Fall is many people’s favorite season. In addition to its relatively mild weather — a welcome respite between summer’s heat and humidity, and winter’s colder temperatures and drier air — fall brings new TV shows, the football season, and maybe (if you’re a parent, or a student yourself) a return to school days. If you’re a homeowner, fall brings something else, too: the need to start thinking about fall home maintenance.
Fall is HERE, by the way. This year, the official start of fall in the Northern Hemisphere (aka the “autumnal equinox”) is September 23. So don’t let those warm temperatures fool you. Whether it’s preparing for those leaves falling on your roof or frustrating those little creatures looking for warm spots for the winter, there’s quite a bit homeowners can do to prepare their homes this autumn.
Anyway, proper maintenance doesn’t just help you to protect your home and its contents. It also marks you as a sound investment in the eyes of insurers.
Fall home maintenance basically boils down to “battening down the hatches” before winter hits. This autumn, here are the 10 things you should do to protect and prepare your home.
1. Prepare for Leaves
Yes, this means you need to make a plan to get those leaves raked up. Whether you do the raking and bagging yourself, hire a neighborhood kid to do it, or sign up for leaf pickup, getting rid of those leaves is important in a few ways:
- Preventing smothering. First, those leaves can smother your lawn if they completely cover it. This could prevent water and air from properly feeding your grass, which could mean dead patches by spring.
- Preventing mold. Thick piles of leaves may also cause mold that actually rots your lawn. Come springtime, that could mean gross or dead patches wherever leaves were left piled up over the winter. Mold may even deter new grass from growing,creating a triple whammy.
- Encouraging normal growth. Whether you use a rake, blower, or mulching mower, the idea is to clear enough leaves off the grass to allow it to do its thing: grow normally.
2. Guard Those Gutters
Unless you have no trees within several hundred yards of your house, leaves falling on your yard also means leaves falling in your gutters. In addition, it’s pretty amazing how far pollen and other airborne plant matter can travel. So, whatever your tree-cover situation, it’s a good idea to at least check your gutters.
Overall, we recommend that you:
- Check your gutters. Ensure their structural integrity, and survey the area around them. In particular, make sure all gutters are still firmly attached to your home. Repair them if needed. In addition, check that any overflowing gutters haven’t resulted in water damage to your house.
- Clean your gutters. Your first priority in fall home maintenance should be to clean your gutters before winter. Why? In winter, freezing temperatures could exacerbate water flow issues. In addition, overloaded gutters during seasonal rain storms could damage both the outside and inside of your house. If you’re worried about climbing up on the roof or a ladder, hire someone to do a proper cleaning instead.
3. Trim Tree Branches
Something else that can fall into your yard or onto your roof? Tree branches. Lucky for you, fall is the ideal time to trim them. After all, tree branches tend to fall during the coldest winter months, when trees are most brittle. Add some ice to the mix, and you’re talking about dead limbs capable of ruining a roof or even crashing through a window. So…
- Trim tree branches as needed. Before winter increases the risks of damage, survey your trees and either cut — or hire a professional to cut — any potentially problematic tree branches.
4. Seal Up Your House
No, we’re not suggesting that you create a hermetically sealed spaceship out of your home. We simply recommend that you:
- Inspect your home’s interior and exterior. As the weather cools, mammals like mice will try to find their way indoors. Do an inspection for any cracks or crevices where little things may be able to get inside. Fill or seal them where possible.
- Check for drafts. It’s also a good time to check for drafts around windows and doors. Consider sealing up drafty windows and doors with draft catchers, caulk, removable caulking cord, or window film. If corrected before temperatures get really low, it can save you serious money on your utility bills.
5. Check Home Systems
As the weather grows colder, are all systems go for ensuring that your home stays cozy, warm, and safe? To make sure, you should:
- Perform routine HVAC maintenance. Check into your HVAC’s winter readiness, and make sure your air filters are clean. If you have a fireplace, go ahead and get it cleaned. Also, change the direction of your ceiling fans to direct air upwards, as this will push warm air from the ceiling down.
- Clean any humidifiers. It’s smart to wash out humidifiers to make sure you’re not blasting out moldy air.
- Check your home’s safety systems. Check fire extinguishers, smoke and gas detectors, and water leak detectors to ensure they are working. Replace batteries if needed.
6. Store and Maintain Tools and Outdoor Furniture
- Clean and store all those yard and garden tools. It’s time to put away hoses and anything else that could become frozen or brittle in the winter. It’s also time to clean and store any outdoor gardening items, including your lawn mower. Remember to drain the fuel from your mower, as well as any gas-powered blowers and chainsaws. If you have snow equipment like a snow blower, make sure it’s in working order.
- Clean, cover, or store outdoor furniture as appropriate. Clean any outdoor furniture, and cover it if possible. Store any cushions.
- Shut off outdoor water valves. This could also include dealing with outdoor ponds, or, sadly, the pool. Some places have “pool season” pretty much year round, but most don’t. Freezing temperatures could cause water-filled pipes to burst. (Fortunately, however, that type of water damage is typically covered in most homeowners insurance policies.)
- Bring in potted plants. Keep in mind that any potted plants will need to come inside at some point, as clay pots that freeze will break.
7. Prepare the Yard and Driveway
- Aerate and fertilize your lawn. Fall is the perfect time to maximize the benefit of these tasks. Use a high-phosphorus mix to fertilize a healthy yard. And okay, for the mulching, you may have to keep that mower going a bit longer. But the idea here is to feed and prep your yard before harsher weather hits so it’s ready to “spring up” when warmer temps return.
- Prep your driveway for winter. Before it gets cold and water trapped in the driveway causes cracks, it’s a great time to fix any existing cracks in your driveway. If you don’t, over time they’ll add up and create potholes, which are more expensive to fix.
8. Inspect Decks and Railings
- If you have decks or outdoor railings, make sure they’re sturdy. Why? Icy, snowy conditions make accidents more likely. The last thing you want is for someone to slip on the ice while going up your outside stairs — and have the railing fall apart on them when they grab it for support. So you’ll want to fix any issues before winter hits.
9. Check Exterior Paint
- Inspect and touch up any exterior paint. If you have painted exterior walls or trim and the paint is peeling, you’re losing the protection the paint provides. Now’s the perfect time to touch up or redo those surfaces. It’s also an ideal time to pressure-wash anything that has developed grime during the hotter months.
10. Inspect Your Roof and Attic
That rain, sleet, or snow will be on its way soon. So it’s a great idea to:
- Check the roof. Your roof deserves a cursory look to ensure any summer rains, winds, or hailstorms didn’t cause leaks. Pay close attention to flashing around skylights or other protrusions (like a chimney) where ice or snow can get in. It’s best to hire a professional to do a proper inspection.
- Check the attic. Your attic may need its insulation bolstered. It’s also a good idea to make sure the vapor barrier is properly installed. Finally, while you’re up there, check for rodents. Rodents, left unchecked, can do serious damage to your home.
What’s another great way to protect your home? By making sure you have the right homeowners coverage at the best price, of course! Covered’s expert insurance advisors will be happy to do a free policy review. Just give us a call at (303) 302-9927 or send us a message.