We all like to think fall is about getting to wear light sweaters, drink pumpkin spice lattes, and enjoy the many benefits of not being constantly covered in sweat, but the cold-hard fact is: fall is a runway for winter. Dogs grow thicker coats, bears eat enough to hibernate and we humans prep our houses.
Getting your house ready for the colder months doesn’t have to be a chore, though. Sprucing up your yard and tinkering with your toolbox might be the perfect way to enjoy cooler temperatures and a drop in humidity.
Here are 8 tips for battening down the hatches, and giving your home a fresh face for fall.
Clean Your Gutters
Autumn leaves are beautiful, but when they clog up your gutters, they are anything but charming. Maintaining clean, well-flowing gutters can prevent overflowing water from causing thousands of dollars worth of damage to siding, landscaping and even to the foundation of your house. A clogged gutter can also create ice dams that push water up under your shingles and into your home.
Using a ladder and a small scoop, remove the guck, starting at the downspout. Throw the debris into a bucket or onto a tarp for easy cleanup. Then flush the gutters and downspouts with a garden hose. Though they can be more expensive than the gutters themselves ($6-$8/running foot), adding gutter guards could save you cleanup when punishing temperatures make outdoor projects unbearable.
As cozy as it is, your fireplace is still basically an open flame inside your home. Before you settle in for a season of s’mores and snuggling, we want to make sure you can enjoy your fireplace, worry-free. Here are some tips from the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA):
– Have your chimney checked every year to ensure both your chimney system and venting systems are working properly and safely.
– Burn only well-seasoned hardwoods to reduce buildup of creosote, a flammable compound.
– Install a chimney cap to keep out debris and to prevent birds and animals from nesting.
– Inspect and maintain your chimney flashing (the seal between the chimney and the roof).
Need a professional to help you inspect your chimney? Call the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) at 800/536-0118 for a list of chimney sweeps in your area.
Spruce Up Your Exterior
Fall is the perfect time to give your house a fresh face. Before the temperatures drop too low, clean your windows and rent a pressure washer ($50-$100 per day) to clean the siding of your house. Removing the buildup of dirt will help prevent mold growth. The lower humidity and cooler temperatures also make fall the perfect time to re-paint your exterior.
Weather-Proof Your Doors and Windows
A draft-free home will not only help keep the sniffles at bay, it’ll save you money, and one of the best ways to do this is making sure you maintain your weather-stripping. Felt strips, metal-back strips, self-stick foam, and plastic channels are all useful DIY tools to help you insulate leaky windows and doors. When it comes to buttoning up your home, caulk is also your friend. Use a screwdriver to probe the wood trim around windows and doors, then use caulk to fill the holes.
Bundle Up…Your Plumbing
Your poor plumbing can take a beating during colder months. To help prevent frozen, burst pipes (and to save energy), wrap water pipes that run along exterior walls with electric heat tape, fiberglass insulation, or ready-made pipe jackets.
Tend Your Garden
There are lots of things you can do to get your yard ready for the cold. Start by trimming any dead braches from your trees to prevent them falling during a winter storm. Fall is also a great time to aerate your lawn. For warm season grasses, get it done in the early fall, for cool season grasses, though, you have all season. Finally, now’s the time to remove dead annuals and mulch hardy perennials.
Check Your Roof
You might want to contract this one out to a licensed inspector, but if you’re comfortable with heights, now is the time to make sure you’ve got a good roof over your head. Replace buckling, curling or cracked shingles. Check the flashing around pipes, chimneys and other penetrations to make sure you don’t have any leaks or gaps. Also, look for excessive shingle granules in your gutters –if your gutters are disintegrating, they are losing valuable weight and insulation, and it might be time to replace your roofing.
Check Your Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should be tested regularly. As your protecting your house from the elements, why not also make sure it’s protected from forces within. If you’re going to be lighting cozy candles and enjoying evenings around the fire, it is essential that you make sure your detectors are operational and have fresh batteries.