Editor’s note: This story originally appeared on Living on the Cheap.
With the fall in the air, your thoughts may shift to what to do with your home before winter arrives. Many tasks are done more easily while the weather is still nice.
Plus, doing routine maintenance tasks now can save you aggravation and money down the road.
“If you don’t do these things and end up making repairs, it could cost a lot more later,” says Leah Ingram, author and expert on economics.
She remembers that one year no foliage was removed from the roof of her New Jersey home, which would have cost about $300 for a professional crew to complete the job. The result was an ice dam that caused $3,000 worth of damage from water leakage inside the house.
Many fall maintenance procedures are designed to prevent water damage and protect homeowners from safety hazards, especially from fires. “Water is a homeowner’s worst enemy,” says Ingram. “People don’t think about the kind of damage it could do.”
The use of stoves, candles, and space heaters, most commonly in winter, can pose a fire hazard if they do not keep up with routine safety measures. “Unfortunately, home fires are fairly common in the winter months,” says Ann Reagan, editor in chief of Porch.com, which publishes tips for homeowners and matches them with professionals who do home repair and maintenance tasks.
While homeowners can do some routine tasks themselves, other tasks like checking chimneys and fixing roofs are best left to the professionals. HomeAdvisor, which matches homeowners with contractors, publishes a true cost guide of how much homeowners pay for various jobs.
With cold weather approaching, appointments can be hard to come by, and you may also be less inclined to go out and work, which makes advance planning and canceling projects in the fall crucial.
“Fall is really a typically busy time for homeowners,” says Reagan. “This is when we start getting ready for winter. When it’s cold and damp outside, you don’t want to do the things that you need to do.”
Even if you live in an area where snow and ice are not likely, fall is still a good time to keep up with routine maintenance. Water and fallen branches can cause costly damage in the tropics as in the Snow Belt.
Here are several fall home maintenance tasks to deal with right now.
1. Clean gutters and drainpipes
Leaves and debris collect in gutters, which can lead to ice dams and other water damage when snow falls and then melts, or during rainstorms. This is an easy task to do on your own if you can climb a ladder safely.
2. Rake or not rake?
Paper shredding is one of the most controversial topics in home ownership. Experts say that if you can chop the leaves into smaller pieces while mowing, they may be beneficial for your garden. But if your garden appears to be suffocating, the leaves won’t help provide the fertilizer. “It actually helps the formation of mold and mildew, which can kill your garden,” Ingram says.
If you shovel your leaves, you can stay green even if your trees aren’t. Use the leaves as mulch instead of putting them in bags on garbage day. You’ll help save the planet, save time weeding and save money on mulch.
3. Repair any damage to your ceiling
“Wherever you have shingles damaged, it must be repaired and replaced,” says JB Sassano, president of Mr. Handyman, who franchises handyman services across the country. If water gets under the shingles, it could get into your home and cause damage.
4. Clean your chimney
Do a chimney sweep every year to check your heater for safety and to clean up leftovers from last year’s fires. “If you use the heater regularly with wood, you have to get that soot out of there,” Ingram says. You also want to make sure that the chimney cap is intact and no birds or other creatures choose to move in, Sasano says.
5. Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
It’s smart to test devices and replace batteries every six months, making this a chore for fall and spring. Also, make sure you have enough fire extinguishers and are in the right place.
6. Change filters in heating and air conditioning units
Most forced air systems work best when the filters are clean. While some filters are advertised to last for several months, people with pets or older homes with a lot of dust should change the filters monthly.
7. Caulking around windows
Cool air can easily enter your home around the windows. The dam wears out after a few years. This is a chore that many homeowners can do on their own for less than $20.
8. Repair, add or replace weather fender
Good weather insulation on exterior doors can save energy and help you feel more comfortable in winter. If you can see light coming from outside around your doors, it’s time for repairs. Check out other home improvements that will save on your heating bill.
9. Winding exposed tubes
Pipes in the outer walls or outside can easily freeze during the winter, and their deflection decreases. “There is nothing more expensive than exploding a pipe in your home,” says Sasano. Even in climates where freezing is rare, wrapping the outer tubes in the fall is a good idea. Ask all the Texans who were surprised by the unprecedented winter storm of 2021.
10. Shut off and drain sprinkler systems
In addition to turning off and draining any sprinkler systems in your yard, you’ll also want to turn off and drain your outdoor faucets. And don’t forget to drain and bring the hoses.
11. Aerate your garden
By using a machine to make holes in your garden and topsoil, you help the air and water get to the roots. It is best to do this when the grass is wet. This process helps it grow again next season. “When the snow is falling and the ice begins to melt, the ventilated areas help the water get into your garden’s root system,” says Ingram.
12. Tree pruning
Proper pruning keeps the trees healthy, and you should hire someone on the job who knows what they’re doing. In colder climates, you want to keep weak branches that might be weighed down by snow from falling on your home or car. In warmer climates, you want to avoid wind damage.
13. Change the direction of the ceiling fans
The fans are set to run counterclockwise in summer, creating a cool breeze under the fan. But they should run clockwise in winter. “The heat tends to rise, and you don’t want to waste it at ceiling level,” says Sasano. “You want to bring it back to where the people are.”
14. Inventory your snow equipment
Make sure your shovels are in good shape, your snow blower is set, and you have sand and salt on hand. “It’s really easier to get it now before the stores run out,” says Reagan.
15. Clean and install your summer gear
Now that the warm weather is over, there’s no need to take out the garden furniture, barbecue grill, and water toys. “It just makes springtime so much easier,” says Reagan.
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