Fall is here! Get ready for winter's worst and avoid expensive repairs by taking care of your home with this essential fall maintenance checklist:
- Clean your gutters.
- Inspect your roof.
- Seal gaps and cracks around doors and windows.
- Drain and turn off outdoor water.
- Store yard equipment and outdoor furniture.
- Repair damaged sidewalks, driveways, and steps.
- Get your furnace serviced.
- Look up chimney for blockages, check damper is working.
- Clean dehumidifiers.
- Perform a home safety check.
Gutters: Inspect and clean gutters and downspouts. It is very important to keep your gutters clean. Your roof's drainage system annually diverts thousands of gallons of water from your house's exterior and foundation walls. Neglected gutters can lead to wood rot problems, water in your basement, pest infestations and are also one of the major causes of ice dams. Also, inspect joints and tighten brackets if necessary. Replace old or damaged gutters with new ones that have built-in leaf guards to keep debris from returning.
Roof: Inspect your roof from top to bottom for damaged or curled shingles, corroded flashing, or leaky vents. A leaky roof is a costly problem for homeowners and not one you want to discover during a snowstorm. Also, look in your gutters for large accumulations of granules, a sign that your roof is losing its coating. For safety’s sake, have a licensed, certified roofing professional check the condition of your roof.
Doors and Windows: Leaky windows and doors can account for 10% of your heating bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Weather-stripping is the most cost-effective way to rein in heating and cooling costs year-round. Because weather-stripping can deteriorate over time, it needs to be inspected periodically. Also check for missing and damaged caulk around windows, doors, and entry points for electrical, cable, phone and gas lines. Repair leaks and reduce drafts by replacing old weather-stripping and sealing any gaps with a suitable caulk. Change summer screens to cool weather storm windows and doors. Before storing, clean and repair screens, spray with a protective coating and place in a dry area of the basement or garage. Another way to reduce your utility bills and conserve energy is by installing energy efficient window treatments. Cellular or Honeycomb shades have a unique honeycomb design that traps air and has an insulating effect.
Outdoor Faucets and Irrigation Systems: Any water left in exterior pipes and faucets can freeze and expand breaking the pipes. Burst pipes are an expensive and messy problem in the winter. Make sure to winterize outdoor faucets and irrigation systems by draining them and then shutting off water valves in cold weather. Do you know how to locate and turn off the water shut-off valve? If you don't have shut-off valves, and your faucets are not “freezeproof” types, try styrofoam faucet covers sold at local hardware stores and home centers. Don't forget to drain garden hoses and store them inside coiled and flat.
Yard equipment and outdoor furniture: Prepare your yard equipment for storage. This includes draining fuel from from all gas-operated equipment such as lawn mowers, leaf blowers, and chain saws. To dispose old oil properly, take it to a local service station or recycling center. You can also use a fuel stabilizer in your mower which will keep the gas fresh until spring. Store your lawn equipment indoors if possible. If storing outside, protect equipment with a tarp. If you have extra room in a basement or garage, store your outdoor furniture indoors. If not, you can purchase outdoor furniture covers. Covers protect from the elements, as well as keep off dust, dirt, leaves, animals, and other debris. Make sure to properly clean your furniture before storing or covering it. Shake off or vacuum dirt and leaves from the cushions, use a mild detergent to spot clean, and air-dry thoroughly before storing for the winter.
Walkways and Drives: Inspect and repair damaged sidewalks, driveways, and steps. These can be a hazard year round, but once the weather turns icy a broken step or sidewalk can be much more dangerous. Look for cracks more than 1/8-inch wide, uneven sections, and loose railings on steps. Check for disintegration of asphalt in your driveway. You can clean out and repair any damage with driveway filler, then coat with a commercial sealer. Most do-it-yourselvers can handle small jobs, but save major repairs for professionals.
Furnaces: Have a licensed heating contractor inspect your heating system. Heating systems will use fuel more efficiently, last longer and have fewer problems if properly serviced. Call early to schedule your appointment and beat the cold weather rush. Clean or replace dirty furnace filters once a month. Clogged filters make it harder to keep your home at a comfortable temperature, and can seriously increase your heating bills.
Chimneys: Even if you use your fireplace only occasionally, you need to check it annually for damage and hazards. Have your chimney cleaned by a licensed and reputable chimney sweep. A clogged chimney poses the risk of a chimney fire, which can be ignited by burning creosote—a combination of wood tar, organic vapors and moisture buildup. Make sure that your damper is working properly by moving it to the open and closed positions. Also check your chimney for damage. Make certain that the flue cap (the screen or baffle covering the top of the chimney) is in place. Inspect brick chimneys for loose or broken joints. If you have glass doors, clean and inspect them for cracks.
Dehumidifiers: Clean the coils of your dehumidifier seasonally and keep them clear of dust and dirt. Don't forget to clean any inside filters. It is important to do so because dirty coils decreases the efficiency of the dehumidifier. Also, dirty coils can get damp and possibly freeze in cold weather resulting in major damage to your dehumidifier. It is not necessary to run your dehumidifier in the winter because they do not function well at lower temperatures and there will be less moisture migrating through the basement floor and walls when the ground is frozen.
Home Safety Check: Keep your family safe with an annual home safety check. Test and change the batteries in your smoke and carbon dioxide detectors and keep extra household batteries on hand. These should be located on each floor of the house, covering all sleeping areas. Inspect or install fire extinguishers. Keep one in the kitchen and one on every floor and learn how to use them. Review fire escape plans with all members of your family. Create an escape plan with two exit routes and practice it twice a year (once at night) with the whole family. Make sure that your electrical cords are not frayed or cracked. Clean out your clothes dryer lint filter and venting system. Rid your home of old newspapers and other fire hazards.