As we start to bid farewell to the warmth and vitality of summer and embrace the cooler, cozier ambiance that fall and winter bring, it’s time to shift attention from outdoor pursuits to getting our homes ready for harsher weather.
To ensure your home remains comfortable and in good condition during this transition, it's helpful to follow a practical fall home maintenance checklist. From preparing your yard to making your home more cozy and everything in between, this handy to-do list will help you feel ready well before the snow starts to fly.
Prepare your yard
Fall offers a prime opportunity to nurture your outdoor space so it’s healthy and vibrant once spring arrives.
- Show your lawn some love. One crucial aspect of fall yard care is lawn maintenance. Raking leaves and aerating the soil can help maintain a healthy lawn by preventing thatch buildup and ensuring proper water and nutrient absorption. Fall is also an excellent time to reseed any bare or thin patches in your lawn. As your lawn prepares for the dormant winter, it is essential to provide it with the right nutrients. Fall fertilization helps strengthen the grassroots, promoting overall lawn health.
- Plant a tree (or two!). Fall presents an ideal window for planting trees and shrubs. The cooler temperatures and increased moisture in the soil allow for better root establishment, setting them up for a strong start next spring. You can also save some money since many nurseries have end-of-season sales.
- Shape up those shrubs. Trim overgrown trees and shrubs close to your home to prevent potential damage from heavy snow or ice accumulation. Pruning during this time has the added benefit of stimulating new growth in the spring. Remove dead or damaged branches, thin out crowded areas and shape the plants to maintain their form and health. Avoid heavy pruning in late fall, however, as it may encourage new growth vulnerable to winter frost.
- Take care of your tools. As winter approaches, taking steps to protect your yard equipment is vital. Before storing them for the season, clean and winterize tools like lawnmowers, trimmers and garden hoses. This can extend their lifespan and ensure they're ready for use when the warmer days return.
- Start the snowblower. If you have a snowblower, change the oil, inspect the spark plugs and ensure it's in good working condition ahead of the first snowfall.
- Winterize your water systems. Properly maintaining your irrigation system prevents frozen pipes and potential damage. Draining or “blowing out” the system and turning off the water supply can help avoid costly repairs in the spring. Safeguard your spigots by disconnecting garden hoses and installing insulated faucet covers.
Protect the outside of your home
Your yard isn’t the only exterior area that warrants attention this time of year. Now is a great time to look at your home with fresh eyes to see what actions you can take to ensure your property is ready for harsher conditions.
- Inspect and clean the exterior. Check your roof for loose or damaged shingles and repair any issues to prevent leaks during winter rains and snow. Examine your siding for cracks, gaps or signs of wear, and address these problems to maintain the integrity of your home's insulation. Additionally, clean your gutters and downspouts to prevent clogs that could lead to water damage.
- Stain your deck. Take advantage of the milder fall temperatures to stain and seal your deck. This enhances its appearance and protects it from the harsh winter weather. A fresh coat of stain can prevent moisture infiltration and wood rot, ensuring your deck remains a safe and inviting space.
- Upgrade your outdoor lighting. As the days grow shorter, effective outdoor lighting becomes even more important. Consider swapping out less efficient incandescent or halogen bulbs in your outdoor fixtures for energy-efficient LEDs. LEDs consume less energy, have a longer lifespan and provide ample illumination to enhance safety and visibility around your property.
- Stow outdoor furniture and equipment. Put away or cover outdoor furniture and equipment that won't be used during the fall and winter. This protects them from the elements, extending their lifespan. Clean and dry furniture before storing it to prevent mold and mildew growth.
- Seal gaps and openings. Inspect the exterior of your home for any gaps, cracks or openings that could allow cold air to seep in and warm air to escape. Caulk around windows and doors and use weatherstripping to seal gaps to improve energy efficiency and keep your home cozy.
Get ready for more time indoors
As the temperatures drop, having a safe, warm and well-equipped living space is essential for a smooth transition into cooler days.
- Check the heat. Before the chill sets in, schedule a professional inspection and servicing of your furnace or heating system. This ensures efficient operation and minimizes the risk of breakdowns during the colder months.
- Change the air filter. Replace the air filters in your HVAC system to maintain good indoor air quality and optimize heating efficiency.
- Stash the window AC. Remove and properly store any window air conditioning units to prevent drafts and heat loss.
- Prioritize safety. With colder weather, we’ll be spending more time inside. Checking safety devices ensures they're in proper working condition to keep your home safe. Test and replace batteries in smoke detectors and carbon monoxide sensors. Inspect fire extinguishers, looking for physical damage. Verify the locking pin and tamper seal are intact.
- Test for the silent killer. Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that can accumulate indoors and pose health risks (it’s the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers). Interior radon levels typically increase during colder months, so schedule a home radon test if it’s been a while.
- Sweep the chimney. If you have a fireplace, whether wood or gas, have it professionally inspected to ensure safe and efficient operation. For wood-burning stoves and fireplaces, get your chimney swept. This helps prevent potential fire hazards and provides proper ventilation. Likewise, make sure you have a good supply of seasoned firewood cut and stacked so it’s ready to go when the mercury drops.
- Seal air leaks. Check for drafts around windows and doors. Seal holes or cracks with weatherstripping or caulking to prevent heat loss and improve energy efficiency.
- Stock up on winter essentials. Beat the rush and purchase sidewalk salt or ice melt to keep pathways safe. Also, ensure you have enough warm blankets, emergency supplies, batteries and non-perishable foods.
- Get a smart thermostat. Consider installing a programmable thermostat if you don't already have one. This allows you to regulate your home's temperature efficiently, saving on energy costs.
- Make it cozy. Transition your décor by swapping out lightweight summer items for warmer, softer elements like snuggly throw blankets, plush rugs and autumnal colors. Add string lights and LED candles to further enhance the ambiance.
While the weather is still agreeable, tackling this home maintenance to-do list helps ensure your property is well-prepared for the challenges that fall and winter bring. Regular upkeep and proactive measures will contribute to a comfortable, efficient and visually appealing environment even during the colder months.