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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Gutter Cleaning Season Again

Now with Fall in full swing gutter cleaning season is here again.  It is a dreaded task shared by many once they see the leaves beginning to turn colors, but properly functioning gutters, after all, help ensure that storm water does not find its way inside. There are several ways to get the job done. No matter your chosen approach, the first step is to assess the state of the gutters, determining whether any clogs exist, and if so, their cause. Twigs and dry leaves are easy enough to clear away, but if your gutters are obstructed by dirt or decomposed organic matter (or even small seedlings), a relatively aggressive removal method may be in order. Here are a few of the most common and effective ways to clean gutters.

Leaf Blowers

Many leaf blowers come with a nozzle attachment designed to release a narrow stream of air, perfect for the purpose of gutter cleaning. Position your ladder so that you can work gradually toward the downspout, blowing out obstructions as you go. (Be careful to avoid blowing leaves into the downspout.) As a final step, remove any lingering leaves or twigs with a hose. Don’t want to stand on a ladder? A specialized attachment can extend the reach of your leaf blower.

Wet/Dry Vacuums

To remove heavier debris from your gutters, experiment with a wet/dry vacuum. Your local home improvement retail store likely carries the hoses and curved attachments you need to reach the obstructed gutters from a standing position on the ground. Stubborn, stuck-on dirt may need to be moistened before it succumbs to the vacuum. Again, once you’ve removed the bulk of the material, flush the gutters and downspout with water from a garden hose.

Power Washers

Has it been a long while since you last cleaned your gutters? A layer of dirt and debris may have built up over time. Blast it away with the fine-spray nozzle of your power washer. (This type of cleaning can get messy; be prepared to rinse the roof and exterior walls afterward.) For clogged downspouts in particular, there’s no better recourse than a power washer. Simply point the nozzle down the hole and rinse the shaft until water can run freely through it.

Garden Hose

So long as they are not thoroughly clogged, you can clean your gutters successfully with a garden hose. If the hose is equipped with the right attachment (a rigid tube with a curved end), you can stand on the ground, not on a ladder, as you work. Again, start at the end farthest from the downspout and flush the length of the channel; remove any residual material by hand before it dries out.

The Old Fashioned Way, By Hand

To clean gutters by hand, you’ll need a ladder, bucket, gutter scoop (or garden trowel), and heavy-duty gloves. Little by little, take out the leaves and debris, placing what you remove into the bucket. Finally, flush the gutters and downspout with water until you are certain both are functioning properly. Tip: If your downspouts are clogged and you don’t have a power washer, try busting through the obstruction with a plumber’s snake, then rinse with a hose.

Consider installing a screen or barrier on top of your gutters to prevent leaves and debris from accumulating over the course of the year. Remember what they say about an ounce of prevention.  And remember, any time you partake in any project using a ladder, use every precaution possible.

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Fall Maintenance Tips

Fall foliage is beautiful, but not when it builds up in your gutters! Take these tips into account during the cool autumn months.

  • Have your furnace cleaned and inspected annually by a qualified technician.
  • Keep flammable materials, including all lawn and power equipment, away from water heaters and wiring in the basement.
  • Insulate water pipes in areas exposed to cold temperatures, and turn up the thermostat during extra cold periods.
  • Check for damage to your roof, and clean gutters and downspouts to keep debris from accumulating. This is especially important during the fall season to keep leaves from building up in gutters.
  • Check and repair caulking around doors and windows that show signs of deterioration.
  • Check caulking around showers, bathtubs, sinks and toilet bases; and make repairs as needed.
  • Have your chimney cleaned and maintained annually by a professional.
  • Clean and/or replace your furnace filter.
  • Clean the clothes dryer exhaust duct and space under the dryer. Remove all lint, dust, and pieces of material.
  • Check your electrical outlets for potential fire hazards such as frayed wires or loose-fitting plugs. Be sure not to overload electrical outlets, fuse boxes, extension cords or any other power service.
  • Keep a multi-purpose fire extinguisher accessible, filled and ready for operation.
  • Inspect your smoke detectors. Make sure there is one on each floor of your home. Test them monthly, and change the battery annually or as needed.

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