If you bought your home in the last year — this may be your first Autumn as a new homeowner. Congrats. If you’re thinking of buying, keep reading, you’ll want to hear this.
Fall is your last chance to take care of big (and small) home repair projects before shorter days (and in many regions, ice and snow) make outdoor work a pain in the you-know-where. If you don’t have any projects lined up, you’re in luck: we created a to-do list just for you. (You can thank us later!)
Let’s get started with 10 fresh ideas to help your home get ready for Fall and Winter!
1) PRIORITIZE TREE AND SHRUB CARE
Have trees on your property? The most important thing you can do in the fall is trim the dead out of a tree. Unless you own some pretty awesome equipment, like a chainsaw and really long ladders, we suggest reaching out to a professional tree care company. A pro can spot signs of poor health early on to prevent tree loss and can be counted on to correctly prune your greenery to avoid falling limbs in winter storms. As for shrubs, they’re slowing down and going dormant at this time of the year, so it’s not an ideal time to plant something new (or to relocate a bush from one spot to another. Wait till spring, when their roots will have less trouble getting established.
2) TO RAKE OR NOT TO RAKE?
We get it; raking leaves is a pain. They look beautiful covering a lawn, and it’s natural, so why not let them be? There’s some truth to that, but if you live in a colder climate and like to keep a manicured lawn most of the year, leaving too many leaves on a lawn over winter can inhibit spring growth. Don’t knock yourself out, though. Do this project over a few days so the neighborhood kids (and dogs) can come by to jump in your leaf piles. We prefer a lightweight rake — and gloves to protect your hands — to make the job easier. Also, call your local government to determine when leaf disposal takes place in your area. Many communities will distribute heavy-duty, environmentally safe paper leaf bags — but you usually have to ask.
3) GET YOUR MIND BACK IN THE GUTTER
Leaves and pine needles on roofs and in gutters are an ongoing maintenance issue in many parts of the country. But it’s imperative to pay attention to this in the fall. After most trees are bare, clean out gutters and downspouts around your home. Clogged gutters can result in pooling water that can damage your roof or siding. If it gets cold enough, it can cause ice dams. And meltwater will look for the easiest way down, typically through small gaps in the roof. Take it from us — you do not want an interior leak in the winter!
4) KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR EXTERIOR REPAIRS
Get outside and look for signs of damage to the roof, siding and foundation. Spot something that you think may need repair? Schedule a contractor to come by and assess the project: the earlier, the better. You’ll want to get everything that needs attending to handled before winter weather arrives.
5) KILL THE WATER
Since you’re at the end of the garden watering season, maybe it’s a good time to protect your pipes from freezing temps. Do this by shutting off exterior faucets and draining and storing your garden hoses. To keep them lasting longer, keep hoses inside.
6) ENSURE OUTDOOR WALKWAYS STAY SAFE
When Mother Nature dumps her ice and snow on you, just walking from the driveway to the front door can be challenging. Make getting around your home as hazard-free as possible. Check that all outdoor steps aren’t cracked or in need of repair, that railings are well secured and that the driveway and exterior walkways are free of cracks and debris that could make snow removal more difficult.
7) DON’T PUT OUT A WILDLIFE WELCOME MAT
You only need a teeny tiny gap to allow highly flexible field mice entry into your warm and inviting home to take up residency for the winter. Many will make it no farther than the garage, but if doors are left ajar, they can also get inside to raid your pantry. We cut up stainless steel scouring pads to fill small holes. More significant gaps may need the big guns, so call a contractor to take a look. Try to avoid putting out toxic pest poisons: they can be fatally ingested by housepets and if mice eat it, they might crawl back into the walls to die and that’ll smell awful.
8) PREP FOR WINTER EMERGENCIES
Fall is the right time to take stock of where you stand with supplies you only think about one time a year (if you live in winter weather climates). We’re talking about checking the condition of snow shovels and ice scrapers and buying new ones if necessary. Also, stock up on ice melt if you’re so inclined (we go for the pet-friendly kind because chem-based ice melt can hurt their paws). Restock emergency kits for the car (flashlights, blankets, spare tire and extra phone chargers). And if you use a snowblower, have it cleaned and serviced at least every two years and make sure you have enough (safely-stored) fuel on hand to get you through the season.
9) START STRIPPING
We’re talking weatherstripping here. There are all sorts of weatherstripping kits available at the big-box hardware stores, so go with what your budget will allow — and really, this is only necessary if your home doesn’t have super-efficient windows and doors already. Older homes benefit from applying weatherstripping around the frames of windows and doors helps boost winter warmth and cut energy costs. Also, consider door sweeps on the bottoms of drafty doors to keep heat in and cold air out (these will also help with heat-seeking vermin – see tip #7 above).
10) WINTERIZE IN-WINDOW A/C UNITS
Take note if you don’t have central air and use window air conditioning units during the hotter months. During winter, heat could escape through the accordion extension panels and chassis of typical window air conditioning units; cold air could also get into your home the same way. You basically have two choices. Either remove and store the A/C units before the weather turns cold (ask a friend to help, these things are heavy!) Or, if you typically leave your A/C units in place year-round, set yourself up for success by drying the interior first. This is important because you don’t want to cover the outside with a water-repellent insulating cover if there’s still water inside — mold could grow. Run the fan-only mode for several hours when the weather is dry, then cover and tape the edges to keep rain and snow out.
Want a longer to-do list?
For even more, check out our maintenance checklist from this time last year. It’ll surely keep you busy all Autumn!