Your Autumn Home Maintenance Checklist
Crisp autumn days are great for neighborhood football games and outdoor grilling, but they are also the perfect time for getting your house and property ready for winter. The weather is not too hot or too cold and it is pleasant to be outside working. The chores you complete in the fall will make your home safer for winter and could prevent expensive repairs during bad weather. If you take time in late summer and early fall to plan your autumn home maintenance work, you will be able to check everything off of your to-do list before the first icy winter blasts drive you inside.
Preparing Your Home for Fall
Your autumn home maintenance work should have three primary goals:
- to keep your home and property safe for your family and guests
- to prevent damage from water and ice
- to make your home energy efficient and inexpensive to operate
Many of the items on your autumn home maintenance checklist will contribute to all three of these goals, so your list may not have to be as long as you think. You can do a lot of your maintenance projects yourself, but honestly assess your skill level and ability to do physical labor before you take on any task. Be willing to hire an expert to do any of the jobs you are not comfortable doing on your own.
You can improve the safety of your home and property by removing potential safety hazards in your yard and the exterior of your house and by making sure your heating system is in good condition. Many of the maintenance projects you should undertake every fall will cost little to complete, but they can save you a lot of money in the future by delaying or preventing expensive repairs.
Water is one of the biggest threats to your home's structural integrity and energy efficiency and to the safety of your visitors in winter. It is important to eliminate sources of water entry into your foundation, walls and roof, especially during the freezing and thawing cycles we get here in the Chicago area in late fall and early spring.
Smart autumn home maintenance tasks can improve your home's energy efficiency and reduce your monthly utility bills enough to more than cover maintenance costs. Reducing air leaks and drafts while letting more sunshine into your home will keep your family more comfortable even on the coldest winter days.
The following suggestions for autumn home maintenance projects divides the list into things to do outside and things to do inside. If you focus on the outside projects while the weather is good, you will have most of them completed and can turn to the work inside when the weather gets unpleasant.
Suggestions for Exterior Maintenance
- Inspect your house and property to identify safety and maintenance issues that you need to take care of before winter. Make a list of things you will do yourself and items that need professional attention.
- Remove dead limbs from trees so they do not break and fall onto passersby due to wind or ice buildup. Trim shrubs back from sidewalks and driveways. Trim tree limbs that could sag onto your roof, walls or power lines from the weight of snow and ice.
- After most of the leaves have fallen from your trees, clean out gutters and downspouts. Tighten support brackets and make sure seams do not leak. Consider installing leaf guards to keep gutters clear. Clogged gutters can contribute to ice dams forming at the edge of your roof which can damage shingles and roof decking, leading to leaks and interior damage.
- Seal any cracks in walls to prevent water entry. Freezing water will widen cracks, leading to crumbling masonry and other structural damage as well as allowing water entry into your home's interior where it can promote mold growth and other problems.
- If you have paint peeling on the outside of your house, scrape and repaint before the weather gets cold. If you can't get to painting this year, just scraping will let water run off of your walls better than it would from peeling paint.
- Check for woodpecker holes in your eaves or tears in attic screens. Make repairs as necessary to keep birds and small mammals from taking refuge in your walls or attic.
- Inspect your roof and replace any loose or broken shingles. It is easier and cheaper to make roof repairs in the fall before freezing weather sets in, so don't let a minor problem now turn into a major headache in the dead of winter.
- Winterize your sprinkler system, disconnect hoses from outside faucets and make sure faucets are drained to prevent freezing. Look for any drainage problems in your yard or on your driveway or sidewalk. Make sure water can't pool in places where freezing would pose a safety hazard to pedestrians.
- Put new caulk around doors and windows, along seams in siding and around holes where plumbing or wiring enter your home. Sealing seemingly small air leaks can make a big difference in your heating bill. Make sure the seal on the bottom of your garage door is in good shape to prevent cold drafts and to keep mice out.
- Install storm windows and doors to keep the cold air out.
- Check your deck, handrails and outdoor stairs or ramps to be sure floors are even and boards are tight. Use galvanized screws rather than nails for long-lasting repairs.
- Clean outdoor furniture and tools and store them out of the weather.
The Most Important Step for Interior Maintenance
A furnace or boiler tune-up should be at the top of your checklist for interior autumn home maintenance tasks. This is an item that should be reserved for a licensed heating specialist who can inspect your entire system, make minor adjustments and repairs and recommend major equipment replacements or upgrades as necessary. Your technician will:
- Test for proper airflow and look for blockages or air leaks in ductwork.
- Inspect your flue for obstructions and test to be sure combustion gases are safely vented from your house.
- Clean and adjust burners and test heat exchangers for leaks.
- Test thermostats and zoning controls for proper operation.
- Test pressure-relief valves and other safety features on hot water systems.
- Clean and lubricate pumps, motors and fans.
- Check levels and eliminate any sources of unsafe accumulations of carbon monoxide.
Other Interior Autumn Home Maintenance Items
- Have your fireplace or woodburning stove and chimney cleaned and inspected. Cracks in your flue or chimney liner should be repaired. Dampers should seal tightly when closed.
- Dampen your hand and feel for drafts coming from around windows and doors. Replace weatherstripping or add caulk where necessary to prevent air leaks.
- Mark your calendar to replace your furnace filter on a regular schedule throughout the winter.
- Be sure heating supply and return air vents are not blocked by furniture, draperies or carpets.
- If you don't have storm windows, you can cut your heating bills by making inexpensive window coverings that fit tightly inside the window frames to block convection of cold air off of windows at night. Just be sure they are made of fireproof materials for safety. Get in the habit of closing draperies at night, but opening south-facing drapes on sunny days to let solar energy into your home.
- Inspect your attic insulation. Add insulation if needed. If it has damp spots, find the source of moisture and eliminate it. Be sure your attic access hatch is well insulated. If you have a whole-house fan in your ceiling, build a removable insulated covering for it that can be put in place to stop heat losses in the winter. Just remember to remove the insulation before you use the fan again in the spring.
Making a checklist of autumn home maintenance tasks and then actually following through on doing them will make your home safer and more efficient while keeping your family more comfortable during our cold Chicago winters. The small amount of money that you spend each fall on basic maintenance will save you from much more expensive repairs later by keeping small problems from turning into big problems.
Contact us at Comfort24-7.com to schedule your heating system inspection and tune-up. Our licensed technicians will perform the routine maintenance that you need to keep your furnace or boiler running safely and efficiently and will alert you to any major problems that might need your attention. Our service providers are available 24/7 to help you with your home comfort needs anywhere in the Chicago area.