Updated: Nov 5, 2019
As the temperatures cool, now is the perfect time to time to tackle a few simple maintenance items around your home.
Prepare your home for winter and avoid costly repairs down the road. Well maintained homes run more efficiently, and proper seasonal maintenance is one of the best ways a homeowner can ensure their home retains its value. Use this check list to stay on task this fall.
#1 Remove Garden Hoses From Faucets
Leaving garden hoses attached to outdoor faucets can cause water to back up in the faucets and in the plumbing pipes just inside your exterior walls. If freezing temps hit, that water could freeze, expand, and crack the faucet and pipes. Make removing garden hoses from outdoor faucets an early fall priority so a sudden cold snap doesn’t sneak up and cause damage.
As an additional precaution turn off any shutoff valves on water supply lines that lead to exterior faucets. That way, you’ll guard against minor leaks that may let water enter the faucet. While you’re at it, drain garden hoses and store them for the season.
#2 Winterize Your Sprinkler System
Irrigation lines can freeze if they are not buried deep enough so draining your system is an important and easy step to preventing costly repairs in the spring. Like outdoor faucets water can remain in the system and freeze causing busted lines and sprinkler heads.
Steps to drain your irrigation system:
1. Turn off the water to the system at the main valve.
2. Shut off the automatic controller.
3. Open drain valves to remove water from the system.
4. Remove any above-ground sprinkler heads and shake the water out of them, then replace.
If you don’t have drain valves, then hire an irrigation professional to blow out the system pipes with compressed air. The cost to have this done is well worth making sure the job is done right.
#3 Check Your Roof
Look for warning signs: Shingles that are buckled, cracked, or missing; rust spots on flashing. Any loose, damaged, or missing shingles should be replaced immediately.
Check for any type organic growth, as it could signal roofing that’s decayed underneath. There are roof cleaning methods to combat moss or lichen in particular and addressing this type of growth early can prevent roof damage down the road. Call in a roofer for an inspection.
A plumbing vent stack usually is flashed with a rubber collar -- called a boot -- that may crack or loosen over time. They’ll wear out before your roof does, so make sure they’re in good shape. A roofer can give you an estimate on the replacement cost of a boot; again this simple repair will cost you less in the long run by preventing water intrusion that can cause major damage to the roof during the cold months.
If you have a steep roof or a multiple roof levels on your home, stay safe and use binoculars to inspect your roof from the ground.
#4 DO NOT Prune Plants
Yes, this article is about fall maintenance and often you hear that fall is the best time to prune plants and trees - it isn't! While tree trimming and pruning is an important maintenance step it is one that should be done in the winter
You should cut back shrubs and trim tree limbs almost anytime except in late autumn. New growth that starts after late-season pruning won't harden off properly before winter. If you want to do major pruning, it's best to have this done when tree and shrub growth is dormant in winter.
When you do your fall maintenance check for limbs and branches that may be too close to your home and roof. If you notice any trees that need trimming now is a great time to get a tree service out to evaluate and set an appointment for winter to come out an do the work.
Your goal is to keep limbs and branches at least 3 feet from your house so moisture won’t drip onto roofing and siding, and to prevent damage to your house exterior during high winds. For more advice on pruning specific plants in your region, check with your state extension service.
#5 DO Apply Lawn Fertalizer
As noted above, plants and shrubs are still in a growth period during the fall. The best time of the year to fertilize your lawn is early fall when plants and grass are preparing for winter by pulling in as much nutrients as they can to make it through the dormant months.
Apply fertilizer 2 to 3 weeks before the ground freezes. To find an exact date, look for the first frost date in your area. That date is typically a good time to fertilize since the ground hasn't frozen yet. More generally, mid-October is a good time to apply lawn fertilizer.
Similarly September and October are the best months to control perennial weeds like dandelions and clover. In autumn the weeds prepare for winter by pulling nutrients and starches from their leaves into their roots. By doing this, they also draw herbicides into their root systems, thus more effectively killing the weed.
#6 Seal Air Leaks
Grab a couple of tubes of color-matched exterior caulk ($5 for a 12-ounce tube) and make a journey around your home’s exterior, sealing up cracks between trim and siding, around window and door frames, and where pipes and wires enter your house. Preventing moisture from getting inside your walls is one of the least expensive — and most important — of your fall maintenance jobs. You’ll also seal air leaks that waste energy and prevent small animals from gaining entry. Pick a nice day when temps are above 50 degrees so caulk flows easily and can properly cure.
#7 Clear Out Your Gutters
Clogged rain gutters can cause ice dams, which can lead to expensive repairs. After the leaves have fallen, clean your gutters and does spouts, remove leaves, twigs, and gunk. Make sure gutters aren’t sagging and trapping water; tighten gutter hangers and downspout brackets. Replace any worn or damaged gutters and downspouts.
If you find colored grit from asphalt roof shingles in your gutters, beware. That sand-like grit helps protect shingles from the damaging ultraviolet rays of the sun. Look closely for other signs of roof damage (#3, above); it may be time for a roofing replacement.
Your downspouts should extend at least 5 feet away from your house to prevent foundation problems. If they don’t, add downspout extensions.
#8 Direct Your Drainage
Addressing drainage problems when they are smaller and easier to fix can save you thousands of dollars and plenty of headaches in the long run.
Take a close look at the soil around your foundation and make sure it slopes away from your house at least 6 vertical inches over 10 feet. This will keep water from soaking the soil around your foundation, which could lead to cracks and leaks. And be sure soil doesn’t touch your siding.
#9 Check Your Furnace
Schedule an appointment with a heating and cooling pro to get your heating system checked and tuned up for the coming heating season. You’ll pay $50 to $100 for a checkup.
An annual maintenance contract ensures you’re at the top of the list for checks and can save you 20% off the cost of a single visit.
Change your furnace filters, too. This is a job you should do every two months anyway, but if you haven’t, now’s the time. If your HVAC includes a built-in humidifier, make sure the contractor replaces that filter.
#10 Give Your Fireplace a Once-Over
To make sure your fireplace is safe, grab a flashlight and look up inside your fireplace flue and check that the damper opens and closes properly. Open the damper and look up into the flue to make sure it’s free of birds’ nests, branches and leaves, or other obstructions. You should see daylight at the top of the chimney.
Check the firebox for cracked or missing bricks and mortar. If you spot any damage, order a professional fireplace and chimney inspection.
You fireplace flue should be cleaned of creosote buildup every other year. A professional chimney sweep will charge $150 to $250 for the service.
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