and flower beds, for example.

Trimming is the process of cutting grass in areas that your lawn mower cannot reach, such as against a wall or fence. To correctly edge or trim a lawn, there are a variety of manual and power tools specifically designed for the task.

Check your local hardware store, where they're sure to have a variety of grass edging and trimming tools to help you get the job done fast and with the least amount of effort.

#8 Air Conditioner

When it comes to outdoor A/C maintenance, we're generally only speaking of the unit's condenser (the large steel box on the side of your home that contains a fan).

If you're uncomfortable with switching off the condenser's power and removing a few access screws, stop here and contact your local HVAC professional.

Otherwise, grab your screwdriver, head to the unit, and start by switching the power off – typically the condenser has its own power switch located beside it, but you should also turn off the power at the breaker box.

You then can either unscrew the fan or open side of the box, to access the interior.

If there's a lot of leaves or pine needles lodged in the machine, use a shopvac to suck the bulk of it out. Then spray down the unit with a hose or power washing wand, before replacing the fan/siding.

#9 Paint

If you want to tackle a total repaint of your house, it is the right time of year. However, touching up chipped paint, scratched siding or stained facia boards, can often be enough to transform your property's curb appeal.

If you're unsure of the color paint needed for your property, take small samples from concealed areas to your local paint store and have them match it for you with an exterior-use paint type.

Before painting, be sure to clean and dry the area you intend to touch up.

Depending on the extent of paint work you want to accomplish, you may need one or more of these tools:
  • 4-inch paint brush
  • Roller and tray
  • Ladder
  • Drop cloth
  • Putty knife (multipurpose tool)
  • Paint sprayer

#10 Roofing

Due to Portland's weather, homeowner's roofs take a lot of abuse. Which, if left unattended, will certainly lead to structural damage and, eventually, water leaking into the house.

It's not uncommon for roofs in the area to have:
  • Missing or damaged shingles
  • Snow and ice damage
  • Tree damage
  • Age-related issues (roofs don't last forever)

If you're handy and can reach your roof safely to replace the odd shingle, you can fairly inexpensively extend your roof's longevity.

However, extensive roofing damage from a tree or cold weather, should be repaired by professionals.

#11 Fencing/Walls

As mentioned, Portland properties are great breeding grounds for mold and moss. This is especially true on areas of fences and walls that are hidden from sunlight. Address this issue by power washing the affected areas.

Replace or repair broken fence pickets, posts and rails.

Replace broken blocks in concrete walls and seal any holes or gaps between the blocks with a sealant.

#12 BBQ Grill

If you're the type that packs the grill away for winter, you should do the following maintenance tasks at least once a year. If you grill all year-round, you may want to conduct maintenance on it two to three times a year.

Here are the steps for cleaning propane BBQs:

  1. Take out the grates and soak them in hot, soapy water.
  2. Take out the heat barriers and soak them too.
  3. Clean the inside of the grill with a wire brush - removing debris, but leaving a protective layer of grease.
  4. Start the grill for just long enough to see if the flames are coming out evenly from the burners. 
    If the flames aren't coming out at the same rate, the burners need to be cleaned.
    To do this;
    1. Take the burners off the grill that aren't working and push a pipe cleaner or small wire brush through the ports.
    2. Check the evenness of the burners' flow rate again and repeat this step if necessary.
  5. Clean out the grease drip pan or replace with a new one.
  6. While the grates and barriers are soaking, close the lid and wash down the outside.
    Use a hose, along with a large sponge and soapy water, or if you have a power washer, use it on a low setting.
  7. Scrub the grill's grates and barriers with your wire brush, then put them back in.
  8. Start the grill and let it heat up so that all the parts inside can dry out.
For those packing away their grills for the season, snugly shut the gas valve and disconnect the hose from the grill unit. Remove the propane tank from the grill and place it somewhere safe with good airflow. Finally, cover the grill and store it where it won't get wet.

#13 Nooks & Crannies

There are a number of good reasons to make sure gaps in siding and cracks in doors and windows are sealed. Perhaps most importantly, when a home is properly sealed, it reduces energy and keeps critters from crawling their way in.

Two straightforward and efficient methods for air sealing are caulking and weatherstripping, which can easily pay for themselves in energy bill savings in less than a year.

Weatherstripping is a form of insulation that's used to seal moving parts, such as doors and operable windows, whereas caulk and/or spray foam is often used for gaps and holes around door and window frames.

Knowing how bugs make their way into your home is the first step to stopping them.

Here are the areas of your home that you should make sure are inaccessible for insects and rodents:
  • Doors
  • Windows
  • Siding and stucco
  • Exhaust fans
  • Dryer vents
  • Wall passages – cable inlets, A/C attachments, etc.

Final Thoughts

We've attempted to list all the major home maintenance tasks that Portland residents face; however, we appreciate that not everyone's property nor house construction is the same. Which is why we highly recommend that you walk your property and look for items not listed above. For example, sheds, playground equipment and artificial grass, should be regularly cleaned and inspected for damage.

If you reside outside of Portland or the Pacific Northwest, assess how weather conditions, local fauna - insects, birds and rodents, plus weeds and plants affect your property and adjust your maintenance activities accordingly.