Fall Home Maintenance - 15 Tip to Prepare For Winter
As the leaves begin to turn and the days cool, it’s time to wind your house down for the winter. The temperatures are cooler and before long we will see snowfall. Here’s how to get your home and yard ready for winter before it’s too late.
Air-conditioning. If you have central air, get the system serviced (you can do this at the same time that you service your furnace). Window units can stay in the window year-round if they are sealed with no gaps. Cover the inside and the outside of the appliance to prevent drafts, provide insulation and protect the equipment from the elements. If you’d like your window back, or have concerns about drafts, remove the unit and store it for winter. A window unit is heavy and unwieldy, so take it slowly. Store it upright, not on its side.
Furnace and HVAC. Get your furnace and ductwork serviced. A clean system will be more energy efficient, and an inspection will alert you to problems. Check and replace air filters, as necessary. Test your thermostat to make sure it works properly. Make sure heating vents are open and nothing is blocking them.
Boilers and radiators. For homes heated with steam heat, the boiler is the tank that holds and heats the water. Call the plumber for its annual checkup. You should also drain water from the boiler to remove sediment that has collected and settled in the tank. Make sure the tank is refilled before you turn it on. A plumber or heating specialist can also check your radiators to make sure the valves are working properly and have not worn out. Check your thermostat, too.
Chimney. If you did not get your chimney cleaned and inspected in the spring, call a chimney sweep now and have it done before you start using your fireplace or furnace.
Windows and doors. Walk around the house and check windows and doors for drafts. Caulk door and window frames where necessary. In late fall, install storm windows and the glass panel on storm doors to keep the heat in and the cold out.
Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. There’s no harm in checking your detectors twice a year, so when you turn your clocks back to standard time, check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors too. Change the batteries as needed.
Dryer vent. Clothes dryers cause 2,900 fires a year, with many fires happening in the fall and winter, according to the United States Fire Administration. Lint is a major culprit, so have your dryer vent inspected and cleaned annually.
Gutters. Once the leaves fall, call your gutter company to get those gutters cleaned and inspected. Any repairs that need to be done on the gutters or downspouts should happen before winter sets in. Your workers should also inspect the roof for any loose or broken tiles. Schedule the job before you get a heavy snow, which could leave frozen leaves and debris in the gutters.
Sprinklers. If you live in a cold climate, you need to drain your sprinkler system for the winter to protect it from freezing. Skip this step now, and come springtime you could have a hefty repair bill.
Pool. Once the sweaters come out of the closet, it is time to accept the fact that pool season is over. Clean, close and cover your pool for winter, or call your pool maintenance company to do the job for you.
Garden. You may be weary of gardening by early fall, but it is a great season to plant perennials, like peonies, columbine or hydrangea. Fall is also a good time to plant trees and shrubs and reseed your lawn. Be sure to give new plants plenty of water before they go dormant, and by spring you may get a first bloom, depending on the variety. Plant bulbs such as tulips, daffodils and hyacinth any time before the ground freezes. Those hours spent digging little holes and burying bulbs will be well worth your sore knees when they bloom in all their glory in early spring.
Raking leaves. If fall could be summed up in a word, it would be “leaves.” Once the leaves start falling, the season of raking begins. Aside from annoying your neighbors, a thick bed of leaves atop your grass could smother your lawn and lead to mold growth. But do you need to scorch the earth clean of any remnants of leaves? No. A light layer of leaves under your shrubs and trees will provide a natural mulch, protecting the roots over the winter and providing refuge for insects and wildlife. If you plan to rake and bag the rest, enlist the kids to help, luring them with a chance to jump on the pile when they’re done. But there are alternatives to raking. Researchers at Michigan State University have found that moving over the leaves once a week breaks them down, provides nutrients and does the job. Some communities now encourage mowing rather than bagging leaves.
Fertilize in the Fall. If you want the best lawn in town, fertilize four times a year. But if you can only bother to fertilize once a year, you still have a great lawn if you only fertilize in the fall. Choose a fertilizer that's labeled 4-1-2. (Those numbers refer to the percentages of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in the fertilizer.) Better yet, ask an expert at a garden center for advice about the best fertilizer blend for your fall grass type and local soil conditions. Apply the fertilizer about three weeks before the last mowing of the season. Fertilizing in the fall provides energy and nutrients for the grass roots as they multiply in cooler weather before the grass goes dormant. The roots store food for the winter as well, which gives the grass an initial growth spurt when it emerges from dormancy in the spring.
Store lawn furniture & garden hoses. Remove cushions and store your patio or lawn furniture so it is out of the harsh winter temperatures. Drain garden hoses or you will be spending money to replace them next spring. Freezing water will split a hose. Blast out the water with an air compressor or stretch them out on a sloped yard or driveway to drain all the water out. Roll up your hoses, and store them for winter.
Prepare for Snow. Before the snow comes, and you have to start using your snowblower, take a few minutes to inspect your property. Remove rocks, down tie-out cable, extension cords, and garden hoses. Then stake out paths that run near gardens so you don’t accidently suck up rocks, and garden edging. Mark your walk and driveway perimeters using flag markers or reflective markers driven into the ground.