Fall Home Checklist

When any of my clients buy a home, I always try to stress how important it is to keep up with the basics of home maintenance. You will be so happy you did when you go to sell and when you avoid costly issues because of your regular maintenance. So as winter nears, it’s time to prepare your home for cold weather. Please consult a professional in regards to all of these suggestions.

1. Tune up your heating system. A technician will inspect your furnace or heat pump to be sure the system is clean (new filter) and in good repair so that it can achieve its manufacturer-rated efficiency.

2. Buy a programmable thermostat. Or, if you already have one, double-check the settings. Energy Star says that, on average, for an initial investment of $50 to $100, you will save $180 annually on heating (and cooling) bills if in winter you keep the thermostat set to no higher than 70 degrees Fahrenheit when you’re at home and awake and no more than 62 degrees when you’re away or asleep. While you’re at it, check the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon-monoxide detectors.

3. Hit the roof. Well don’t hit it really but scan it closely with binoculars. Look for damaged, loose or missing shingles that may leak during winter’s storms or from melting snow. If need be, hire a handyman to repair a few shingles or a roofer for a larger section. Check and repair breaks in the flashing seals around vent stacks and chimneys, too. Speaking of chimneys, get that cleaned and checked as well. Particularly if your roof is flat, make sure to keep it clear of all debris as those will hold in moisture!

4. Caulk around windows and doors. Richardson says that if the gap is bigger than the width of a nickel, you need to reapply exterior caulk. Add weatherstripping as needed around doors, making sure you cannot see any daylight from inside your home.

5. Clean the gutters. If your gutters are full of detritus, water can back up against the house and damage roofing, siding and wood trim, plus cause leaks and ice dams. Also look for missing or damaged components that need repair.

6. Divert water. This is a big one for us here in the NW. It seems like most houses I go to have little to no extensions on their downspouts. Add extensions to downspouts so water runs at least 3 to 4 feet away from the foundation.

7. Turn off exterior faucets. Undrained water that freezes in pipes will expand and can burst. Start by disconnecting all garden hoses and draining water still in faucets. If you don’t have frost-proof faucets (homes built before ten to 12 years ago typically do not), turn off the shut-off valve inside your home.

8. Trim landscaping. Clear the area at least 1 foot away from exterior walls, and rake gunk out of corners and away from the foundation. Cut back tree limbs growing within about 5 feet of the house, or worse, scrubbing the house or roof. You will create better ventilation, help dry out surfaces and prevent decay and damage.

9. Have your lawn-irrigation system professionally drained. As with draining spigots, this will help avoid freezing and leaky pipes come spring.

10. Check your basement for cracks or leaks, and seal or repair if possible. If you cannot get them repaired, at least take some pictures and document any problems you may find. This will at least give you a frame of reference come next spring to see how quickly problems are progressing. If you have a sump pump, test, clean and lubricate it.

11. Check decks for any rot or damage. If there is time before the major rains come, consider re-staining!

12. Check patios for any damage. Repair as needed.

13. Check attic. Many times we completely forget about our attics, but it’s very important to check for any damage or water stains and repair as needed before they get worse!

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