Top Home Maintenance Tips for the Fall
Perhaps the biggest advantage of buying a new build home is the feeling of security that comes from knowing things won’t break down – and it will most likely be covered by your home warranty in the unlikely event that they do. However, you’ll still want to be proactive when it comes to maintaining your home. While you won’t have much to worry about when it comes to maintenance in your new home, you should still do the following things to keep your home in top condition.
Here are a few helpful fall home maintenance tips to prepare your home for the colder weather.
Tune Up Your Heat
Your furnace should go through an annual filter change and if you’re living in an older home, a tune-up to ensure the system is working properly. It doesn’t cost much to have a professional do this, and you won’t have to worry about the possibility of the system breaking down in the middle of winter. Tune-ups are also a smart move if you have other types of heat throughout the home, such as gas-powered fireplaces.
Change the Direction of Your Fans
Speaking of heat, did you know ceiling fans can actually help keep your home warmer in winter? When they rotate in a counterclockwise direction, they push the cool air down into the room. In the winter, you want fans to run in a clockwise direction, which will push the warm air at the ceiling out toward the walls, circulating it back into the room. Take a few seconds to flip the switch on your fans and save on heating costs in the winter.
Sweep Those Chimneys
There’s nothing quite like sitting by the fireplace on a cold winter’s night, but if you don’t get the chimney cleaned in the fall, it could be a fire hazard. The Canada Safety Council recommends you clean your chimney once a year so make this a part of your annual fall maintenance. A professional chimney sweep can inspect and clean your chimney for a reasonable fee.
Test for Air Leaks
New homes tend to be pretty airtight, which means cold air won’t be getting inside during the winter. But tight seals can be one of the first things to need replacement or minor repairs because the expansion and contraction from changes in temperature affect the quality.
Just check around your windows and doors to see if there’s any air coming in. People often like to check this by holding a lit candle by the seal. If the flame flickers, air is coming in. Fixing these air leaks is often a simple matter of re-caulking or adding some new weatherstripping materials. These things are readily available at home improvement stores.
You’ll also want to double-check around the exterior of your home for any possible openings. In the fall, animals are looking for a cozy place to spend their winters, and you don’t want them to choose your home.
You should also look into sealing your driveway if it hasn’t been done in the last 2-3 years. Just remember to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and pay attention to the weather forecast – it’ll need to be above 5 degrees overnight for the sealant to cure properly.
Clean Up Those Leaves (And Don’t Forget Your Gutters!)
You need to rake up leaves regularly, especially if your home is near large trees that are dropping lots of leaves. It’s easier to spend short periods of time more frequently than it is to wait until the grass is completely covered before getting started. Some people even mulch the leaves with their lawnmowers. If you aren’t mulching, use a bag attachment to collect the leaf pieces, then dispose of them properly.
During the fall, leaves can also drop into the gutters, and that build-up can cause blockages. As a result, ice dams form when the melting snow from the roof can’t drain properly and reforms as ice in the gutters. In addition to causing water damage to the roof, an ice dam could become heavy enough to pull the gutters off the home. By cleaning debris from the gutters, you ensure a smooth passage for water.
Garden and Yard Prep
It’s time to put your garden to rest. If you have annual flowers, you should dig them up and add some compost to the soil so that it will be ready for spring next year. Perennials usually need some pruning, but be sure to check the specific care instructions for the plants that you have. It’s also a good time to plant spring bulbs if you want to see flowers like tulips come up as the snow melts.
You’ll also want to tend to your lawn. A great lawn starts with preparation in the fall. Aerate your lawn by poking small holes in it to allow oxygen and nutrition to seep deeper into the ground. You can do this with special shoes or tools.
Remove weeds one last time to help your lawn grow back thicker in the Spring. After you’ve done that, add some grass seed to some of the bare spots on the yard. This gives the grass time to take root so it will be ready when the snow melts. Strong grass also prevents the growth of crabgrass in the next season. It’s also helpful to mow your lawn a little lower than you usually do throughout the summer. This prepares your lawn for the winter slumber and helps prevent snow mould once spring arrives.
Once the temperature outside starts to dip below 5°C overnight, it’s time to disconnect any hoses you have connected to your exterior hose bibs to prevent them from freezing up and not being able to drain properly. Make sure you store the hoses in the garage or somewhere warm to prevent damage.
Clean Gardening Tools
It’s easy to forget about your gardening tools once your plants start to die off. However, tools that sit through the winter with caked-on mud can start rusting or become damaged. If you’re ready to put the tools away until next year, take some time to clean them off, then store them properly.
Store Your Outdoor Items
Once you’re finished using them for the season, you’ll want to be sure that all your gardening things are properly stored in the garage or basement to prevent rusting. Don’t forget to turn off the exterior water spigots and to put the hose away. Typically, hoses have small drops of water inside the long tube that can freeze and damage the hose if you keep it outside. If you have any outdoor furniture, be sure to pack those away as well – even if you have plastic furniture that won’t be damaged, it’ll save you from having to spend time cleaning it when the sun’s out again.
Drain the Lawn Mower and Tune-Up The Snowblower
If stale gas sits in your lawnmower over the winter, it can prevent the machine from starting in the spring. When you’re done mowing for the year, allow the mower to run until it’s out of gas. Alternatively, syphon the gas into a container and transfer it to your snowblower. The mower’s manufacturer might also recommend an additive for winter storage.
Take some time to turn on the snowblower and make sure that it’s working properly. It might be time to change the oil or replace the belts that keep the blades turning. Doing this is a fairly simple DIY task, with plenty of videos on YouTube.
Gear Up for Winter
It’s also smart to make sure you have what you might need for winter beforehand so you’re not rushing to the store in the middle of a storm. Do you have a good snow shovel to clear the walkways? Do you have salt to melt the ice? How about batteries and flashlights in case the power goes out? Make sure to stock up on these things.
Additionally, having all the windows closed during the winter makes carbon monoxide poisoning a bigger concern. The batteries in your alarm should last for about six months, and now might be the time to replace them.
Fall maintenance doesn’t have to take a lot of time, but it’s essential for the well-being of your home. Get started on your to-do list so it’s finished by the time the snow comes (again).
Originally published Oct 11, 2017, updated Sept 1, 2020