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Your Fall Home Maintenance Checklist


There goes another summer! Tomorrow might be the last hot day of the year, and with fall in sight, it's time to think about all those home maintenance projects that need to be tackled. Remember to get on the calendar to have your furnace and boiler maintenance done before you fire it up for another winter home heating season. Often we can catch problems that will leave you without hot water (no shower!) or in a freezing cold house.

1. Care for trees and shrubs.

Trim and prune dead branches to avoid falling winter limbs. Take care of any dead shrubs. Now is also a perfect time to take a look at your outdoor A/C unit to be sure it has plenty of clearance around it. The same goes for your intake vents. Keep new growth clear, and never plant landscaping close.

2. Rake leaves.

The task we all dread (or at least those of us with lots of trees nearby) – raking leaves. Leaving too many leaves on a lawn over winter in a snowy area can inhibit spring growth. Again, be sure to clear any piles that the wind may have built up by your vents and air conditioning condenser.

3. Clean gutters and downspouts.

Once most of the leaves have fallen, clean out gutters and downspouts (hire a helper if you are not comfortable on a ladder). Clogged gutters during rainstorms can cause water to pool and damage your roof or siding. And you known we will have melting snow and ice to deal with too. If the water can't find its way down, it will find its way out – where you don't want it!

4. Make exterior repairs.

Take a walk around your property. Do you see anything that needs repair? Make a list and get to it. Check for signs of damage to the roof, siding and foundation. Schedule to have these issues fixed before winter weather hits.

5. Seal gaps where critters could enter.

Mice only need a tiny gap to be able to sneak into your house and raid your pantry! With colder weather coming, all of the little critters out there will be looking for warm places to make a home. Fill small holes and cover any larger gaps securely with heavy-duty hardware cloth to keep the wildlife outdoors where it belongs.

6. Check walkways, railings, stairs and the driveway for winter safety.

When the landscape is covered in ice and snow, just walking from the driveway to the front door can be quite a challenge. Make navigating around your home safer by checking that all stairs are in good shape and have sturdy railings, and that the driveway is in good repair to make for easier shoveling. If you have steps that are slippery when wet, you know that they are only going to get worse when it's cold enough for ice. Apply anti-slip tape to add traction in spots that are lacking.

7. Stock up on winter supplies.

Cold, snowy winters are our norm. Fall is the time to prepare with supplies you know you'll need.

  • Check the condition of your snow shovels and ice scrapers; replace as needed.

  • Pick up a bag of ice melt,.

  • Restock emergency kits for car and home.

  • If you use a snow blower, have it serviced and purchase fuel.

8. Shut off exterior faucets and store hoses.

Protect your pipes from freezing temperatures by shutting off water to exterior faucets before the weather dips below freezing. Drain hoses and store them indoors.

9. Add weatherstripping.

Weatherstripping applied around the frames of windows and doors helps boost winter warmth and cut energy costs. Add door sweeps to the base of drafty doors to keep heat in and cold air out.

10. Check safety devices.

Test smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors; replace batteries as needed. Do the same with your thermostats. Now is the perfect time to tackle an upgrade to a smart thermostat! Check the expiration date on your fire extinguisher and replace if needed.

If you haven’t checked your home for radon, fall is a good time to do so because it is more likely to become trapped in your home since the windows and doors are closed. Radon at high enough levels is extremely harmful, so if you find that your home has radon (a radon level of 4 or above is considered unacceptable by the Environmental Protection Agency), hire a contractor qualified to fix radon issues.

11. Remove window A/C units.

If you use window air conditioning units in the summer, remove them before the weather turns cold. If you must leave window A/C units in, cover the entire exterior of the unit with an insulating wrap to keep cold air out. Otherwise you're heat is going to work extra hard all winter trying to bring the room to temperature as the warm air escapes through your unit.

12. Clean dryer vents.

Lint buildup in dryer vents can make your dryer work less efficiently and even cause a fire — cool, dry fall weather increases static electricity, which can ignite lint that has built up, so now is a key time to get that lint out.

13. Deep-clean the kitchen.

Take a day to tackle some of the more labor intensive cleaning tasks, and keep your kitchen working efficiently and looking great.

  • Degrease the range hood and filter.

  • Clean the oven.

  • Vacuum the refrigerator coils.

  • Scrub tile grout.

  • Clean light fixtures including ceiling fans (remember to flip the direction!).

  • Wash the walls and backsplash.

  • Wash the garbage can and recycling bins.

  • Clean small appliances

  • Check sink, dishwasher, and ice maker hoses for wear-and-tear and leaks.

14. Conduct an energy audit.

A trained auditor can assess your home’s current energy efficiency and give you a list of recommended improvements you can make, which may include upgrading to Energy Star appliances, adding insulation to the attic or beefing up weatherstripping.

15. Schedule a chimney cleaning and heating system maintenance.

Making sure your chimney and furnace or boiler are cleaned, maintained and in working order before you need to turn on the heat is an important safety measure. And be sure to add a chimney cap if you don’t already have one — it will stop critters from crawling down your chimney!

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