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Warming up to those rewarding summer projects


Here's a bit of good news: It's summer, and you no longer have to put off all those great home projects you were contemplating from your armchair in front of the fire last winter, when the weather was too bad to do any of them.

Forgot to keep a list? Never mind. Here's our list of projects that are perfectly suited to summer:

*Build a deck. There are easy-to-use computer programs that help you design a deck and then generate a materials list so you know exactly what you need to build it. You'll need a building permit and, often, the approval of your neighborhood association; you'll also need an extra set of hands or so. Local building codes will specify how deep concrete footings need to be beneath deck support posts.

*Screen in a porch. Some old-fashioned porches were equipped with screen panels that could be bolted to support posts, and unbolted and taken out, if desired. Or you could use the system of channels and splines from Screen Tight, of Georgetown, S.C. The channels are nailed to support posts, and splines in the center of each channel hold the screening. To remove the screening, you simply lift the spline and pull it out. For information about Screen Tight, call (800) 768-7325.

*If you already have a deck, consider cleaning and weatherproofing it. Even pressure-treated lumber can be damaged by sunlight; it will crack and split. To give your deck a longer life, clean it with a deck rinse and apply a sealer that includes protection from ultraviolet light. Fences also need to be sealed. Some people like the soft gray color that pressure-treated fencing weathers to, but the weathering doesn't stop there; continued exposure to sunlight will cause the wood to deteriorate.

*Paint the porch. Scrape away loose paint, clean the surface, sand it smooth and clean it again, then prime with a quality, oil-based primer and paint with two coats of good exterior-grade porch paint. (Interior painting is best left to temperate weather, when you can open windows and get exhaust fans going. High humidity will retard paint drying and could turn a three-day job into a week-long ordeal.)

*Because summer is a time when people typically don't do as much cooking inside, it's a good time to remodel the kitchen. If you keep it simple, it needn't be a huge expense. You can replace old cabinets, but keep the stove and sink at the same locations to save installation costs. To save on cabinets, try the assemble-yourself kind such as those from IKEA, or from Mill Pride at Home Depot. You don't need an advanced engineering degree, but some dexterity with a screwdriver helps, as does a fair amount of patience.

*Work on the heating system. Clean or replace filters in existing units. If you are replacing an old system, consider the new high-efficiency oil and gas furnaces that don't require old-fashioned chimneys.

*Summer is the time to discover those "hot spots" in the house where a cooling breeze would be a welcome relief. Think ceiling fan. They can go most anywhere and can make air-conditioning more efficient by circulating cooler air. Overhead fans can also make porches more useful by making it more comfortable to sit outside in hot weather.

*Put in a brick patio or walkway. Dig out the area, edge it with pressure-treated 2-by-4s, fill with sand and set the bricks. (If you want to reduce weeds, line the hole with plastic sheeting before putting in the sand.) When it's done, sweep sand into cracks. Summer rains help pack down the sand.

*Clean the garage, clean the basement, have a yard sale. You just might make enough money to finance another project.

Mr. Johnson is a Baltimore construction manager. Ms. Menzie is a feature writer for The Sun.

If you have questions, tips or experiences to share about working on houses, write to us c/o HOME WORK, The Sun, 501 N.

Calvert St. Baltimore, 21278. Questions of general interest will be answered in the column; comments, tips and experiences will be reported in occasional columns.

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