Today is the first day of Fall. As the season begins to change, it’s time to start preparing your home for the winter weather. Tackling a few fall maintenance tasks for your home now can help you later in the season, so you can enjoy the fall colors. Most of the tasks can be done by the homeowner or if you’d rather hire a professional to handle them, it is well worth the expense.
Outdoor Fall Maintenance for Your Home
Clean the Gutter and Spouts
This is an ongoing fall chore that you shouldn’t overlook — clean all those wet autumn leaves from gutter spouts before the blockages damage your gutters. Your plumber’s snake is a great tool for pulling clumps of wet leaves out of clogged downspouts.
A plastic spatula is a helpful tool for cleaning debris from gutters. If you are not up for the challenge, hire a handyman or gutter cleaning service.
Drain your Garden Hoses
Freezing water will split a garden hose open. Blast out the water with an air compressor or stretch them out on a sloped yard or driveway.
Cut, Aerate, Fertilize, and Water your Lawn in the Fall
Just this one time of the year, set your mower to cut the grass short, at 1-1/2 or 2-inches. In cold climates, it will reduce the chance of snow mold forming. And tall grass blades won’t lie down and smother the new grass next spring.
Aerating is the single most important task you can perform to maintain a healthy lawn. It relieves compaction caused by foot traffic and creates extra pore space in the soil, allowing air, nutrients, and water to enter. You can rent a lawn aerator at any home and garden equipment rental store.
It is best to fertilize four times a year. But if you can only bother to fertilize once a year, you still have a great lawn if you only fertilize in the fall. Choose a fertilizer that’s labeled 4-1-2. (Those numbers refer to the percentages of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in the fertilizer.) Apply the fertilizer about three weeks before the last mowing of the season. Fertilizing in the fall provides energy and nutrients for the grassroots as they multiply in cooler weather before the grass goes dormant.
Fall watering helps your lawn recover from summer stress and gains strength for the winter ahead. Also, if you fertilize in the fall, watering is necessary for the fertilizer to dissolve and soak into the ground where it’s needed.
Keep your Window Wells Clean
If you’ve never had a problem with water in a window well, you may never think to clean it out. But water and leaves in the well can flood your basement. Keep window wells clean with a cover, available at home centers.
Protect the Outside Faucets from Freezing
Take steps to ensure that outside faucets don’t freeze and burst. First, close any shut-off valves serving outside faucets, then open the outside faucet to drain the line. (There may be a small cap on the faucet you can loosen to facilitate this draining.) If you don’t have shut-off valves, and your faucets are not “freeze-proof ” types, you might benefit from styrofoam faucet covers, which are sold at many home centers.
Touch up Exterior Paint
Fall offers plenty of days that are warm enough to work with exterior paint, and a touch-up can help prolong the life of your siding and trim. A fresh coat of paint or sealer on any surface that potentially will be covered with snow, such as porch stairs or wood floors, also is a wise idea.
Winterize your Gas Grill
If you’re not a winter griller, now’s the time to pack away your grill before it’s covered with a foot of snow. If you’re storing your grill outside during the winter, just keep the propane tank connected (but shut off) and put a protective cover over the entire grill when you’re done cleaning it.
If you’re storing the grill indoors, don’t bring the tank inside, even into the garage or a storage shed. A small gas leak can cause a huge explosion if the tank is stored in an enclosed space. Instead, disconnect the tank and store it outside in an upright position away from dryer and furnace vents and children’s play areas. Tape a plastic bag over the grill’s gas line opening to prevent insects from nesting.
Store your Lawn Chairs
Bring in your lawn chairs during the winter months. You can store them in a basement or your garage. If you need to keep them outdoors. Cover them with a plastic material to keep them from rusting.
Indoor Fall Maintenance for your Home
Get a Checkup for your Furnace and Change the Filter
The fall is a good time to have your furnace inspected by a professional. 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 be misadjusted, or the blower motor could be on its last legs.
Changing your furnace filter is one of the easiest things you can do to keep your furnace in good shape. If you haven’t changed it in a while, make sure you have a fresh one before your turn your furnace on for the first time.
Check the Humidifier
Dry winter air can be tough on your skin and airways, but did you know it can also make fine wood more prone to cracking? You and your home will feel more comfortable if you keep your central humidifier in tip-top shape during the months it is running.
Seal Air Leaks
Sealing up a drafty house can save up to 20% on your heating bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Seal your air leaks with caulk and weatherstripping. Weatherstripping is the most cost-effective way to rein in heating and cooling costs. It reduces drafts and keeps your home more comfortable year-round. Also, check for missing or damaged caulk around windows, doors, and entry points for electrical, cable, phone, and gas. Seal any gaps with a suitable caulk.
Have your Chimney Cleaned
If it’s been a few years since your last chimney cleaning, now’s a good time to schedule one. The cleaning includes an inspection for soot buildup, obstructions, cracks in the chimney liner, and signs of water damage. Creosote and soot buildup in the chimney flue is dangerous because it can ignite and cause an uncontrollable chimney fire. A quick way to tell if your chimney needs cleaning is to run the point of your fireplace poker along the inside of your chimney liner. If you find a 1/8 inch or more layer of buildup, call a chimney sweep.
Change the Smoke Detector Batteries
Fall is a great time to make sure your smoke and CO detectors are working. Check batteries and expiration dates – smoke detectors are typically good for 10 years, and CO detectors last for about six years.
Clean your Carpets
Fall is an ideal time to clean your carpets. It’s the best time to open windows for ventilation, which should speed the drying process. If you’re not comfortable operating a carpet cleaning machine, hire a professional carpet cleaning service.