Fall Home Checklist

Before the weather grows colder it’s important to prepare for the winter months to prevent costly damage. Below are the fall preventative home maintenance steps that every homeowner should follow.

Gutters and Downspouts

Clean gutters and downspouts frequently throughout fall to prevent build up of leaves and other debris. Neglected gutters can lead to wood rot problems and pest infestations, not to mention ruined gutters. Be sure water is not coming down behind gutters and that all support brackets are securely in place. Ensure that water drains properly and doesn’t pool. Pooling can cause damage to foundations, driveways, and walkways.

Windows and Doors

Change summer screens to cool weather storm windows and doors. Inspect and repair any loose or damaged window or door frames. Install weather stripping or caulking around windows and doors to prevent drafts and to lower heating bills.

Heating Systems

Replace the filter in your furnace. Consider having a heating professional check your heating system to ensure optimal performance and discover minor problems before they turn into costly major repairs. Clean your ducts to better your heating system’s efficiency as well as to reduce household dust and to provide relief to those with respiratory problems.

Plumbing

To prevent pipes freezing and bursting, ensure that the pipes are well insulated. Know how to locate and turn off the water shut-off valve in case pipes do freeze.

Chimney and Fireplace

Call a professional in to inspect and clean your chimney. Fireplaces that are regularly used during the season should have an annual cleaning to prevent dangerous chimney fires. Test your fireplace flue for a tight seal when closed.

Attic ventilation

Be sure attic insulation doesn’t cover vents in the eaves to prevent winter ice dams on the roof.Be sure ridge vents and vents at eaves are free of plants and debris. Check bird and rodent screens for attic vents to prevent any unwanted guests.

Landscape and Yard Work

Although grass appears to stop growing in the fall, the roots are actually growing deeper to prepare for winter. Now is the best time to fertilize and reseed your lawn. Prune your trees and shrubs after the leaves turn to encourage healthy growth. Trim any tree limbs that are dangerously close to power lines or the roof of your house. Heavy snow and ice can cause damage in the winter.

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Molds in Fall – Part 1

Even with summer over if you’re still sneezing odds are you’re among the 10% to 30% of Americans who suffer from hay fever, or allergic rhinitis. And most cases of hay fever are caused by an allergy to fall pollen from plants belonging to the genus Ambrosia — more commonly known as ragweed. Like all allergies, ragweed allergy occurs when the body’s immune system mounts a vigorous response to a foreign substance that is actually harmless — in this case, tiny grains of pollen released by maturing ragweed flowers.

Specialized immune cells start churning out antibodies to proteins in the pollen. The ensuing cascade of biochemical reactions floods the bloodstream with histamine, a compound that causes all-too-familiar allergy symptoms. In addition to sneezing, sniffling, nasal congestion, and sleep disruption, ragweed allergy can cause red, puffy eyes, itchy throat, and even hives. Severe cases can lead to chronic sinus problems (sinusitis) and even asthma attacks.

Trying to Avoid Ragweed

If people who are allergic to ragweed could avoid the pollen, they could, of course, avoid the symptoms, but that’s easier said than done. There are 17 different species of ragweed in the U.S. These plants are most common in the rural areas of the Eastern states and Midwest, but are found throughout the U.S.. Scientists estimate that a single ragweed plant can release one billion grains of pollen over the course of a single ragweed season. And the grains are so light that they float easily even on gentle breezes. Pollen has been detected as far as 400 miles out to sea and up to two miles up in the atmosphere.

Recent studies suggest that rising temperatures and carbon dioxide levels are extending ragweed season. In most parts of the country, the season used to start in mid-August and run through September; now it seems to begin from the first of August through mid-October.

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