No one wants to spend a precious Sunday pulling leaves out of a roof gutter. But if your home is your biggest investment, as it is for most Americans, regular maintenance is a must.
Regular home maintenance saves you money. While it’s true these menial tasks require some expenditure, you save much more than if you didn’t maintain your house at all.
Get Your Home Ready for Winter
Fall is the best time to start thinking about home maintenance. It’s also the ideal season to get your home ready for the colder weather.
Here are a few things you can do to get ready and help keep your home in tip-top shape for the winter.
1. Check Your Home’s Heating and Air Conditioning Systems
Most heating and air conditioning systems will last about 12 to 15 years. How long these systems last depends on how well you’ve maintained them.
Take this time to change your filters before the weather turns cold. Have a reputable HVAC contractor inspect the system. Better yet, look into an annual maintenance agreement.
Have the contractor make sure your heat is going to work. Trust us, you’d rather find an HVAC problem in the fall, in temperate weather, than discover your furnace doesn’t work on a frigid winter evening.
2. Paint, Caulk, and Seal Exterior Wood
Protect the wood trim on the exterior of your home from the elements. The wood used on your deck is likely a pressure-treated or rot-resistant species of wood. You don’t need to stain and seal your deck every year.
But check to make sure it’s protected. To do this, simply pour some water on it. If the water forms beads, you’re good. If the wood absorbs the water, then it’s time to clean and seal your deck.
The wood trim, or casing, around your exterior doors and windows deteriorates very quickly if not protected.
Replacing these trims is both costly and difficult. Even professionals will sometimes struggle to make the repairs look good.
The best thing to do is to make sure they do not rot in the first place. That means keeping them painted and caulked.
3. Seal Your Masonry
If you have a concrete patio, or concrete driveways or walkways, make sure they’re protected, as well.
You should regularly apply a concrete sealer on all of your flat exterior concrete surfaces. Periodic sealing will help prolong the life of any concrete slab, says David Beaulieu for the Spruce.
All concrete flatwork develop cracks over time. Good masons place control joints in the concrete to try to ensure cracking is limited.
Take some time this weekend to inspect flat exterior concrete. Fill in any cracks before you apply sealer. This will prevent water from freezing over the winter and ensure your expensive concrete work lasts a long time.
If you have an asphalt driveway, now is the time to consider resealing. It’s not expensive to have a professional give it a quick spray of sealer.
You can also buy a bucket of sealer and roll it on yourself. If your driveway has developed cracks, patch those before sealing.
4. Check Your Drainage
Make sure the soil around your home’s foundation hasn’t settled. That would create areas for water to pool at your foundation.
If you find a low spot, simply fill it with soil. Then go around and check your rain gutter downspouts. Make sure water moves away from the home. Add downspout extenders if necessary.
Saturated soil around a foundation can create problems as it freezes and thaws throughout the winter months.
5. Clean Your Gutters
Once the leaves have fallen off the trees, it’s time to clean those gutters. When your gutters are clogged, they overflow. When they overflow, that water runs down your home, speeding up the deterioration of your exterior.
The water can also lead to the deterioration of your foundation, flood the basement, or settle under your concrete porches and walks. These create all kinds of problems.
6. Clean Your Chimney
Have a professional clean and inspect your fireplace. A good chimney sweep company will make sure the fireplace is safe to use. Professionals can also identify maintenance problems.
This is the time to order that load of firewood. Stack and cover that wood in a good location in the yard. Make sure that old firewood isn’t rotten. Move it away from your home.
Wood can be stored in an unheated garage, but don’t keep logs in your house for more than a week. They could attract insects, according to Michigan State University Extension.
7. Test Your Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Winter is when we blast the furnace and build fires. We are also much more likely to have our home closed tight. This makes carbon monoxide a much bigger hazard.
Check all of your smoke detectors. Make sure they are working and that they have good batteries. If your home is not equipped with carbon monoxide detectors, consider getting some.
The HVAC inspection will ensure your furnace and water heater are properly vented. This is the most likely source of carbon monoxide in your home.
8. Prepare Your Lawn for Spring
If you want a beautiful lawn come spring, you need to prepare it in the fall. New grass does not grow when it’s too hot or too cold.
If you want new grass to grow, you only have September and October, then April and May to do it. If you neglect the fall, then you’ve cut your time in half.
Once the heat breaks, your lawn can get some great growing time. So around late September, aerate the lawn and overseed it. In late October or November, apply fertilizer with winterizer.
Remember to cover your outdoor furniture. Make sure you do this on a clear, warm day so you don’t trap moisture.
9. Shut Your Sprinklers
If you live in a cold climate, you need to shut your sprinkler system for the winter to protect it from harsh weather.
Forego this step now, and come springtime you could have a hefty repair bill. Shut off the water supply to your irrigation system before the freezing weather arrives.
Insulate the main shut off valve and any above-ground piping. Shut down the timer, if you have an automatic system. Remember to drain the remaining water from the system, too.
10. Check Your Trees
Inspect the trees on your property. Make sure they’re still healthy, especially those that could fall on your home – or your neighbor’s home.
Fall isn’t a good time to trim your trees, but if there are branches against your house, it’s a good idea to trim before winter. This way you avoid ice-coated branches smacking against your siding or windows on windy evenings.
11. Do a Quick Energy Assessment
If you’ve never had one, a professional energy audit is a good investment. But fall is also a good time just to check your door seals. Make a list of obvious air leaks.
The potential energy savings from reducing drafts in a home may range from 10 percent to 20 percent per year, says the US Department of Energy.
Check for indoor air leaks, such as gaps along the baseboard or edge of the flooring and at junctures of the walls and ceiling.
Make sure you’re not seeing daylight around your exterior doors. Take a can of spray foam insulation and fill in around the gaps around outlets and light switches.
12. Prepare for Snow Removal
Do not wait for the big one to hit before you dig out and fire-up that snowblower. Make sure it’s ready now for those mornings after a night of heavy snowfall. If it’s not, then get it repaired right away.
Take an inventory of your salt and shovels. You are unlikely to find a shovel after a big snowstorm hits.
“Homes Need People”
Whether you intend to sell your home or stay for many years, it’s important to carry out regular maintenance and repairs. Staying on top of regular minor fixes now will help you avoid big problems later.
You put a lot of money into buying your home. Take the time to protect your investment before winter arrives.
“Homes need people,” says real estate investor Justin Pierce in an article for the Washington Post. “They deteriorate quickly when they’re not getting attention.”
Is your home ready for winter?