1. Assess the Exterior for Damage
Take some time and go around the exterior of your house to see if there are any needs for repairs. Some items to examine include the roof, siding, garage, sheds, and more if applicable. Repairing siding cracks and small foundation cracks can ensure your property stays water tight from fall rain and snow. Roofing shingles should be examined to ensure they are not curling up to avoid a leak through the roof.
Other items to address are openings where pipes or wires protrude from inside to outside or other small holes or gaps that may have formed. Critters such as mice or squirrels are looking for a place to stay warm and dry in the winter time and any crevice to get in will be an invitation to enter the building. Patching/filling these holes with caulking, foam or other materials will help to ensure these animals do not make a mess of your home or cause future problems by things like chewing on wiring or contaminating (with urine & feces) or destroying your insulation.
2. Gutters and Downspouts
Yes, gutters and downspouts are a key part of the exterior but should be highlighted separately! Near the end of fall is a great time to start cleaning the gutters and downspouts.
Why wait until the end? This will give enough time for most leaves to fall from any nearby trees and will prevent you from having to re-do the work. Besides the leaves there are other items to be aware of when cleaning the gutters and downspouts. Rocks, dust and other debris may collect over time clogging up the system and not allowing proper water flow. Cleaning out this mess will ensure the downspouts and gutters will be clear to let water flow freely during fall rains and winter melts.
Besides cleaning the gutter and downspouts it’s also important to examine the overall condition of both of them. Make sure the gutters are still securely attached with no leaks. The downspouts should also be checked for leaks and setup to ensure they are not releasing water towards the foundation or walkways but away from the property to properly drain. It’s best to extend the downspouts several feet from the edge of your home for the best chances of keeping your basement dry.
3. Shut Off Exterior Faucets
With fall’s temperatures sometimes dipping well below zero overnight, garden hoses from exterior faucets should be removed and drained. Once removed and drained the hoses should be placed inside for storage until spring.
The next step is to drain the exterior pipe. This can be done by turning off the shut off valve in the basement and then letting the water run outside into a bucket. Once the exterior pipes are clear you can now also drain the interior side for any leftover water with a bucket. Repeat this process for each exterior faucet.
4. Cleaning up summertime items
The changing of the seasons also means cleaning up and storing some summertime items. Folding or camping chairs can be hung up out of the way in a storage area for the winter. Patio furniture and pillows should all be put away and stored too. Other items that should be taken inside may include a fire pit, patio lights, hammock, and garden décor… Gnomes get cold too!
Other items that may require more work besides just placing them inside include things such as:
- The lawn mower
- Whipper snipper
Here's some more tips on how to winterize your lawn mower
For BBQ maintenance, start by cleaning your grill both inside and out, removing the grills inside to get a deep clean. Once the grill is clean make sure it is completely dried before you store it to avoid rust. Ideally you should store the BBQ inside, out of the weather (without the tank), but if that’s not possible, make sure to cover it and keep it cleared of snow and ice throughout the winter to prevent damage.
Gas powered whipper snipper maintenance is similar to lawn mowers – drain the fuel or add an additive. For battery powered edge trimmers, remove the battery and store it inside the house. Regardless of the type you own, it’s always a good idea to clean around the head and dry it completely to avoid rust.
5. Safety Checks
It is now time to step inside! Your home should be equipped with smoke alarms, but may also have carbon monoxide monitors, radon detectors and more. It is important to ensure that all of these safety devices are charged and ready to go to keep your family safe all fall and winter long. This is a great time to test the monitors and replace batteries even if they seem to be working fine. Ensuring these monitors are in working order will help give you peace of mind!
6. Preparing to turn up the heat
Drafty areas in your home can result in heat loss, which will in turn increase heating costs. To detect drafts, move your hand around areas on exterior walls like outlets, windows, and doors to feel for cold air. You can also use a candle to locate drafts – carefully position the candle and move it around possible drafty locations and see if the flame changes or gets blown out completely. If it does, chances are there’s air leakage happening that you’ll want to address.
Some common drafty areas include:
- Attic & Basement
Another common place to have a draft is near your exterior doors. In particular heat can escape through the frames and the bottom of your doors. Consider installing a door sweep at the bottom of the door to keep drafts out. Like windows, if the draft is coming around the trim, you may want to pull it off and add some spray foam or other insulation.
Chimneys can also allow significant drafts to come into your home. If you have a fireplace, consider covering the opening while not in use.
Attics and basement are where a lot of heat is lost. Checking over your attic for proper ventilation and insulation can help reduce heat loss. If you have an older home, you might want to add additional insulation (R52 is recommended in the attic). If you have a newer home, make sure none of your insulation has moved by looking for high or low spots. You can add more (if you feel it’s necessary) or smooth out what you already have. In the basement checking for drafts and cracks and fixing those issues will help to reduce heat lost.
7. Heating System Cleaning
Before you start your heating system, ensure that it is ready to go! Whether you have a furnace, wood stove, mini-split, convectional heater or fireplace they all have one thing in common, the need for maintenance. Below are common maintenance practices:
- Furnaces: blower and filter cleaned on top of other regularly scheduled maintenance as recommended by the manufacturer.
- Chimney: cleaning/sweeping the chimney will help remove creosote to keep the chimney clear and help prevent fire.
- Mini-splits: require regular and deep cleaning periodically in order to avoid mold and mildew buildup.
- Electric baseboard: vacuum the tops and insides to remove dust and hair. Make sure any combustible materials aren’t touching the heaters.
So there you have it. Seven maintenance tips to add to your to-do list this fall. While it’s certainly a chore not many people look forward to, it’s one of the joys (aka: responsibilities) of home ownership. And while you might prefer to be snuggled up in a cozy blanket sipping some hot chocolate, staying on top of these fall maintenance items can save you a lot of money, a lot of headaches down the road, and help you and your family to stay safe all winter long.
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