It’s hard to believe, but daylight saving time is almost here. Finally, the heat of summer is fading, and beautiful fall days are upon us. As we shift seasons, now’s a great time to start thinking about house maintenance and putting together your home repairs list, which is why we’ve gathered these homeowner tips for fall. If you start prepping for the colder months now, while temperatures are relatively mild, you can avoid unwanted surprises over the winter and save more than a few dollars along the way.
Doing some research first — like what you’re doing right now by reading this article — is a great way to inform yourself about what should be on your list. We suggest logging your findings into a home maintenance planner, something you can easily find and access on the fly, whether in digital or paper form. Once you feel like you’ve got enough information in your log to start creating a plan of attack, begin writing your home maintenance checklist to organize your approach.
Of course, fall maintenance is a broad topic; everyone has their priorities, and we won’t have enough space in this article to cover it all. But as you assemble a seasonal home maintenance checklist for all four quarters of the year, we’ve gathered some advisable fall home maintenance tips to help get you started and add to your list for this autumn.
Foundations and seals
Walk along the outside perimeter of your home with some caulk. Look carefully at the foundation and fill any cracks you find. This will benefit you not only in terms of efficiency by keeping warm air from escaping during cold months and preventing cool air from escaping in warmer months, but it will also help prevent moisture from getting in, causing water damage, and breeding mildew and mold.
Check around masonry, siding, windows and doors, fill in gaps, and eliminate drafts. Heating and cooling accounts for nearly half of your home’s utility expenses, so you want to aim for optimal efficiency. This means keeping your home well-sealed. Make sure window wells are clean and drainage is effective. Also make sure the ground around your foundation slopes away from it and doesn’t allow for any pools of water to accumulate against the home.
Nobody looks forward to cleaning the gutters, but plenty of people regret not having done so, especially after leaves and debris build up and create an ice dam that bursts a gutter and results in a chain reaction of water damage and other problems. Fear not, dear reader. People who experience these problems have neglected their homes, and here you are, reading about how to take better care of yours!
If you don’t already have gutter guards installed, we highly recommend getting them before you seriously consider robot gutter cleaners. Not only can they save you plenty of work by keeping your gutters clean and free of obstruction, but they can also save you plenty of money by preventing ice dams, critter squatters and other headaches no one wants to deal with. However, if you’re still cleaning unguarded gutters, try using an old spatula as a cheap but effective way to scoop out the gunk. If your gutters are bending down, bend them back up with the leverage from a pry bar and a chain link. If the bottom of one of your downspouts is clogged, try using a plumber’s snake. Make sure each downspout extends at least 5 feet from your home for adequate drainage.
When you consider all things exterior-related, your roof is arguably your home’s most important defense against the elements, so it’s a great idea to keep an eye on it. A damaged roof, especially when you’re unaware of it, can lead to a series of damages, impacting everything from insulation, drywall and wooden structures to your electrical, HVAC and plumbing systems.
Catching any signs of damage or wear and tear early can mean the difference between a cheap fix and a costly repair. If you can safely manage accessing your roof and inspecting it yourself (never when you’re home alone), clear any leaves, sticks and twigs, and look for potential problem areas like loose boots around plumbing vents, or shingles and rusted flashing growing moss or lichen. If getting on your roof is unsafe or impractical, look at it from the ground with binoculars, and consider calling a professional for an evaluation.
Furnaces and radiators
Other than changing your furnace filters every few months, which is most important, along with changing the filter in the built-in humidifier (if your HVAC system has one) and keeping your ducts clean, your best bet for keeping your heating and cooling system in tiptop shape is to have it evaluated once or twice a year by a professional. It’s best to do this in the milder months, like spring and fall, before temperatures hit their extremes in summer and winter, when reliance on your HVAC system is critical. If you have a radiator, check the air vents and clear any obstructions with a stiff wire or needle. Vent the air and then vent the water valve, and have a cup on hand to catch any extra water. If your radiators are old and haven’t been serviced in a while, have them evaluated by a professional.
Fireplaces and chimneys
During the day, inspect the interior of your fireplace, looking for any missing bricks or mortar, or any visible cracks in the firebox. Grab a headlamp or a powerful handheld flashlight and look inside your fireplace to ensure your damper opens and closes as it should. With the damper open, look up into the flue to check for obstructions like leaves, branches or birds’ nests. You should be able to spot daylight in the distance, at the top of the chimney. If not, you may need to call a professional chimney sweep to clear obstructions and clean the chimney.
When in use, fireplaces should be cleaned annually, and your flue should be cleaned every two years because flammable creosote builds up and can cause fires, and you want to be sure of a tight seal. If you’re not sure that you need a chimney sweep’s services, you can order a professional fireplace and chimney inspection, which looks for obstructions, creosote buildup, cracks, water damage and missing mortar, and should give you confidence in whatever steps are needed next.
Mowers and lawns
To prep your mower for cold storage after what you suspect will be your last mow of the season, add a little fuel stabilizer and then run it until it uses up all its gas. Then, after allowing it to cool, take out the spark plug and pour a cap of engine oil into the hole. Pull the starter cord twice to distribute the oil, then replace the spark plug and clean out all the old grass underneath the deck.
Consider aerating your lawn and watering it occasionally in the fall and winter, just to keep things healthy. If you’re in the habit of fertilizing once a season, continue to do so in the colder months. Experts disagree on the merits of raking leaves. While dead leaves can indeed kill grass, they also make great compost and enrich the soil. Depending on your particular yard-and-garden setup and related goals, the decision on what to do with fallen leaves is yours.
Grills and hoses
It’s hard to imagine two household items that are left outside and neglected more often over the winter than grills and hoses. Let’s face it, they’re both pretty easy to forget. But when we do, we run the risk of subpar performance the next time we need either of these household essentials. When it comes to your grill, whether it uses charcoal or gas, it all begins with a thorough cleaning and a cover to protect it from the elements.
However, if you have a gas grill, you have a few more steps to consider (after cleaning and before storing). After everything is dry, you’ll want to turn off the gas, disconnect the burner, remove the gas tubes from the gas lines, and remove the unit. Apply a thin coat of oil to all metal parts, including the burner, to prevent rust and discourage moisture. Store the burner in a sealed plastic bag, disconnect the tank, and cover and store everything outside. Tape over the gas-line input to keep insects away and you should be good to go.
Now, when it comes to your garden hoses, make sure you remove them from all outdoor faucets, drain them thoroughly, and store them in a garage or shed to avoid ruining them or the pipes they’re attached to when temperatures really drop. This way, they’ll be somewhat protected from the lowest temperatures of the year and the related damage that ice can cause.
More fall home maintenance
We’ve only begun to scratch the surface of the many tasks related to preparing your home for the winter. We could also discuss things like plumbing, snow preparation, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, garage doors, various filters and paint maintenance, windows, pools, driveways, ceiling fans, humidifiers, porch and deck maintenance and more, but hopefully this list gets you thinking preventively. As you work on your home maintenance schedule and consider your options, remember you can always call a home repair service.
Thanks for reading our fall home maintenance checklist. We hope it was helpful. While we have your attention, please allow us to suggest a few more articles you might find both informative and enjoyable, like our fall moving checklist or our post on how to prepare your home for winter. As the weather begins to cool and you get a little further into the weeds, you might also want to check out our posts on weatherstripping doors and furnace maintenance.
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.