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Fall Home Care Checklist

With leaves changing and collecting on the ground it symbolizes that fall is here! Now is the time to prep your home for the upcoming cool weather and what could be winter storms. To make sure that you can be worry-free all season long here are some outdoor and indoor maintenance tips. The things in this list are well within the average homeowner’s abilities. Though if you would rather have a professional come out to handle it, it would be well worth it. Go along this fall home care checklist to learn essentials from cleaning the gutters to a furnace checkup.

Outdoor Checklist:

#1 – Clean Your Gutters

Your roof’s drainage system leads away thousands of gallons of water from your home’s exterior wall and foundations, so it is essential to keep your system running smoothly. Clogged gutters can lead to damage in both the interior and exterior of your home. They can damage the exterior surfaces of your home and even lead to water in your basement. If not cleaned properly or at all it could even lead to rust and corrosion of your gutters. This is why it is important before leaves start to fall this season that you clean out debri from your gutters and cover them in a mesh gutter guard to prevent anything from returning.

#2 – Inspect Your Roof

There is nothing more vexing to a homeowner than a leaky roof. When the dripping starts, finding the source of the problem can be time-consuming. Stop these problems in their tracks before the winter ice and winds turn them from annoyances into disasters.

To start, inspect your roof from top to bottom. You can use binoculars if needed. Check the ridge shingles for cracks and wind damage. Look for damage to metal flashing in valleys and around vents and chimneys. Make sure to scan the entire roof for missing, damaged, or curling shingles. Check the gutters for large accumulations of granules, a sign that your roof is losing its coating, which could become a larger problem. Lastly, make sure your gutters are flowing freely.

#3 – Protect Faucets From Freezing Temperatures

Living in areas with freezing weather, make sure you take the steps to ensure that outside faucets and in-ground irrigation systems don’t freeze or burst. To start off, close any shut-off valve serving outside faucets, then open the outside faucet to drain the line. If you don’t have shut-off valves, and your faucets are not “freeze-proof” types, you might benefit from styrofoam faucet covers (you can find some for $8, at Walmart), which are sold at many home stores.

To make sure that any in-ground irrigation systems are freezeproof, follow the manufacturer’s procedures for draining it and protecting it form water damage.

#4 – Seal Up Air Leaks

In a home with an air leak around windows or doors, it is like a coat left unbuttoned. Gaps in caulk and weather-stripping can let cold air into your home. Sealing up the drafts in your home can save you money on your heating bill.

The use of weather-stripping is easily the most cost-effective way to help control heating and cooling costs. Weather-stripping can reduce drafts and keep your home comfortable all year-round. Though this material can deteriorate over time, so it is important to inspect it periodically. A quick way to see if you have a problem with your weather-stripping it to try closing a door or window on a strip of paper. If the paper slides easily, your weather-stripping isn’t properly sealing. You can also close the door or window and hold a lighted candle near the frame. (Make sure to not let the flame get near anything flammable!) If the flame flickers at any spot along the frame, then you have an air leak.

Checking the weather-stripping is important but so is checking for missing or damaged caulk around windows, doors, and entry points for electrical, cable, phone, and gas. Make sure to seal any gaps with a suitable caulk. If the drafts around these areas continue, you could consider having the windows replaced. Choosing a glass with multiple panes, spacers, or filler gasses will most likely solve these issues.

#5 – Repair Walkways

Damaged walkways, drives, and steps are a hazard year-around, but their dangers are greater when the weather turns icy. Fixing these issues in the fall is critical to preventing little cracks from becoming expensive headaches. You should look for cracks that are more than 1/8 inch wide, for uneven sections, and loose railings on steps. Check for disintegration of asphalt or washed-out materials on loose-fill paths. Most of these fixes are small enough that the average DIYer could do them self, but save the major repairs for experienced hands.

#6 – Prep Your Lawn for Winter

To make sure that your lawn’s health and beauty come spring, there are several important yard work projects to complete in the fall. Raking the leaves and aerating will prevent your lawn and garden beds from suffocating. Fertilizing and winterizing grass, trees, and shrubs will allow your greenery to enter its winter slumber comfortably and properly nourished. Professional lawn care services will make quick work of these projects, freeing up your time for family, friends, and football.

#7 – Touch Up Exterior Paint

In the Fall season there are plenty of days that are warm enough to work with exterior paint. Not to mention that a touch up can help prolong the life of your siding and trim. A fresh coat of paint or sealer on any surface that could become covered with snow, such as porch stairs or wood floors is also a good idea. Sooner is better to contact a local painter or to try the project yourself, as many paints aren’t recommended for application on days when the temperature will dip colder than 45 to 50 degrees.

Indoor Checklist:

#8 – Check Your Furnace Filter

One of the best things you can do for your home is to change the furnace filter. The furnace filter traps dust that would otherwise be floating through your home. Those filters that become clogged make it harder to keep your home at a comfortable temperature, which in turn increases your utility bills. With a simple monthly cleaning it can keep these filters free from debri. For a cost saving tip, disposable filters can be vacuumed once before they need to be replaced. Foam filters can also be vacuumed, but they don’t need to be replaced unless they are damaged. You can use a brush on a vacuum cleaner. If the filer is metal or electrostatic, remove and wash it with a firm water spray.

#9 – Give Your Furnace A Checkup

It is always a good idea to have a professional check your heating system once a year. To avoid the last-minute rush, consider scheduling the inspection early in fall before the heating season begins. Here are some things that might need to be inspected sooner:

  • Noisy Belts: If there is any unusual screeching or whining it could be a sign that belts connected to the blower are worn or damaged
  • Poor Performance: A heating system that doesn’t seem to work as well as it once did could be a sign of various problems. Your heating ducts might be blocked, the burners might need adjusting, or the blower motor could be on its last legs. The first step, however, is to make sure your furnace filer is clean.
  • Erratic Behavior: Something like this could be caused by a faulty thermostat or a misadjusted furnace.

