Bob Vila’s 10 “Must Do” Projects for May

On our list of priorities for this month: Getting fans and air conditioners ready for the hot weather, and making sure our outdoor spaces are clean, safe, and ready for entertaining.

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May is a month worth celebrating. As the days become warmer and sunnier, seasonal to-dos both inside and outside the house seem like less of a chore. Make the most of this energizing month by getting your lawn off to a good start, maintaining outdoor tools and gear, and improving your home’s curb appeal. In preparation for the hot summer months ahead, you’ll also want to make sure that your fans and air conditioners are ready to go.

1. Sharpen Mower Blades

Man removes blade from the underside of a lawn mower.
Photo: Tony Carrick for Bob Vila

Not only does a sharp blade keep your lawn mower in tip-top shape, but doing so can actually improve your lawn’s appearance. Dull blades can tug and rip grass instead of trimming it cleanly. If your lawn looks ragged, it may mean it’s time to take the mower blade to the hardware store for a professional sharpening. If you choose to sharpen mower blades yourself, you’ll need a grinder and some thick work gloves, like the Ironclad Ranchworx work gloves—and a lawn mower blade sharpener, of course.

2. Install a Ceiling Fan

install ceiling fans

Ceiling fans are energy-efficient alternatives to air conditioning units, and they are particularly refreshing during these weeks of open-window weather before the heat kicks in. Install ceiling fans in rooms where you spend the most time which, in most households, would be the kitchen, family room, and bedroom. (We like the Minka-Aire 52-inch ceiling fan, a top pick in our researched guide to the year’s best ceiling fans—it’s cool, modern, and nothing like your grandma’s wicker-bladed fans.)

3. Ready the Grill

Person using a grill brush to clean dirty grates on a grill.

If your grill has been hibernating under the awning on the patio, pull it out and prep it for the busy season. Put in the work now and you can enjoy a spontaneous barbecue whenever the mood strikes you. Check gas grills for any clogs or obstructions in the burner jets and ensure you have ample propane on hand. If you own a charcoal grill, clean it of any ash and grease. To de-gunk the grill top to bottom without inhaling noxious fumes, try the nontoxic and biodegradable CitruSafe Grill and Grate Cleaner. The made-in-the-USA spray was the top performer in our recent hands-on tests of the best grill cleaners.

4. Tune Up the Air Conditioner

Close view of an air conditioning compressor outdoors.

Just as you readied your furnace for fall, now is the time to make sure that your air conditioning units are in good working order for the warmer months ahead. Change or clean the filter, check hose connections for leaks, and confirm that the drain pans are draining freely. If you suspect performance or efficiency problems with your air conditioning system, call a pro now. Homeowners with window air conditioners should install them now, before temperatures soar. If you’re in the market for a window AC, our hands-on tests of the best small window air conditioners is a good place to start.

5. Paint the House

Man standing on a ladder leaning against a house, painting the house brown.
Photo: Photo:

Nothing makes a bigger impact on your home’s curb appeal than a new exterior paint job. Before you pick out your house paint colors, there are a few maintenance tasks to take care of: First, check the siding for any damaged or rotting boards—you’ll need to make repairs before you paint. Then chip away and sand any flaking paint so the fresh paint adheres properly. Finally, remove old caulk from around windows and doors and reseal them with a paintable sealant. If you need advice about the right paint to use, see our researched guide to the best exterior paints.

6. Clean Out the Garage

A clean, organized garage with a ladder and other supplies hanging on a wall organizer.

The garage is often a multipurpose storage room, but that doesn’t make it the household dumping ground. If yours is overrun with clutter, take a sunny afternoon to roll up the door and clean out the garage—you may find that you don’t have to buy as many tomato cages and plant stakes this year as you thought you did. Make sure you properly dispose of old paint, batteries, and household chemicals. Check with municipal authorities to determine the correct way to dispose of these and other hazardous waste materials; your city may even offer special porchside pick-up.

7. Install Garden Lights

A woman in hat and overalls installing a solar lamp in the yard.

Whether you need a little extra security lighting in your front yard or you’d like brighter illumination around the back patio and path, solar path lights are a noticeable home improvement, but are not a huge investment. These little lamps are easy to install and, because they’re powered by the sun, they’ll never ramp up your electricity bill. Beau Jardin’s Solar Pathway Lights are super easy to assemble, rustproof, and weather resistant.

8. Care for Garden Tools

A trowel, loppers, and other garden tools hanging on the wall of a shed.

You’d never dream of returning used silverware to a kitchen drawer without washing it, but many home gardeners do something nearly as bad: stash dirt-caked garden tools in the garage or shed after use. This habit is more than simply dirty; it can do major damage to tools over time. When you’re finished planting, digging, and weeding, clean garden tools before putting them away. Dry them thoroughly to prevent rust, then wipe the blades and handles in linseed oil to keep them looking and working like new.

9. Redress the Windows

redress the windows

During the winter months, it makes sense to insulate windows with heavy drapes and blinds. During warmer weather months, however, it’s a good idea to swap them out for sheers—those thin, transparent curtains that provide just enough privacy while allowing light and breeze in through open windows (the HLC.ME white sheer curtain panels are our go-tos). If sheers aren’t your thing, consider swapping in solar screen shades that let in light while blocking excess heat. They will keeps your home’s temperature, and AC bills, at a comfortable level.

10. Pest-Proof the Patio

Backyard pest prevention starts now: Mosquitoes breed in standing water, so be diligent about dumping rain and runoff from pots, furniture, and birdbaths. Consider adding mosquito-repellent plants like citronella grass or marigolds to your flower beds. DIY-ers who enjoy woodworking can also try building a bat house. These gentle creatures eat swarms of bugs each night, leaving your backyard much more comfortable.