Now that summer has ended, the kids have gone back to school and the days have started to get shorter, it's time to think about getting your house ready for a cooler season.
Alisa Metcalfe-Haggert, 43, a Toronto self-employed education and rehabilitation consultant, has made a long list of outside and inside things to do to prepare her east end home for the fall — everything from garden grooming and furnace cleaning to major reorganizing of clothing before winter.
As she surveys her "low maintenance" garden in the front yard of her detached home, Metcalfe-Haggert says she knows her first priority will be cutting back her flowers after the blooms shrivel and fade.
Her garden is a catching site on the street, an array of yellow, green and pink. There are black eyed susans, hostas, coneflowers, day lilies and irises crowding into view. She spent $200 on her front and back gardens this year, using transplants from the flower beds of friends to give her home a fresh look. Now, however, it's time to prune.
"I'll enjoy the flowers as long as I can but when things start to look dead and unsightly, I'll cut them back. I don't cover plants. I don't wrap things in burlap. It'll get done before it gets really cold," she says.
Her outside list includes: planting about 40 bulbs in the hopes that "at least half will survive the squirrels"; storing the garden hose inside; bringing in cushions from patio furniture; hiring a contractor to insulate under her kitchen addition; and putting the snow shovel and salt handy on the front porch for when the snow flies.
PRIDE IN HOME
Metcalfe-Haggert says it's important to maintain your home not only as a way to show you care about your residence but also as a way to keep costs down by avoiding major maintenance problems later.
"It's pride in your house, wanting to maintain it," she says. "It's maintenance and upkeep. You do it in little bits and pieces. You have to figure out what your priorities are."
Her inside list for fall includes: having the furnace cleaned and the filters replaced; making soups and stews to freeze on days when she is too busy to cook; and sorting through her clothing drawers and that of her daughter, Kaitlin, 10, putting away summer things and pulling out warmer wear.
"We purge as we go," she says. "My lifestyle is such that I need to be organized. You plan your world. It means time is optimized and you keep your costs down. I love gardening, I like cooking, so all of this is fun stuff for me."
The Canadian Housing and Mortgage Corporation has its own list of things it recommends that homeowners do to prepare their houses for fall.
Ken Ruest, senior researcher in the sustainable housing policy and research group for CMHC in Ottawa, says seasonal maintenance is a good way to protect your investment. He says it also makes sense to do what you can in the fall before it gets really cold.
"Winter can be severe. If there are things that can be done while the weather is nice, why not do it then? Some things, as well, are impossible to do in winter. You can't clean your eaves troughs when the leaves inside are frozen solid and it's a matted mess," he says.
"There are also safety concerns. If you are going to put a ladder against the house to check the roof, for example, to see if the wind has broken a few shingles off, it's better to do it in the fall than on frozen ground."
HEAT IN, MOISTURE OUT
Ruest recommends the following:
– Have your furnace and heating system serviced by a qualified technician.
– Check venting systems of all of your equipment to ensure there are no obstructions. For example, check your chimney for things such as bird, squirrel and raccoon nests. If the chimney is blocked, the combustion gases are not going to leave the house. The flue needs to be open. Direct vents should be checked so that there are no bees or wasp nests.
– Clean leaves from eaves troughs and downspouts to ensure proper drainage from the roof.
– If you have a heat recovery ventilator, clean the intake grill outside and the filters inside the unit. Pour water down the condensation drain to test it.
– Ensure that the ground around your house slopes away from the foundation wall to prevent water from draining into your basement.
– Check exhaust ducts from dryers, bathroom fans and kitchen ranges that lead to the outside to make sure there are no obstructions. Check under the flaps to make sure nothing is nesting inside and clean it out.
– Vacuum electric baseboard heaters to remove dust and remove the grilles on forced air systems, and vacuum inside the ducts.
– Ensure all windows and doors shut tightly, including the door between the house and garage, if you have one. It may be time to do some weather stripping.
– Run the dehumidifier in the basement throughout the fall. It should be run from spring to fall. It helps to remove a lot of moisture.
– If you have interior screens on windows and doors, remove them and store the screens for winter. It promotes better air circulation to warm the glass and it may help to prevent condensation on windows.
For homes in rural areas, Ruest adds: "don't store firewood inside because it brings in a lot of moisture; have well water tested for quality; check the sump pump and line to ensure they work properly; if you have a septic tank, measure the sludge and scum to determine if it needs to be emptied before spring."
"These things can make a difference. They help to maintain your property," Ruest says.
SOURCE: THE STAR