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Preventive Care

By Donna Speidel

    There are two annual occurrences that take place at this time of year: time to hang up the Christmas lights on my house again, and time to clean out the gutters. I've asked my sons to do it for me the next dry day we have, which haven't been too frequent lately.

    Hanging Christmas lights are not one of their favorite pastimes. We pull the box out of the basement, carefully layout all the lights and plug them all in. Those that work are carefully identified; those that don't are shaken until my arm hurts. If they still don't work, we unceremoniously throw them away. But aside from having all the lights up when one strand decides to go out, I think the more unsavory task is cleaning out the gutters of wet, leaves, twigs, and small woodland creatures that have accumulated over the course of one year. It's one of those things that should be done more often, but the gutters are out of sight, sort of. At least I manage to ignore them until I see pine needles sticking out at weird angles.

    Leaving gutters full of gunk is bad for them, makes them heavy, and they can pull away from the house. And when they're clogged, they fill up with water, and the heavy rain pours right over both sides and leaves little troughs in the ground below. The fascia rots out, and eventually, the homeowner has a hefty repair bill. All it would take is 30 minutes on a nice day in October after the leaves have fallen, and maybe again in May for pollen and seedpods. But that takes planning and attention to the details of preventive maintenance - being proactive. As responsible homeowners, that's our job!

    It's similar to maintaining anything, even airfield markings (you saw it coming!) You have to know what the visual cues are for a broken marking, just like you need to know what the clogged gutter looks like. We always seem to let them go too long and deteriorate badly before they finally get noticed. Preventive care with gutters is cleaning them out twice a year. Many think painting every year is preventive, but it can be excessive. Preventive care with airfield markings is simply to monitor them for effective performance, once a year.

    I'm just hoping the fascia is okay, because I just realized we didn't put up Christmas lights last year, so it's been two years since the gutters have been cleaned! Twice the small woodland creatures for Mike to exhume. Yikes!

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