Home prep fall checklist

Key tips to remember

  • Prevent heat loss by winterizing your windows
  • Prep ahead to keep your fireplace and chimney in shape
  • Inspect your pipes, inside and out
  • Clean out the gutters
  • Check on cold-weather gear ahead of schedule
Maintenance and Repairs

This fall, don’t forget these five home prep steps

Whether you’re preparing for falling leaves, early snow or just cooler weather, now’s the time to give your house a quick tune-up that will keep you comfortable for months ahead.

Winterize your windows before temperatures drop

The average house leaks anywhere from 10% to 25% of its heat out through the windows. In the cooler months, that can lead to a chilly home and higher heating costs. Luckily, it’s easy to check for drafts and take steps to minimize heat loss: Hold a lit candle near the edges of window and door frames, and if the flame flickers in a particular spot, you’ve probably found a draft.

If air is coming in around the edges of a window or door, weatherstrips and foam tape make a quick and easy solution. For a more permanent option, replace the seal or repair caulking to create an airtight seam.

In some cases, a draft isn’t to blame. Old windows and thin panes can lead to rapid heat loss. Replacing the window entirely is one option, but applying a layer of clear plastic sheeting or hanging insulated curtains can also help you keep the heat in.

Prep the fireplace and chimney

What’s better than curling up beside a crackling fire on a chilly night? Make sure your fireplace is ready by sweeping any ashes and debris out of the firebox and checking that the damper opens and closes properly.

It’s important to make sure your chimney is in shape for the season, too. Burning wood can lead to dangerous creosote buildup, so it’s best to call a chimney sweep to clear it out and remove any other debris.

Protect the pipes, inside and out

When temperatures drop, water can freeze and cause pipes to burst, which can damage floors, walls and ceilings. You can prevent this by inspecting your home’s pipes for damage and patching small leaks with heat tape. Foam or rubber pipe wraps can also help insulate exposed outdoor pipes.

Other outdoor water systems can also be vulnerable at this time of year. Be sure to drain outdoor faucets, turn off sprinklers and properly maintain irrigation systems to prevent damage.

Clean out the gutters

Fall foliage can be beautiful, but it’s less enjoyable when it piles up in your gutters. When leaves, pine needles and debris cause gutter clogs, it can lead to overflow that causes roof rot. Taking care of gutters in the fall can help prevent seasonal rains and snow melt from causing trouble in the winter and spring, too.

If you have a sturdy ladder and a stable surface for setup, you can clean out gutters by hand using a plastic scoop. No ladder? No problem. Today, gutter vacuums, gutter flushers and even gutter robots make it possible to clear out debris while keeping your feet on the ground, so you can safely take a DIY approach. If you’d like to skip this step in future years, you might also want to consider investing in gutter guards that can keep the debris out.

Check on cold-weather gear ahead of schedule

Whether you’re bracing for blizzards or just expecting temperatures to dip, it’s best to make sure you’re ready for cold weather before it hits. If you own an emergency generator, now is the time to inspect it and make sure it works properly. Make sure you have a clear, open area where you can run it (never a garage or enclosed space) to prevent carbon monoxide buildup. It’s also the right time to check on snowblowers and make sure you’re stocked up on salt and shovels if you’re in an area where snow tends to arrive early.

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The information in this article is intended to provide guidance on the proper maintenance and care of systems and appliances in the home. Not all of the topics mentioned are covered by our home warranty or maintenance plans. Please review your home warranty contract carefully to understand your coverage.