8 Fall Home Maintenance Tips
by Lauren Busser Direct from the Designers’ Contributing Writer
With its changing colors, cooler weather, seasonal vegetables and the smell of fallen leaves, autumn is a beautiful time of year. But as the seasons change it's time to start thinking about getting your home ready for the winter. Things like cleaning gutters, servicing your chimney, and having your heating system inspected are all essential in the months and weeks leading to the first snowfall. Here are some tips to keep your home functioning properly and your money in your pocket this fall season.
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Mind Your Gutters
Annually, your roof drainage system diverts thousands of gallons of water from your home's exterior and foundation walls. Clogged gutters can lead to damaged exterior surfaces and water in your basement. There are a few options to prevent this. Before the leaves fall, you could have your gutters cleaned and then covered with mesh guards. Or, after all the leaves have fallen, remove them and any other debris from your home’s gutters. You may even look into having leaf-proof gutters installed, for a permanent solution. When you are hosing out the gutters look for leaks and misaligned pipes, and make sure the downspouts are carrying water far away from your home’s foundation. As a general rule of thumb, pooling water should never be permitted closer than ten feet from your home.
Seal Gaps and Cracks
Fall is also the time to check your home for air leaks. Gaps in caulk and weather stripping can account for as much as 10 percent of your heating bill. This is why it is important to check weather stripping around doors and windows, which can deteriorate over time.
A simple way to check is to close the window or door on a strip of paper. If the paper slides easily your weather stripping isn’t doing its job. You can also perform a similar test by holding a candle near the door or window frame on a breezy day, just be careful with the flame. If the flame flickers or blows as you guide it along the window or door frame, you've found an air leak.
Fix That Roof
Nothing is more frustrating than a leaky roof. Once the dripping begins, finding the source of the leak can be difficult and time-consuming. Stopping problems like this before the ice and snow turn them into a bigger problem is much simpler and easier.
You should inspect your roof from top to bottom, using binoculars if necessary. Look for shingles with cracks or other damage, and carefully scrutinize metal flashing in valleys and around vents and chimneys. You should also check your gutters for large accumulations of granules which are a sign that your roof is losing its coating. This may indicate that your roofing is nearing the end of its useful life.
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Repair Damaged Sidewalks and Drives
A damaged sidewalk or driveway is a hazard year round but when the weather turns icy the dangers worsen. Fixing small problems before the first winter storms is critical to preventing bigger problems and expensive headaches. Cracks larger than 1/8th inch wide, uneven sections and loose railings on steps should all be repaired now. Lots of smaller jobs can be done on your own but major repairs should be left to experienced hands.
Give Your Furnace a Physical
Your furnace should be checked once a year by a professional. Schedule your heating inspection as soon as possible in the early fall. Particularly if you notice anomalies like noisy fan belts, sub par performance or erratic behavior from your thermostat, you should have the inspection performed immediately.
Prevent Gas Problems
Keeping an eye on your gas heater is both a safety and cost issue. Improperly maintained, a heater can spew poisons into the air of your home or could simply cost you more to operate. Checking the devices annually will prevent both, but you should also check air-shutter opening and exhaust vents for dirt and dust. If they are dirty, vacuum the air passages and make sure they are free of debris. Follow the manufacturer’s advice for any additional assistance.
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Gather Around the Hearth
Even if you only use your fireplace occasionally, it should be checked annually for damage or hazards. Most pertinent to this is the danger of creosote build-up. This flammable material could result in a devastating fire. This task is really best left to a professional chimney sweep, who will inspect and clean your system. They will also inspect your chimney for blockages or tar deposits, the structure of the chimney itself, and check the damper and lintel.
Keep Your Family Safe
Check your alarms, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and any other alarm systems to make sure they are in working order for the winter. Replace the batteries and inspect fire extinguishers around your home and do a test of your fire escape plan to ensure your family’s safety.
Taking these steps will help to ensure the health, safety and longevity of your new home now, and in the many happy years to follow.