Now that fall has arrived, it’s time to get moving on those important home maintenance chores to prepare your house for the harsh winter ahead. By taking preventative steps now, you’ll ensure that your family is safe and comfortable and you’ll prevent damage that can result in costly emergency repairs. Here’s a checklist of tasks that most homeowners can tackle in one or two fall weekends. Included are some tips and tools to lighten the workload.
1) Heating Systems — Inspect and Clean Furnace and Chimney
- Have an HVAC professional inspect/repair your furnace and replace the filters. Make your appointment early in the fall to avoid the heating season rush.
- If you have a fireplace, wood or pellet stove, make sure the chimney and flue are clean of creosote and soot to prevent chimney fires and improve efficiency. With a do-it-yourself chimney cleaning system, you can clean your own chimney from inside the house using a power drill and the special tools that come in the kit.
2) Outdoor Water — Winterize Sprinklers and Faucets
- Prevent outdoor pipes from freezing and cracking by turning off all outdoor water faucets using the shut-off valves in the basement. Be sure to leave outside faucet handles open.
- Winterize outdoor sprinkler system by turning off the water at the source and drain.
- Winterize your swimming pool by following these steps listed here. To prolong the life of your expensive pool cover, invest in a pool cover pump to remove standing water.
- Disconnect, drain and store garden hoses in the garage or shed.
- If you know that you’ll need the garden hose during the winter months for pets or to fill an outdoor hot tub or pond, get a thermostatically-controlled rubber hose that you plug in for 20 minutes before using. It will give you ice-free outdoor water all winter long.
3) Indoor Plumbing — Protect by Insulating and Alarming
- Protect indoor pipes in unheated locations including the attic, basement, crawlspace and garage by wrapping them with insulated tape or flexible molded pipe sleeves so they don’t freeze and burst during a long cold spell or if the heat or power goes out.
- If you have a sump pump in your basement, now is the time to check that it is working properly and is not blocked. To receive alerts that the sump pump has malfunctioned, consider installing a “local” sump alarm that sounds a loud alert or a callout cellular pump alarm that sends text message alerts to your cell phone, ensuring you’ll be notified of sump pump problems even when you’re away.
4) Gutters — Clean to Prevent Ice Dams and Leaks
- Prevent ice dams from forming by cleaning fallen leaves and twigs out of your home’s gutters in the fall. This will also allow melting ice and snow to drain away from the house.
- Save yourself $100 to $200+ by using a do-it-yourself gutter cleaning tool kit instead of hiring a professional gutter cleaner. These easy-to-use DIY systems hook up to a garden hose and let you remove leaves and debris from your gutters without having to get up on a ladder.
- Repair or replace missing gutters, downspouts or facia boards.
- Add extensions to downspouts to direct water 3 to 4 feet away from the foundation.
5) Destructive Critters — Prevent Invasions to House and Vehicles
- Inspect the exterior of your house and garage for openings that pesky animals, rodents and insects can penetrate and seal with caulking or screening.
- Get an electronic animal and pest deterrent that uses high-intensity ultrasonic sound waves that are irritating to critters. This inexpensive device also works to drive away small animals that like to nest under the hoods of cars, lawnmowers, boats and snowmobiles and chew on the wiring.
6) Annual Home Safety Inspection
- Replace batteries in smoke detectors and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors and vacuum with a soft brush.
- Test smoke detectors by pressing the test button or holding a smoke source (like a blown-out candle) near the unit. Check the expiration date on your CO detectors and replace if necessary.
- Every home should have at least one fire extinguisher rated for all fire types (look for an A-B-C rating on the label). At a minimum, keep one near the kitchen. One per floor is recommended. Check the indicator on the pressure gauge to make sure the extinguisher is charged.
7) Stock up On Supplies
- In addition to completing these home maintenance chores, fall is a good time to stock up on cold-weather supplies such as snow shovels, snow blowers, salt and ice melt. By shopping early, you’ll avoid long checkout lines and empty shelves when the first winter storm arrives.
- Order heating fuel now and stock up on firewood.
- Prepare for the inevitable winter power outage by having extra batteries, bottled water, medicines and canned food on hand. Consider getting a hand-crank radio or battery-powered NOAA Weather Radio to stay informed of severe weather developments and other emergencies. In the event your landline phone goes out, it’s a good idea to keep a mobile phone charger on hand.