The Essential Fall Home Maintenance Checklist
When the chill starts creeping in through the windows and doors, it’s time to get ready for the big freeze. We’ve put together a quick and easy checklist, so you can prepare your home for the cold with confidence. Some of these items are regional. For instance, you probably won’t need to insulate your pipes if you live in Southern California. But many of these apply to just about everyone. Act on the ones that are right for your home, and skip the ones that don’t apply.
Inside the Home
Indoor preparations focus on two major components: efficiency and warmth. You want to keep as much heat inside the home as you can to use energy more efficiently, which means taking care of leaks and insulation problems. You also want to have the fireplace, heater, wood stove and ventilation system ready to go. Here’s a list to help you get it all done.
- Fill in cracks around window frames and door frames with caulk. Bob Vila, well-known home improvement guru and host of This Old House, says that this is one of the cheapest and most significant ways you can cut heating costs in winter.
- Check insulation in attics, garages and basements. If you have a bug or animal problem, you may need to tear out and replace old or chewed up insulation.
- Make sure any exposed pipes in the attic, basement and garage are properly insulated.
- Get a check-up for your heating and ventilation system to make sure it’s running as cleanly and efficiently as possible. This can save you a lot of money on utilities.
- Have a chimney sweep inspect the flue and clean the chimney before starting a fire. There may be bird nests or animals blocking the opening, or a highly flammable buildup of creosote. Either of these can start a chimney fire.
- Check for cracks and openings in your wood stove. Get a professional to replace compromised glass or crooked vent covers.
- Change the batteries in your smoke detectors.
- Install a carbon monoxide detector, if you have not done so already. Change the batteries on your existing detectors. The winter months are prime time for carbon monoxide accidents.
- Have a licensed technician inspect your fire sprinkler system, and ensure it is ready for cold weather.
Outside the Home
To prepare the exterior of the home, you need to focus on protecting it from the elements, especially if you live in a snowy climate. It’s also a good time to start prepping your yard for next spring.
- Clean out the gutters, spouts and drains around your home. Usually there is a thick accumulation of leaves after fall, and this can cause trouble when you need your roof to shed snow and water quickly.
- Fill in any cracks in your foundation or driveway with caulk or a patch, to keep moisture out.
- Inspect the roof for cracks, loose tiles, or other signs of weakness. Get all repairs finished now, before the snow or winter rains begin.
- Have a tree service trim the trees near your home, especially around the roof, power lines and back deck. Heavy snow and strong winds can cause branches to break and fall on your home.
- Insulate outdoor water pipes and pipes beneath the house that are exposed to outside air.
- Install a thermometer where you can easily see it from inside your home. The Centers for Disease Control says this is especially important for those over 65, because the ability to gauge temperature decreases with age.
- Empty and store your water hoses.
- Insulate outdoor water spouts. In mild climates, an old sock and a strip of duct tape is enough to do the trick.
- Drain and store your lawn equipment for the winter.
- Inspect and organize snow removal items like your snow blower, snow shovel and rock salt. Make sure they are in a spot that will always be accessible, even if you get surprised by a heavy winter storm.
- Put away or cover the barbecue and patio furniture, if you do not plan to use them during the cold months. This will extend the life of your patio set considerably.
- Fertilize and reseed your grass, and plant any bulbs you want to see sprouting in the springtime.
If you have pets in the home, there are even more preparations to be made before winter hits. Make sure to plan for their warmth and comfort, too.
- Prepare your home for more indoor dog time. If your pups usually stay outside, you may need to reorient them to indoor life. Give them time to adjust to crate sleeping and set clear boundaries for the rooms and furniture they can use.
- Give goats, chickens and other outdoor animals adequate shelter. Install heaters where necessary, and be sure coops and stalls are watertight and well insulated.
- Plan ahead to make sure all animals on your property have constant access to unfrozen water.
- Strengthen your fencing, and be extra vigilant against predators over the winter months. Small animals are much more likely to be poached by coyotes, wild dogs, bears and mountain lions when food is scarce. Try to keep cats inside as much as possible.
Winterize Your Finances
Now is the time to get ready for all the costs that come with owning a home in wintertime. Decide on a cold weather budget ahead of time, so that you can have adequate funds on hand for the unexpected.
- Save and keep a reserve of cash on hand. You never know when you may be without electricity, or the car could break down, or the roof might start to leak from the heavy snow load.
- Contact your insurance agent to make sure your homeowners insurance is up to date, and that you have enough coverage to take care of a leaky roof, a broken pipe, or a fallen tree branch. You may need a home repair policy on top of your homeowners coverage. Check that your deductible is set at a level you can afford if the worst happens.
- Prepare for winter illnesses and accidents with good health coverage. Your insurance agency can help you find the right policy for your family, at a rate you can afford. Sometimes an independent agent can get you an even better deal than group coverage from your employer.
Get Cozy and Enjoy
You worked hard to get ready for the cold. So now…
- Start a fire in the fireplace.
- Put on some fuzzy socks.
- Snuggle up on the couch.
- Drink a hot cup of cocoa. You’ve got less to worry about than ever before.