Have you felt that familiar change in the air and maybe noticed some leaves turning? You might also be wondering if you’re forgetting some fall clean up and winterizing chores you should be taking care of before the winter sets in. There are plenty of things to check out and address to save yourself problems and expense later, so set aside some time and make your way through this checklist. You’ll be glad you did later!
Mind the Gaps
Any gap in your home’s exterior is an entry point for cool air that will snatch money from your wallet. In fact, the U.S. Department of energy says these gaps can account for 10% of your heating bill. If large enough, these openings can also be entry points for unwanted guests such as mice who would love to make a warm home inside your house. Close any gaps with caulking and check all your weather stripping around doors and windows, replacing it where needed. If you have larger gaps and you’re not sure how to block them off, check with your local hardware store for recommendations.
Roof, Foundation and Siding
A small problem with any of these things can turn into a much larger problem from winter weather. If you can’t see your roof and you haven’t had it inspected recently, it’s a good idea to have it checked out. Look for any visible problems with your siding and foundation and make sure there aren’t any cracks or deterioration.
Gutters & Downspouts
These house features do a lot of heaving lifting in bad weather, carrying water away from your house. If they get clogged, water spills over and can saturate the ground around your home which can lead to several other costly problems, including flooding. Make sure gutters are clear of debris and downspouts are all secure, flowing freely with no gaps for leaking. Sometimes joints where pieces of downspouts come together can separate, so look carefully in those areas.
The fall is the best time to prune trees to address disease or unwanted growth that could cause damage to your home. Also look for limbs that are close to power lines or in danger of falling on your house. If your trees haven’t had any professional attention in a while, consider having an arborist look at your trees during your fall clean up for any problems. Some trees are prone to interior rotting which is not detectable by looking at the tree. A professional arborist can tell you if you have any of these trees and inspect them if you do.
Every fall clean up should include leaf removal. When left to collect, decomposing leaves can make for hazardous, slippery walking conditions around your home. They also can prevent growth in the spring in areas where snow compacts the leaves against the ground.
Store Or Cover Outdoor Furniture
If your outdoor furniture isn’t used over the winter, help extend its life by protecting it from the elements and put it in storage or cover it with waterproof materials.
Patch Up Your Driveway
If you have cracks in your driveway, seal them with the appropriate crack sealer for your driveway material to prevent water from entering the cracks and making them larger.
Shut Off Exterior Plumbing
If you live in an area that freezes, drain and store your hoses for the winter. If you have seasonal plumbing for an outbuilding, rinsing station, or outdoor kitchen, make sure the water is turned off and drained well before the freezing temperatures arrive.
Check Your Furnace
When was the last time your furnace was inspected? Make sure you have it checked out if it’s been a while. It will cost some money but it will generally cost a lot less than an emergency in the winter months. Your furnace filter should also be replaced according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Sweep Your Chimney
Chimneys need regular cleaning to be safe. If you’re not sure when it was last cleaned and you plan to use it, get a professional to perform a proper inspection as part of your fall clean up. It’s a small cost than can prevent your house from burning down.
Check Ventilation Openings
If you have an attic, make sure your ventilation openings that lead to the vents outside are free from clutter and they have durable, intact screening to keep small rodents from entering your attic.
Clean Your Dryer Vent
Lint accumulates in your clothing dryer vent and around the exit which can become a fire hazard over time. The winter months can introduce additional risk with the increased static electricity from dry air, so make sure the vent is checked and cleaned.
Clean And Secure Heating Ducts
If you have a forced air heating system, the ducts that carry the heated air from your furnace can develop gaps at the joints over time. This can be a big source of energy waste as you end up heating your crawlspace or basement through these gaps. If your system is older, have it inspected by a professional and address any duct repairs if needed. You also want to keep the ducts clean so dust and other allergens aren’t blown into your home through your heating system. Learn more about minimizing energy loss in ducts at the U.S. Department of Energy website.