What are the best ways to prepare your home for the fall? Here are our top 10 fall home maintenance tips!
1. FURNACE MAINTENANCEYour furnace should be serviced at least once a year. It’s best to do it in the early fall, before you need to turn it on for the winter. This ensures that it’s operating properly and efficiently, and that there are no dangerous issues that have gone unnoticed, like carbon monoxide leaks due to a cracked heat exchanger.
There are a few different things you can do to prepare your furnace for the fall and winter, like:
- Change the air filter – Your air filter is easy to access, and should be changed about every 3-6 months. If you have pets or live in a dusty climate, you may want to replace it even more regularly than this.
- Clean the combustion chamber – Using a wire brush and a shop vacuum, you can remove carbon buildup from the combustion chamber, which prevents corrosion and allows for a longer furnace life, and better energy efficiency.
- Inspect the flue – The flue is the pipe that sends exhaust outside of your home. You can inspect it and check for leaks, sealing any small leaks with foil tape. Large leaks and corrosion may require you to replace the flue.
- Clean floor vents – You should clean your floor registers with a vacuum every year, to make sure that they are not blocked, and that debris does not fall into the furnace.
2. WEATHERPROOF YOUR DOORSWeatherproofing a door is the process of examining the weather stripping and gaps in your doors, in order to determine if they may cause leaks or a draft, and then replacing weather stripping and other elements, as necessary.
First, inspect the door. If you can see light coming through, chances are its drafty – and needs to be weatherproofed. Then, you can use caulk to fill up minor gaps, or use backer rod to fill in larger gaps. You also may want to replace damaged weather stripping on the interior or exterior of the door.
Want to weatherproof your doors yourself? Here’s a comprehensive guide on what you’ll need to do!
Weatherproofing helps prevent water from getting into your home, and also eliminates drafts which can reduce the effectiveness of your heating systems, and raise your utility bills.
Weatherproofing also can help prevent damage to the subfloor below your exterior doors. If moisture and dampness get inside, it can eat away at the floor material, and cause issues like mold and mildew.
A properly weatherproofed door won’t need to be redone for several years, but if you live in a harsh climate, you may need to replace weatherproofing more often.
It’s best to simply examine your doors every year. If you notice gaps or drafts, you may need to weatherproof your doors again. If you don’t notice any issues, you’re good to go for another year!
With these simple tips, you can make sure that your weatherproofing lasts longer – and that you won’t have to keep redoing your doors every year.
3. CLEAN YOUR GUTTERSYour home needs regular maintenance to keep it safe and in good condition, and gutter cleaning is one of the most important steps. Clogged gutters can damage your roof and cause leaks, cause ice damming in the winter, or even lead to foundation issues.
So grab a ladder, a plastic bag or a bucket, and get up to the roof! Make sure to stay safe on the ladder, and place it safely and securely. You may be able to walk on your roof if it’s not steeply pitched, but it’s usually better to stay on the ladder.
Grab all the debris from your gutters and dump it in your bucket or bag, and flush the gutter by using a hose. Repeat until all your gutters are clean. Once you get used to it, it should only take you an hour or so.
It’s usually recommended to do it twice a year – once in the late spring, and once in the early fall. However, if you live in an area without too many trees, you may be able to do it just once a year. Conversely, if you live underneath pine trees, or in a heavily forested area, you may want to clean your gutters every 3 months to ensure they don’t get clogged.
4. FLUSH YOUR HOT WATER HEATERFlushing your water heater can help remove sediment from the tank, and prolong its lifespan, and fall is the perfect time to do this.
If you’re not handy and don’t like working with tools, you may want to hire a professional to do this. It’s not expensive, and the cost of a maintenance call is small, compared to the benefits of a longer water heater lifespan.
If you want to try to do it yourself, though, this guide from Family Handyman is a good place to start. You’ll save a little money, and learn more about how your water heater works!
5. SHUT OFF EXTERIOR FAUCETSIf you don’t shut off the water supply to your exterior faucets from inside your house, the pipes leading to it may crack and freeze, which can cause leaks, and cost a lot of money to replace.
If you have a “frost-free” faucet, you may not need to do this. A good rule of thumb is that, if a faucet knob is perpendicular to the house, it’s frost-free, and uses what’s called a “frost-free sillcock” to prevent freezing – but make sure you double-check.
If your sillcock is not frost-free, there should be a shut-off valve for the exterior faucet, somewhere on the pipe that leads to it. Locate this, and shut it off. Then, open up the outside faucet, and then open the adjacent bleeder valve to let any remaining water drain out.
6. WINTERIZE A/C SYSTEMYour air conditioner can be damaged by the ice, snow, debris, and other weather-related conditions of the fall and winter. That means you should winterize it before it gets too cold outside.
Winterizing your A/C is simple to do.
- Simply begin by removing grass, leaves, twigs, and other debris from the unit itself. Then, use a garden hose to rinse it, and remove more debris, dirt, and dust.
- Allow the unit to dry, then cut off the electrical power at the electrical circuit, to keep it from switching on if a day is unexpectedly warm. After this, install rubber pipe insulation around the pipes to protect against freezing.
- Then, cover your unit with an A/C cover, to keep ice, snow, and other debris from building up on it.
If you don’t use your chimney or fireplace in the winter, you may be able to do this once every two years – but we don’t recommend this, as the chimney is a common failure point when it comes to roof leaks. A regular inspection every year helps keep it clear, and ensures it’s not leaking.
8. TEST YOUR SUMP PUMPYour sump pump keeps water out of your basement, and away from your foundation. If it fails during the winter, and water builds up underneath your home, it can freeze and crack, which may cause permanent damage to your foundation.
So make sure you test your sump pump out. You can hire a professional, or follow this guide to do it yourself. You should test your sump pump regularly throughout the fall and winter, whenever there is a heavy downpour.
9. CHECK FOR CRACKS IN PAVEMENTThe corrosive properties of road salt, as well as the thermal expansion of pavement during freezing and refreezing, can turn small pavement cracks into serious damage, and carve out chunks from your driveway the next spring, after the winter has passed.
This is why you should check for cracks in your pavement in the fall. You may want to consider re-sealing your driveway if you have a lot of cracks. If you just have a few cracks, you can use asphalt driveway repair caulk to plug them up, and keep them protected during the fall and winter.
A little bit of preventative maintenance goes a long way, and can keep your driveway intact and in great shape.
10. CHECK YOUR WINDOWS You should check your windows for damage and loose frames, to make sure they’re in good shape before the winter. In addition, you may want to install additional weather stripping or caulking around them, to prevent drafts and keep your power bills low.
If you’re serious about energy conservation, you could also invest in a pair of energy-efficient cell blinds, as well as heavy blackout curtains. Combined, these window treatments can help insulate your windows, keeping you comfortable and reducing your power bill.
Get Ready For The Cold Weather!Regular home maintenance is key for simplifying home ownership, and avoiding major repairs and unexpected costs. So follow these tips, and keep your home safe this fall and winter.