Get your home ready for cooler months ahead

DEAR MR. MYERS: Several cracks have appeared in our asphalt driveway in the past few years. Do we need to hire a professional to fix this problem, or could we make the repairs ourselves to save money?

ANSWER: You probably can make the repairs yourself. Several different types of crack-fillers are available at most hardware and home-improvement stores. Some come in liquid form, while others are more like a paste that’s applied with a caulk gun.

Start by removing any dirt or vegetation from each crack with a wire brush, garden trowel or screwdriver. Then, use a garden hose or pressure washer to flush out any remaining debris and let the asphalt dry thoroughly.

Next, fill the crack so that it’s flush with the surrounding pavement, then use a scraper to smooth out the filler.

The filler may soak into the crack as it slowly dries. If that happens, apply a second coat about 24 hours later.

Also note that you can’t walk or drive on the repaired asphalt for at least 24 or even 48 hours after the filler is applied. That’s how long it takes for the material to properly set and dry.

After you fix the driveway, take some time to inspect other parts of your home’s exterior to ensure that it’s ready for the colder weather that autumn will bring. Check the foundation for cracks, and caulk around windows, doors and any opening where wires or pipes enter the house in order to prevent heat from escaping from the inside.

Also check the exterior paint for any peeling or blistering. That’s typically a sign that the existing paint has worn out its useful life. If left unattended, painted siding itself will become exposed to the elements and may lead to costly repairs in the future.

Of course, you also need to make sure that your roof is in good shape. That’s usually a job that’s best left to roofing pros, who’ll check for any missing or faulty shingles or tiles and will repair or replace them to help prevent water damage when the rains come.

Make sure that your rain gutters and downspouts are clear of debris, and flush out any remaining residue with a garden hose. Check the joints that hold the system together, and tighten any loose clamps or screws that keep it firmly attached to the roof and exterior walls.

REAL ESTATE TRIVIA: Though it’s not a perfect solution, some real estate agents and contractors say that new home buyers and current owners should set aside $1 per year for every square foot of floor space inside their house for future maintenance and repairs. So, if you have a 2,000-square-foot home, you should be saving at least $2,000 annually to help cover future property-related expenses.

DEAR MR. MYERS: Does the White House really have a bunker that the president and his staff can use if there’s another terrorist attack?

ANSWER: Yes. Called the “Presidential Emergency Operations Center,” the supposedly bomb-proof shelter was built for President Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II to protect against a possible nuclear attack.

Located about five stories below the White House’s East Wing, it has been used by various presidents, military leaders and government staffers in times of emergency through the years. Then-Vice President Dick Cheney, his wife and others were evacuated to the bunker after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001.

The lifeblood of the center is its high-tech communication system, which can be used to coordinate with various government entities during a national or global crisis. It is staffed around the clock by military leaders and noncommissioned officers.

DEAR MR. MYERS: I purchased a small home in 2005, when I was single. I married in 2010 and took my new husband’s last name, but I didn’t inform the mortgage lender about the name change and did not add my husband’s name to the title to our house. Now we are selling. Will my failure to notify the bank or the county recorder about my name change delay our ability to close a sale when we eventually find a buyer?

ANSWER: You and your husband have nothing to worry about. This type of issue surfaces thousands of times every year, usually with recently married couples, and is quite easy to resolve.

If a single woman buys a home using her maiden name but then sells it after she marries and takes her husband’s last name, the title-insurance company (or closing officer) who handles the transaction will simply have her sign the paperwork using her married name but note that she “took title as” someone with a different name when she first purchased the property.

To illustrate, say you bought the home when your name was Sally Single, but changed it to Sally Married after the wedding. You would sign any pertinent paperwork using your current name, with a notation that you originally had “taken title” to the property as Sally Single years earlier.

David W. Myers’ column is distributed by Cowles Syndicate Inc.