The March Madness Guide to Spring Home Improvement


don’t know what I was thinking back in March.

Maybe it was the longer, warmer days; maybe it was the tulips poking up through the mulch.

Spring was coming quickly and I jumped at the chance to get outside and start on a long list of spring clean-up projects. Painting, weeding, cleaning out the garage – I attacked them all with gusto every weekend for the whole month.

I had total focus on my DIY list…and completely overlooked the entire “March Madness” NCAA basketball tournament. Forgot to fill out my brackets. Missed my team making it almost all the way to the final four.

Sigh. At least the house looked great.

You probably don’t want to miss the tournament either, but you can’t let the whole month go by without doing something to get a head start on your annual spring clean-up.

So here’s a list of five “slam-dunk” projects you can do quickly this month and keep yourself out of foul trouble.

1) Points In The Paint
You know those old paint cans out in the garage? The gallon-sized cans with two inches of paint in the bottom and a rusty lid? Trash services don’t want liquid paint in the waste stream, so how do you get rid of them?

Turn this problem into a three-point play with this simple solution – open the cans and dump a scoopful of kitty litter in each. The litter soaks up the paint - while you watch the first round games.

Leave the cans open for a few days until the paint’s hard and dry, then just toss them in the trash!

2) Double Dribble
Water’s becoming a precious resource on this little blue planet, and that old toilet of yours isn’t helping save it. Find out if it’s wasting water with this well-seasoned trick – lift the lid off the tank and sprinkle a little pepper on the water…if the toilet’s leaking, you’ll see the pepper moving towards the overflow valve in the middle of the tank.

But that doesn’t mean you need a new toilet; chances are that the problem is with the fill or the flush valves. Replace both quickly and easily with a repair kit from your local DIY store and score big for the home (planet) team.

3) Make a Game Plan
Big projects can get out of control quickly if you don’t think them through all the way to the final buzzer. Finding out too late that it’s more expensive than you thought, or that you can’t get parts for that old sliding door anymore, can stop your project dead.

Your defense against that is a clipboard and a twenty-minute halftime break – that’s all you need to make a list of the tools, parts, tasks, and time you’ll need for each one of your big projects. Get your starting lineup down on paper - you’ll be done before the second half starts.

4) Clear-Out Play
After the tournament you’re going to have to clean out your gutters. But right now, you only need to check your downspouts. If they’ve become disconnected from the drain tiles (the underground pipes that carry rainwater to the street) then you’re at risk for water getting into your basement. In fact, problems with gutters and downspouts are by far the most common cause of wet basements.

But in less time than it takes to cook a frozen pizza between games, you can check the base of each downspout and reconnect it to the drain tile. Do that before the ice and snow melts, and the spring rains start, and you’ll prevent much bigger problems later on.

Then you can clean out the gutters. You’re welcome.

5) Zone Defense
Springtime is when insects and rodents, slumbering outside all winter, decide to wake up and visit you in your house. Keeping them outside now doesn’t take much effort or time.

Ants and termites work their way in through the soil. Treating the outside perimeter of your house with a pest-control spray or granules keeps them off of your home court.

Mice can get through a hole in your house as small as a dime. Take a walk around the outside with a tube of caulk and seal any gaps or cracks in your walls – especially the ones near the ground. Bigger gaps might require replacing trim boards or siding.

The Give-And-Go

Springtime’s full of distractions for even the most dedicated DIY-er, and it’s easy to let them get in the way of the home improvement projects – big and small – that need to be done.

So get yourself organized on the big projects, and tackle the small ones whenever you can fit them in, and you’ll find you have more time later in the year to enjoy the home you’ve worked so hard to maintain.

And that’s advice you can take all the way to the hoop.

What springtime home improvement projects do you dread?  Tell us about it!

Need expert Residential Architectural advice for your new home or remodeling project? Contact Richard Taylor, AIA at RTA Studio.