As summer fades and autumn approaches, there are some chores that need your attention. It may still be warm, but winter is on its way and it’s time to do some fall maintenance.
CHECK YOUR DRAINAGE
Walk around your house and be sure that rainwater flows away from the foundation, falling at least six vertical inches over 10 feet. It’s important that water doesn’t soak the soil at the foundation, which may cause leaks and cracks. While you’re looking, make sure that soil doesn’t touch your siding.
CLEAN GUTTERS AND DOWNSPOUTS
Remember that falling leaves can clog your gutters and downspouts and, in turn, cause damage to your trim and siding. As autumn gets underway, be sure that your gutters and downspouts are clear to handle what rains will bring and prevent ice dams in winter. Check that gutter hangers and downspout brackets are tight; repair or replace, if necessary.
If you find sand-like grit in your gutters, you may have roof damage, which leads us to the next item.
INSPECT YOUR ROOF (from the ground!)
We don’t suggest you climb up to a steep roof or the top of a multistory house, but do a quick inspection from the ground, especially if your gutters are holding shingle grit. Look for buckled, cracked, or missing shingles or any rust spots on the flashing. Black algae stains may look bad but are just cosmetic, but if you see moss on the roof, you may have decay under the shingles. For any of these issues, call a professional roofer for an evaluation.
If you find cracks or small gaps around doors or windows, between siding and trim, or where pipes and wires enter your house, seal them with color-matched exterior caulk that you can buy in tubes from a home improvement store. Do this on a clear day with temperatures above 50 degrees for easy application. You’ll be preventing moisture from getting inside and sealing the air leaks that waste energy.
SCHEDULE A FURNACE TUNE-UP
Before the weather gets too much colder, schedule an appointment to have your heating system checked and tuned up. If you don’t have an annual maintenance contract, it may be a good idea to ask your heating and cooling professional about the advantages. Change your furnace filters (as you should about every two months).
PREPARE TO LIGHT YOUR FIREPLACE
As a safety precaution, shine a flashlight up into your fireplace chimney. Check that the damper opens and closes properly. With the damper open, you should be able to see daylight at the top of the chimney. You may need to remove birds’ nests, leaves, branches, or other obstructions.
Take a good look at the firebox to be certain that there are no missing or cracked bricks or mortar. If you see any damage or creosote buildup on the flue, call a professional fireplace and chimney company to inspect, repair, or clean, as needed.
PRUNE TREES AND BUSHES
When the summer growth season is over in late fall, it’s time to prune plants and trees. Branches and limbs should be at least three feet from your house. Otherwise, dripping moisture or high winds can damage your siding or roofing.
PUT AWAY YOUR MOWER
If you decide that you won’t be mowing for a few months, clean your mower and add fuel stabilizer to your gasoline can. The stabilizer can keep the remaining gas in the tank from deteriorating over the winter. Top off your mower’s tank, and be sure to run the mower for five minutes to distribute the stabilized fuel to the carburetor.
STORE GARDEN HOSES
Disconnect your hoses from outdoor faucets so freezing weather won’t cause water to freeze, expand, and crack the faucets or pipes just inside your walls. Drain the hoses and store them until spring. Consider turning off shutoff valves on supply lines that lead to exterior faucets. Add insulated covers (available at home improvement stores) to your faucets.
DRAIN THE SPRINKLER SYSTEM
If you have an irrigation system, turn off the water at the main valve, shut off the controller, open valves and drain the water. Remove above-ground sprinkler heads and shake them to clear the water before replacing. These precautionary steps will help to prevent freezing and broken pipes, even in buried lines.
If you’ve been planning to paint trim or hire a painting contractor to update your exterior, cooler fall temperatures (but not yet freezing) make this a good season for that job.