Late fall is an ideal time to take stock of your home and make sure everything is ready for winter's onslaught. If you act now, there are still some nice days left to get things in order.
- Check the roof and the gutters. Gutter cleaning is one of the lowest-cost maintenance chores you can have done on your home, yet failure to keep gutters clean is a primary cause of many serious problems, such as rotted wood, premature paint failure, wet basements, and termites. If you wait until the fall season is over, your gutters are probably effectively clogged for at least two months each fall. During that time, water is flowing where it shouldn't, eroding the soil around your home and penetrating the side of the house and the foundation. For most homes, a minimum cleaning schedule should be once mid-fall, once after the leaves are down, and once more in the spring.
- Check your roof for loose, curled or missing shingles. If you see problems or have seen evidence of a leak, this is the time to take care of it. The next time you have a heavy rain, put on your coat and boots and step out into the yard. Look at how the water flows. If the gutters overflow they either need cleaning, realigning, or replacement with larger gutters.
- On a cool evening, go ahead and turn on your furnace to make sure it works before you really need it! If you have a forced air system, you may briefly notice a burning smell. This is simply some of the dust in the ducts being burnt off by the first blast of hot air. While you're checking out the furnace, make sure you change the air filters.
- If you have a humidifier, clean it thoroughly in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations. Failure to do so can cause health problems due to air-borne bacteria.
- This is also a good time to consider increasing the insulation you have in your attic, walls and basement. Likewise, consider replacing old single-pane windows. In addition to saving a lot of money on fuel bills, the new windows will be easier to open and close, easier to clean, and potentially maintenance free.
- Turn off outdoor faucets for the winter. You can probably assume your home is less susceptible to outside faucets freezing and pipes bursting, but don't assume it can't happen to you. There are many variables besides the absolute temperature outside. Wind speed and direction, what parts of your home get sunlight in winter, the location and density of shrubs, the age of your pipes and faucets, what materials these fixtures are made of, and many other factors play a role. It is quite possible that your faucets have frozen many times without the pipes actually bursting. Freezing puts a lot of stress on the pipes and they are likely to be getting weaker over time. You would be smart to start turning your faucets off for the winter. The main reason is that a burst pipe can be incredibly destructive. It usually involves a lot of water and can destroy a plethora of walls, floors, and furnishings in a very short time.