Fall is that transformative time of year when you pull out your favorite scarf and sweater, don your coziest socks, and renew your passions for pumpkin carving and apple picking. It’s also the time to prepare your home for the harsher winter weather ahead.
By checking off key items on your fall to-do list now, you will preserve and potentially even increase the value of your home, which will make sipping your pumpkin-spiced lattes all the more satisfying when your work is done.
Ready to get started?
5 OUTDOOR HOME MAINTENANCE TIPS
Clean gutters and downspouts
After most of the leaves have fallen, clean out gutters and downspouts. Clogged gutters during rainstorms can cause water to pool and damage your roof or siding.
Instead of using a gloved hand to scoop out debris, trim an old plastic spatula to fit the gutter’s contour and remove the accumulated leaves, dirt, and grime.
For clogged downspouts, try feeding a hose with a high-pressure nozzle into the pipe and then turn on the water. If the problem persists, insert a plumbing snake into the pipe to break up the clog.
If you’re uneasy or uncomfortable on a ladder, hire a professional to do the job.
Prune trees and shrubs
The best time to prune is after the leaves have turned. Not only will your maintenance promote healthy growth come spring, but your timely intervention can prevent a tree limb from falling on your roof or, worse, a power line.
Healthy, mature trees often add immense value to your home, so it’s both in your aesthetic and financial interest to keep them up. If you don’t feel you’re up to the task, consider hiring an arborist to care for them. An arborist can detect signs of poor health early on to prevent tree loss and prune limbs before they potentially injure people or damage property.
Fertilize and aerate your lawn
Your lawn may appear to hibernate in the fall, but that doesn’t mean you can neglect it for a few months. Its roots are actually growing deeper to prepare for winter, which makes fall the best time to fertilize your lawn.
If your soil is overly compacted (you can’t easily insert a screwdriver into it), you may also need to aerate the lawn. A core aerator removes plugs of soil from your lawn so that air, water, and the fertilizer can easily reach the roots. You can either aerate your lawn yourself or call a lawn service. If you choose the former, you will need a truck to transport the aerator from the rental yard to your home.
Fix driveway cracks
By sealing cracks when they are little, you can keep them from expanding into bigger ones the size of potholes, which occur when water seeps into the space, then freezes and expands.
A 5-gallon can of concrete sealer for about $50 can cover around 250-500 square feet depending on the condition of the concrete. That investment will be a lot less expensive than the cost of a new concrete driveway, which can run between $1,800 and $6,000, according to HomeAdvisor.1
Bring in your outdoor furniture
Quality outdoor furniture is built to be durable, but why press your luck by leaving it outside to fend against the onslaught of rain, sleet, snow, wind, and other elements in Mother Nature’s powerful arsenal?
If you have no room for storage, at least invest in a good quality cover.
5 INDOOR HOME MAINTENANCE TIPS
Check for drafts
Fall breezes can be wonderful, you just don’t want them blowing through your home. To check if you have a draft issue, close a door or window on a strip of paper. If the paper slides easily, you need to update your 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.
Check heating system
First, change the filter on your furnace. A clogged filter forces your furnace to work harder and longer to cycle warm air throughout your home, which will greatly reduce your furnace’s efficiency.
Also inspect ductwork for holes or other breaches that may have been created by unwanted guests in your attic. Keep in mind that critters will be looking for warm places to camp during colder weather, so seal gaps and holes to keep the wildlife outdoors.
In addition, be sure your attic insulation isn’t blocking your vents through which the heated air flows into your home.
Make a clean sweep
Before curling up to a nice fire with your favorite whodunit, stick a poker up the throat of the fireplace, scraping it against the walls. If the creosote and soot build-up is thicker than a nickel’s edge, about 1/8th of an inch, call in a chimney sweep.
The chimney sweep should also inspect for cracks, loose mortar, obstructions, and water damage. Be sure to add a chimney cap if you don’t already have one, to prevent small animals from crawling down your chimney for an unwanted late-year surprise.
Check safety devices
Check the batteries and expiration dates of your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to ensure they are functioning properly. Typically, smoke detectors are good for 10 years, and carbon monoxide ones for six years. Also check the expiration date on your fire extinguisher and replace if needed.
Check for radon gas
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States.2 The inert, colorless, and odorless gas can become trapped indoors after it enters a home through cracks and other holes in the foundation.
Testing is the only way to determine radon levels. Have your home tested, either by a professional or with a do-it-yourself home test kit. The EPA recommends taking action to reduce radon in homes that have a radon level at or above 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) of air (a “picocurie” is a common unit for measuring the amount of radioactivity).
Mitigation measures include sealing cracks in floors and walls with plaster, caulk, or other materials designed for this purpose. Ensuring your home’s ventilation system is functioning properly should also reduce exposure. Always test again after taking corrective action to make sure you’ve fixed your radon problem.
Using autumn to prepare and protect your home indoors and out for the harsher weather ahead will give you more time for the more important things in life, like deciding whether Granny Smith or Braeburn apples make for a more delicious apple pie.