How to Prep Your Home for Fall

Well, summer has long since passed and we’re officially in fall. It’s the perfect time to refresh your home and give it a good once over in advance of autumn winds and wintry weather. As the seasons change, so do the needs of our homes, as well as the activities we do in and around them. It’s a good time to perform any necessary or desired maintenance in order to keep your home running smoothly.

From inspecting your home inside and out to investing in energy-saving improvements, there’s a lot you can do to save yourself time and money in the long run. Keep in mind that the weather can change on a dime, so a bit of attention now will save you costly repairs and aggravation later.

One Foot in the Gutter

YRed line icon of a gutterour roof’s drainage system takes a beating, especially if you live in a wet or wintery climate. In fact, your roof’s drainage system diverts thousands of gallons of water away from your home’s exterior and foundation. That’s why it’s critical to keep this system flowing with no obstructions. Remove leaves and other debris from your drainpipe and gutters to prevent clogging. Clogged gutters are also more prone to rust and corrosion, so sometime in late fall, get up to the roof for maintenance or pay a professional to clean out your gutters and consider whether gutter guards might be a wise investment.

Stay on Top of Roof Problems

Red line icon of a house under a magnifying glassOutside of a busted water heater or a failing furnace, there are few homeowner problems that are more unwanted than a leaky roof. Once the water starts flowing, finding the source of the leak can be time-consuming and vexing. That’s why it’s important to stop problems this fall before rain, snow and winter winds turn a minor problem into a major incident.

Keep in mind that inspecting your roof is both an external and an internal task. First, inspect your roof from top to bottom, using binoculars if needed. Check ridge shingles for cracks, and look for damage to metal flashing around vents and chimneys. You’re looking for a few different signs here. First, missing, curled or damaged shingles can be indicative of a problem that’s about to present itself. Be sure to pay attention to any roof valleys, since this is where rainfall and snow tend to collect. When you’re cleaning out your gutters, you may find large accumulations of granules, which is a pressing sign that your roof is losing its coating. If your roof is flat, you may have to remove leaves and debris from it as well as the gutters.

Seal Your Home’s Envelope

Red line icon of wind linesLate fall is a great time to check for drafts around windows and doors as the winds pick up and the temperature drops. Feel for drafts around the edges of windows and doors by using a lighted candle—a flickering flame is a sure sign that air is escaping around the area. If necessary, repair seals and repair caulking around windows and door frames. This is also the right time of year to remove screens and install storm windows and doors if you use them.

This is also a good time to check for missing or damaged caulk around entry points for electrical, cable, phone, gas, and other utilities, sealing any gaps with suitable material.

Polish Up Your Furnace & Fireplace

Red line icon of a thermometer with a flame behind itOnce annually, it’s a great idea to have your heating system inspected by a professional. To avoid a last-minute rush, it’s a good idea to schedule this task well in advance of heating season. This is also a good time to survey your interior heating vents to ensure they’re not blocked by carpeting, curtains or furniture.

Some signs that your heater may be acting up include noisy belts that emit loud screeching noises or whines, which indicate either wear or damage; poor performance, which could be indicative of blocked ducts, a failing blower motor or a filthy furnace filter; and erratic behavior, which could be caused by a faulty thermostat or a misaligned furnace. If any of these signs appear, it’s better to call a professional earlier rather than later.

While you’re thinking about the heat, it’s a good time to clear out ash and charred wood from the fireplace, but if it’s time to clean the chimney, you’ll need to call a professional. A professional chimney cleaner will look for build-up of creosote (a flammable by-product of burning wood) as well as cleaning the chimney, looking for flue blockages, exercising the damper, and checking your chimney for damage.

Drain the Waters

Red line icon of a gas containerLate fall is a good time to drain your water heater and clear out any debris that may have settled in the tank. You’ll also want to drain gas from any lawn equipment (mower, leaf blower and weed eater) because unused gas can lead to gum and other harmful deposits. As a final draining exercise, turn off and drain outdoor faucets and sprinklers.

Out with the Old

Red line icon of a lawn mowerIt’s a good idea to freshen things up in the backyard as winter starts to roll in. Clear up the garage and storage shed to make way for storing summer gear, deck furniture and outdoor toys while making your winter home improvement tools (rake, snow shovel, etc.) more accessible. Naturally, any pools should be closed and hoses drained, rolled up, and stored.

Safety First

Red icon of a fire extinguisher with a flame symbol on frontOnce a year, it’s a good idea to do a full inventory of your home’s safety features, family evacuation plan, and general safety. First, replace the batteries in each smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. They should emit a shrill alarm when pressing the test button. Any random chirping is a sign of a weak battery. If you haven’t already, a smoke and carbon monoxide detector should be installed on every floor of your home, including the basement.

Also, every home should have at least one fire extinguisher, kept near the kitchen or one per floor if available. Every bedroom should have two exit paths, either through a door or a window, so it’s important that windows aren’t blocked by furniture or other barriers. Arrange a safe meeting place for everyone away from the house.

Fertilize your Lawn

Red icon of a bag of fertilizerFertilizing your lawn will protect it over the winter and help things grow faster and healthier again come springtime. This is especially important in geographic areas with hot, dry summers that tends to kill off grass over time. This is also a good time to perform any last-minute pruning or trimming that may need to be done to the landscape.