#10 – Keep the Humidifier Humming

During the cold months the dry winter air can be tough on your skin and your airways. Did you know that it can also make fine wood more prone to cracking? To keep you and your home feeling more comfortable, a central humidifier can do the trick. Making sure that your humidifier is running in tip-top shape during these months is essential. First, inspect the plates or pads and then if necessary, clean them with a strong laundry detergent solution. Rinse and scrape off mineral deposits with a wire brush or steel wool.

#11 – Ward Off Gas Problems

Keeping a gas heater in good shape is both a safety and a cost issue. If you have a improperly maintained heater it can spew toxic gases into the air of your home, or it could simply be costing you more to operate. You should have a professional check these devices annually. There are also some maintenance items you should address. First, you should shut off the heater. Then check the air-shutter openings and exhaust vents for dirt and dust. If they are dirty, vacuum the air passages to the burner and clean the burner of lint and dirt. Ultimately you should follow the manufacturer’s advice for any other needed maintenance.

#12 – Ready Your Fireplace

Even for those who use their fireplace on occasion, you should check it annually for damage and hazards. First, inspect the flue for creosote, a flammable by-product of burning wood. Too much accumulation in a flue or chimney can result in a devastating buildup. If you use a fireplace or wood stove frequently, have the flue inspected after each cord of wood burned.

For most people, the best option is to have your entire chimney system inspected by a chimney sweep. Once you know what to look for, you can perform the inspection by shining a bright flashlight up to flue, looking for any deposits approaching 1/8 inch thick. These deposits should be cleaned by an experienced chimney professional.

Additionally, check your chimney for damage or flue blockages. Ensure the flue cap (the screen or baffle covering the top of the chimney) is in place. Birds often nest at the top of unprotected flues; a chimney cap can prevent this from happening. If you don’t have a cap, look up the flue to ensure that there are no obstructions. Inspect the brick chimneys for loos or broken joints. If access is a problem, use binoculars. Inside, exercise the damper, which is the metal plate that opens and closes the flue just above the firebox. Move it to the open and closed positions to ensure that it is working properly.

#13 – Keep Wood Fires Burning Bright

A wood-burning stove helps to add a cozy ambiance and warmth to your home, but regular inspections are needed to ensure that these devices don’t become a safety hazard. Follow these steps to check your wood-burning stove:

  • Inspect Stovepipes: Cracks in stovepipes attached to wood stoves can release toxic fumes into your home. Throughout the heating season, you should check for corrosion, holes, or loose joints. Clean the stovepipe, and then look for signs of deterioration or looseness. Replace stovepipe if necessary.
  • Look for Corrosion and Cracks: Check for signs of rust or cracking in the stove’s body or legs.
  • Check Safety Features: Make sure that any required wall protection is installed according to the manufacturer’s specifications and that the unit sits on an approved floor material. IF you have young children, be sure to fence off the stove when it is in operation.

#14 – Review Safety Features

Every year you should do a top-to-bottom review of your home’s safety features. This is a great time to get the family together for a review of your fire evacuation place. Use these steps to complete a home safety check:

  • Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors: Replace the batteries in each smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detector, then vacuum them with a soft brush attachment. Test the detectors by pressing the test button or holding a smoke source (like a blown-out candle) near the unit. If you haven’t already, install a smoke detector on every floor of your home, including the basement.
  • Fire Extinguishers: Every home should have at least one fire extinguisher made for all fire types (look for an A-B-C rating on the label). At a minimum, keep one near your kitchen; having one per floor is also a good idea. Annually, check the indicator on the pressure gauge to make sure the extinguisher is charged. Make sure that the lock pin in intact and firmly in place, and check that the discharge nozzle is not clogged. Clean the extinguisher and check it for dents, scratches, and corrosion. Replace if the damage is too severe. *Special Note: If your fire extinguisher is more than six years old it should be replaced. Make sure to mark the date of purchase on the new unit with a permanent marker.*
  • Fire Escape Plans: Every bedroom, including basement bedrooms, should have two exit paths. Make sure windows aren’t blocked by furniture or other items. Ideally, each upper-floor bedroom should have a rope ladder near the window for emergency exits. Review what to do in case of fire, and arrange a safe meeting place for everyone away form the house.
  • General Cleanup: Get rid of accumulated old newspapers and leftover hazardous household chemicals. Store flammable materials and poisons in approved, clearly labeled containers. Keep a clear space around heaters, furnaces, and other heat-producing appliances.

#15 – Clean Your Carpets

Fall is an ideal time to clean your carpets. The humid days of summer have passed, by the cold says of winter have yet to arrive. This is the best time to have your windows open for ventilation, which should speed the drying process after you have washed your carpets. If you are not comfortable operating a carpet cleaning machine, have a professional come do the dirty work. With a home full of wet carpet, it is the prime opportunity to get outside and enjoy that autumn weather!

Use this handy home maintenance checklist to keep your house—and property—in peak condition this fall and winter. Although autumn can be one of the busiest seasons for homeowners preparing for winter, it’s also the best time to take advantage of the moderate weather to repair any damages before the first frost sets in. These 15 home maintenance tips will keep your home running in prime condition all winter long.

References:
Prep Your Home for the Season with Our Fall Maintenance Checklist. (2015, August 26). Better Homes & Gardens. Retrieved October 13, 2022, from https://www.bhg.com/home-improvement/advice/your-homes-fall-checklist/

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