The arrival of fall weather offers a good reminder for homeowners to prepare their homes for the winter months ahead.
Getting a furnace inspection, replacing filters, raking leaves and checking gutters are common tasks associated with autumn. But there are other just-as-important tasks that could easily be overlooked.
Here are our 10 tips to add to your fall checklist.
- Inspect your foundation: Foundation cracks can lead to moisture problems and more significant structure damage. Walk around your home’s exterior and look for cracks, usually formed in a stair-step pattern. Foundation repairs can be done easily and for little money – if the problem is addressed early on. Left to linger, structural repairs can cost several thousand dollars.
- Weather-strip windows and doors: Caulk, seal and weather-strip doors and windows where drafts are detected. Find drafts by walking through your home with a lit stick of incense. Drafts will pull the smoke that direction, making it easier to determine where the cold air is seeping in. Sealing up those drafty areas is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to save on heating costs. If your windows are drafty, it’s a great time to buy new, energy efficient models that will help lower your energy costs. Qualifying windows and doors are eligible for a 30 percent tax credit up to $1,500 through the end of 2010.
- Insulate your pipes: Dealing with a burst pipe in the dead of winter is no fun. Insulate vulnerable pipes now – like those located outside, in garages and under sinks – to avoid damage from freezing temperatures. It’s easy to do and costs a whole lot less than an emergency plumbing call.
- Go green, save green: Determine the energy efficiency of your home with an energy audit, a process that assesses how much energy your home uses and recommends measures you can take to improve efficiency. Contact your utility company to see if they offer free or discounted home energy audits. Finding ways to reduce your energy consumption can save you big on your bills.
- Check your deck: Leaves that accumulate on decks can lead to algae, mildew and mold, plus cause the wood to rot. Inspecting, repairing, cleaning and sealing a deck before the winter hits can ensure it’s safe and ready to be used when spring returns. Service pros recommend fall as the best time to seal – rather than spring – so your deck is protected from ice and snow – it’s often hard to schedule them right before summer returns, when people remember their decks need attention.
- Before you light that fire: Have your fireplace and chimney inspected to avoid potential fire hazards because of creosote buildup, which can diminish your chimney’s ability to direct toxic gases and smoke out of your home.
- Mind your yard: Part of having a beautiful yard in the spring and summertime involves taking care of it during the colder months. If your lawn is properly winterized, it has a better shot at surviving the colder temperatures and it will be more likely to flourish when spring arrives. Fall fertilization is important so your lawn will have nutrients to feed off during the winter months. Aerate your lawn in the fall for good root development. Grass should be mowed until it stops growing and be kept 2 to 2-1/2 inches tall.
- Gauge your garage: You probably won’t think much about your garage door this winter, unless it freezes. Fall is a good time to have your garage door inspected before the cold weather hits. An inspection should include adjusting of springs and cables, lubricating of moving parts, tightening of all hardware, track and hinges, inspecting the safety sensors and opener gears.
- Ready your ride: Most miles are put on a car over the summer, and that can take a toll. You’ll need your car working at its optimum performance when winter rolls around. Schedule a tune-up now to avoid being stuck on the side of the highway in freezing temps. Be sure to check the air filter, spark plugs, fuel filter, distributor cap, and the battery.
- Plan ahead for the holidays: Plan on being away for the holidays? Better schedule that pet or house sitter now before they fill up. The same if you need a holiday housecleaning service, caterer or want someone to hang your decorative lights.