It is 1 January. I am up early, coffee in hand, happy to be the first to see the sunrise (followed in quick succession by snow, rain, fog, mountains, lake, and aspirin bottle....)
Another year, a blank canvas, sooooo many things to do, to plan, to experience!
But where to begin? I know the Internet is full of amazing design inspiration at all times of the year, but especially on this day. Let’s instead talk about the un-sexy side of home ownership. You know, all those niggly uninspiring tasks that keep your ship running full steam ahead.
Liz's Short List of Simple Projects for the 12 Months of 2018
January – Finding it hard to shake out of holiday mode?
I couldn’t agree more. That is why the first month of the year is best used for all things dreaming. From the comfort of your own sofa (or my preferred workspace--bed!), armed with tablet or laptop, get going on platforms like Houzz, Insta or Pinterest for inspiration, start your lists and use Trello or your fav app and get organized! Perhaps this year will not hold any major renovation projects for your home, but at least you will have had a good think about all the possibilities, not to mention recharge your batteries for what awaits you the rest of the year.
February – Not too early to think outdoors!
Planting starts sooner than you think so call a friend to schedule your first plant shopping expedition later in the month and while you are at it, check out the Swiss Gardening School’s bespoke offerings for DIY enthusiasts. If you are planning any hardscaping, remember now is the time to order materials like stone or pavers for exterior terraces and walkways. How about finally committing to add that carport after your snowy winter experience ?
March – The month of things we love to hate.
Swiss taxes due 15 March! Remember that last year's renovation and maintenance projects are this year's tax deductions. Virtually all expenses qualify as long as they don’t add value (think replacement, upkeep, even tree trimming counts.) Last year's good habit of retaining and organizing all billing and receipts will now pay off (or not). As a reward, spend a fun day or two at Habitat & Jardin dreaming of all the work you could write off on next year's taxes.
April -- Have you ever decalcified your hot water heater?
When you were renting, chances are that your lease required you to do it. Sound familiar? Even in homes with a water softening system, it is recommended to order a service every 3 to 4 years. You will extend the life of your boiler by ages and your water pressure will thank you for it. Normal service takes a couple of hours and costs about Chf 5-600 plus small material costs. Now that you own your own place, it is a worthwhile investment (and it is tax deductible!) One other water-related obligation—do full walk-through in bathrooms and the kitchen to be sure that all silicone and grouting are still in good order as they are often overlooked and can be the source of slow water damage .
May – Outdoor living begins!
As the warmer weather should be around for a while, it is a good time to Spring clean gutters, basement window wells and downspout drains (as you probably did not do it last Fall) and to clear under-roof eaves of all spidery visitors. If you have a nesting bird problem, it is too late this year to chase them away (rules disallow this operation during nesting season) so think creatively about attracting them elsewhere in garden. Have a run around with a high-pressure washer (you can rent them from Hornbach) and then enjoy a first apero on your pristine outdoor terrace.
June – Mother Nature Gives and Can Taketh Away.
A few years back, this month brought us an incredible hail storm. If you have made any major exterior additions or improvements (planting, hardscaping, lighting or even outdoor furniture), be sure your insurance coverage is adequate against this kind of risk. In Vaud, the ECA offers a simple and inexpensive policy that covers all new exterior plantings and even garden furniture. Well worth the two hundred swissies for 100k of coverage.
July – The height of our home enjoyment.
Every year about this time, we again realise we need a shed for storage and overflow as the garage is maxed out and there is only so much creative stacking of tools, tiles, bikes etc. you can manage in it or under the carport. Finding a model that ticks both functional and structural boxes is near to impossible locally so consider looking further afield or having a good carpenter give it a go. Putting up a shed or any structure over a meter in height attached to the house or in the garden requires permission in some communes but you can generally submit a simple form on the 10-day fast-track approval route.
August – Forewarned is forearmed!
Most local craftsmen and women are off at some time during the month. All factories in Europe close. So it is unlikely that you will find anyone to start a major renovation project this month, but it should be possible to either finish a project started earlier in the summer, or start a new project before the 1 September rush. Most of my collaborators actually do round-robin vacations in August. Take advantage of the calm to take your own holiday and/or plan the last details on your dream master bath renovation. Also don’t forget 1 August Brunch à la Ferme, an amazing convivial Swiss tradition that at least for a day will keep your mind off all the work you should be doing at home.
September – Reveal your inner Picasso.
Who does not enjoy picking up a brush and giving it a go from time to time either artistically or otherwise? Normally the weather remains warm enough in September ( > 5°c overnight) so some defensive touch ups outside around the house or on exposed wood is in order. My rule of thumb is to always buy quality stain, varnish or paint, along with brushes and real painter’s tape (not the masking substitute) since going it alone already saves you a bundle. I have never seen a wood under-eaves that doesn’t need a lick or two of paint every few years. Plus we have oodles of wood fencing in the garden that deserves a protective coat every two years to keep it in great shape. Hate going it alone? Consider inviting friends for an end-of-season Indian Summer Apéro and pass out brushes along with the cocktails.
October – When that nesting feeling returns!
Summer is officially over. Why not spend a bit of time in your basement this month doing a good clear out and checking that all windows are airtight and no visible humidity is creeping in corners. Another simple task is to be sure your basement floor drains are filled with just a bit of water to seal the pipe and prevent that wretched (though harmless) odour from wafting back up. When was the last time you cleaned out your tumble dryer’s internal vent—not the one on the front door but in that hard-to access compartment along the floor? While you are at it, unscrew and clean out the washer’s water intake filter. Finally, you should regularly hear from the chimney sweep but if it has been longer than a year, make the call now so that the flue is pristine when you are ready for the first logwood fire of the season.
November - As the days get shorter and colder…
Time for a last sweep of the garden (literally). Prune shrubbery and trees, and ensure that all gutters and drains around the house are clear of debris and faucets put to sleep for the winter. Have a look at your roof tiles and get your local roofer’s opinion if you see excessive moss build up or cracked or bits of missing tiles. A professional high-powered wash is usually recommended every 10 years or so, depending on your sun exposure and the number of trees surrounding your property.
December - Sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labour--a year's worth of simple projects and maintenance successfully completed! As the last task of 2018 has been crossed off the list, take an hour to ensure that all billing and receipts are in order and filed away. You will thank yourself come next tax year.
Have we overlooked something? Please don't hesitate to share your list of projects!!