Fall is the perfect time to complete some necessary, as well as preventative, home maintenance. Before the cold winter winds, snow and ice begin to pummel your home, take some precautionary steps to protect it. Fall’s cool temperatures make for comfortable outside working weather, often times better than the wet and muddy springtime. It’s a great time to complete exterior repairs, touch up paint and finishes, and make sure your home is buttoned up for winter. Consistent, good home maintenance preserves your biggest investment, saves you money in the long run, and conserves energy.
Here is a to-do list for you to get started on:
Complete Exterior Repairs
Take a walk around your property and look for signs of damage to your roof, chimney, siding, windows/trim, and foundation. Keep and eye out for loose or missing roofing shingles or flashing, chipping or missing paint, broken glass or missing storm windows, and foundation damage such as holes or cracks. Your chimney should be solid, properly flashed, and have the correct cap.
Keep Cold Winds and Critter Out
Be sure to seal any gaps or cracks that allow air leaks in your exterior envelope. Sealing up air leaks can save you as much as 10% on your energy costs! Not to mention cold drafts do not make for cozy winter comfort. Use weather-stripping, caulking and spray foam insulation to seal up gaps and cracks around the foundation, windows and doors, and siding and trim gaps.
Mice and other critters need surprisingly tiny holes to be able to get in your house to make their winter home. Rodents can seriously damage wood, insulation and wiring, as well as raid your pantry and leave a nasty mess.
Clean Out Gutters
Once most of the leaves have fallen around your house, clean out the gutters, and check and secure downspouts. Clogged gutters defeat the purpose of directing water away from your house, can damage your roof and siding, and allow ice dams to form on the building in winter. Downspouts should direct water at least six feet away from the building.
Care for Trees, Shrubs and Landscape
Trees and shrubs are going dormant in the fall, so it is a perfect time to trim them. They are less likely to contract any diseases, and new spring growth will occur where you want it. Falling limbs can cause serious damage to your home and its exterior, so the fall is a time to trim them back away from the house. Keeping trees and shrubs away from a building allows for better air flow (less rot), more natural sunlight (solar heat gain), and protects the building from damage.
Rake all the leaves on your lawns and clean out your garden beds before winter so that spring growth won’t be crushed or denied sunlight.
Make Windows More Efficient
Make sure your storm windows are in good working order and installed properly. If you have older windows, quality storms can be as energy efficient as new windows as long as they are in good working order.
You can also save a lot on energy costs, and make your home more comfortable by installing (and using!) window treatments and curtains. They will allow warm sunlight in during the daytime, and block out cold drafts during storms and overnight.
Remove Window A/C Units
Leaving window air conditioner units in may seem a lot easier on your back and time, but they allow for a lot of cold air penetration into the building. What seals and keeps the bugs out in summertime, does not stand up against harsh winter weather. If you have built-in units you have to leave in, cover the exterior of the unit with an insulating wrap.
Prepare Walkways, Entries and Driveway for Winter
Ice and snow covering your home’s access points can create treacherous conditions for your family and visitors. Prepare for winter hazards by checking all your entries and walkways. Make sure stairs and railings are sturdy, that there are no loose or misplaced walkway materials, and that your driveway is in good condition for snow removal. Marking the boundaries of your driveway and walkways make for easier snow removal, and less lawn repairs in the spring.
If you hire snow removal services, get on their schedule now and ask about any contract program they may have to guarantee your spot in the storm schedule. Committing to their winter contract program can usually save you money over on-call services as well.
Shut Off Exterior Faucets
Protect your pipes from freezing by shutting off your outdoor spigots and draining the line. Drain and store your hoses as well to prevent freeze damage to them. A forgotten faucet left on outside can burst an interior pipe, causing significant and expensive damage to your home.
Ready Your Winter Supplies
Check the working order of all your winter equipment, including snowblower, generator, outdoor lighting, and shovels and scrapers (don’t forget your vehicle supplies!). Repair or replace any broken winter gear.
Don’t be stuck driving around looking for sand and salt when the first snowstorm hits. Stock up on sand, salt, and other ice-melt products. Be sure to get pet- and plant-safe ice melt if necessary. Have plenty of fuel on hand for your snowblower or generator.
Schedule Heating System and Chimney Inspection and Cleaning
The fall is time to have your boiler or furnace cleaned to be sure it is working properly before you need to turn the heat on. This ensures your system is not only working, but improves its energy efficiency, and makes sure your home and family are safe this winter from fire or carbon monoxide dangers.
If you burn wood of any kind, or haven’t done it in a while, have your chimney inspected and cleaned.
Enjoy the nice fall weather while you complete these important annual maintenance items on your home!