The Fall is a great time to tidy up some things around the house before colder weather sets in. If you own a home, you know the maintenance it requires.
Paying attention to small things can go a long way in preventing big problems down the line. So here are a few suggestions from This Old House, Better Homes and Gardens, and The Good Man to help you get ready for Winter.
Lengthen Stubby Downspouts
Heavy winter rain can cause pooling near your home’s foundation if your downspout kick-outs are too short. That water can then infiltrate the foundation and be wicked up the side of the house, wreaking havoc along the way in the form of mold, insects, or rot, says Roger Cook. Telltale signs may be a wet spot in your basement after a rain or widening cracks in the foundation.
Attach a flexible downspout extender to lengthen the gutter downspout and direct water away from your foundation.
Remove Aggressive Vines
On brick or stone home facades, climbers with suckers, such as Virginia creeper, pull the lime out of the mortar, creating entry points for water. Vines also hold moisture against walls, which can wreak havoc on wood clapboards, slowing their ability to dry out after a rain and causing rot. If vines get between boards, they can push them apart.
“Pull all the vines off, working from the top down; cut them at the base, and dig out the roots,” says TOH landscape contractor Roger Cook. To remove any residue left behind on wood siding, do a quick pass with an orbital sander. Come spring, apply an herbicide on any new growth.
Okay, unless you are a trained HVA/C tech, this one is something you’ll want to get a pro to handle. Each fall, it’s a good idea to have your heating system inspected and cleaned.
After sitting dormant for the summer, dust has collected in the furnace. A simple cleaning can help avoid that musty dust burn smell you often get when you first fire up the burners.
An inspection of all gas connections and the pilot light (if you have a gas furnace), and putting in a fresh filter can ensure a safe and warm winter in your home.
Seal the Cracks
Look for one of the biggest energy-wasters: air leaks. Inspect the caulking and seals around windows and add or replace the weather stripping around your exterior doors to prevent heat-sucking drafts. Check for leaks around outlets and switches, and add easy-to-install outlets or switch gaskets as needed.
Even floor registers can leak air from a cold crawlspace or basement into ground-floor rooms. Ask your local home center representative for an insulation kit designed for a fix.
Wash the House
Washing your home’s exterior, including the windows, makes it look better and helps prevent growth of mold and mildew that feed on dirt. And all you need is a pressure washer, which you can rent at a hardware store for $50-$100 per day.
A word of warning: Find out how much pressure the washer will exert and whether the surface you plan to wash can withstand it. Avoid pressure-washing vinyl because it can bend and let water seep behind it. Research pressure-washing before you get the machine, and don’t be afraid to ask a knowledgeable store employee about appropriate nozzles.
Clean and Inspect Gutters
Even during the summer, gutters can get cluttered with debris, so it’s a good idea to clean them out for winter. During the fall season, keep a check on the gutters to prevent a build up of leaves.
While you’re at it, make sure the gutter seams and connections are leak-free. A little silicone sealant inside the gutters at seams and around downspout connections will take care of any gaps.
Prepare Lawn Equipment for Winter
Remove any gasoline from lawnmowers by letting the engine run till all fuel is used up. Or you can add a fuel stabilizer to the remaining fuel in the gas tank. This will prevent the gasoline from gumming up the engine as it sits over the winter.
Clean the underside of your mower and the head and guard of your lawn trimmer. Be sure to clean shovels for storage. Spray some WD-40 or cooking spray on shovels and garden hoes to keep them ready for next Spring.
Just paying a little attention to some maintenance basics in the Fall can ensure living a little more comfortably through the Winter.