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Fall Cleaning
The 14 Things to Do to Get Your Place Ready for Winter
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Heather K Adams
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It's official: the leaves are turning, temperatures are dipping and the smell of pumpkin-spiced lattes fills the air. Fall is here! Which means winter is right around the corner. And if you're a homeowner, this makes fall more than just the season to go crazy with the Halloween decorations. There are a number of essential seasonal tasks to see to in order to keep your home looking good and in good repair.

This is the perfect time of year to get outside and do a little work on the old homestead before extreme weather sets in. It's also the perfect time to make sure your interior is weatherized and energy-efficient. So, put on some thick socks, put this fall home maintenance checklist in your pocket and get to it!

Fall home maintenance checklist: exterior.

1. Cut back dead tree limbs.

Trees near your home and any power lines are especially important to maintain. Winter's frigid temperatures and high winds can snap dead limbs and even bring down trees, potentially taking down those power lines or doing serious damage to your home.

2. Winterize your landscape.

Deadheading flowers like marigolds gives you plenty of seeds for next year. Cutting back your decorative plants also encourages healthier growth in the spring. Consult your favorite gardening resource for just how many individual shrubs and plants should be cut back.

3. Bag or mulch those leaves.

Once you've had your fun shuffling through those crispy leaves, give your yard a good raking. While not necessarily an essential task on your fall home maintenance checklist, an excessive layer of leaves might affect your lawn's growth come springtime. You can do the rake-and-bag routine if you like, but you can also simply mow over the piles you make, turning them into mulch.

4. Clear your gutters.

While we're on the topic of leaves, making sure your gutters and spouts are clear is a fall classic. Those leaves will block water from draining properly, and that can damage gutters and roof alike. This task on your fall home maintenance checklist requires being up on a ladder, so if you don't feel comfortable (or have a big enough ladder), go ahead and hire a pro. Safety first!

5. Do a walk-around.

Taking a lap around your property will give you a good idea of its general state. Does the driveway need to be resealed? Are your walkways settling in an uneven fashion, or are your steps sagging? Conduct a thorough evaluation from roof to foundation, from foxed window casings to the garage door that sometimes sticks. These little things become big headaches once winter closes in.

6. Stow outdoor furniture and equipment.

Winterizing the lawnmower is an obvious item on the fall home maintenance checklist. But so is making sure your patio furniture is put away neatly or covered securely. Roll up the garden hose and put that away too. Extend the life of all your outdoor items by keeping them out of the icy elements.

7. Take out window air conditioners and screens.

Sure, fall gifts us a few summer-esque days, but those days are numbered. Before you know it you'll be craving eggnog and digging out your long johns. Make sure you remove your AC and screens before this happens and not last minute after the first hard frost.

Fall home maintenance checklist: interior.

8. Track down your drafts.

Old windows or uneven frames can let through just the tiniest puffs of air... and in the winter, those tiny puffs will put a major dent in your heating bill. Apply weather stripping or wrap windows in plastic, and consider closing off any unused spaces. A guest room without a guest in it is just a heat sink.

9. Pull out the winter wardrobe.

Yes, this is totally a part of your fall home maintenance checklist. Making sure you have proper seasonal clothing to wear means you'll be able to keep the thermostat turned down a few extra degrees. Those clicks to the left make a big difference not only in your heating bill but also on the wear and tear on your heating system. Bundle up in your cozy sweaters and slippers, and bank the savings.

10. Stock up on fuel.

If you heat via wood, pellets or coal, you probably already have an idea of how much fuel you need to get through winter. If this is your first time, err on the side of stocking extra. Better to buy early than late, and much better to have leftovers in May then to run out in February. Remember, too, to replace any old tarps or coverings if you store fuel outdoors. This is also the time to...

11. Schedule essential deliveries.

If you heat with gas or oil, try to get your tanks filled before the truly cold temperatures set in. Your fuel provider will be busier during this season, with all the lazy grasshoppers scheduling last-minute call-ins. Gas and oil prices fluctuate, so filling up sooner, when demand isn't quite as high, will probably be a bit easier on your wallet. Don't forget to check propane tanks and hose connections for leaks or wear at this time, too.

12. Assess fire hazards.

Winter, when the house is sealed up and the heat's on high, is a prime season for fire hazards. To offset that risk, clean your dryer vent and stove hood. Have your chimney or stovepipe cleaned. Do a thorough scrub down behind all major appliances. This is also an excellent time to check the chords and connections on space heaters and vacuums.

13. Evaluate the energy efficiency of your appliances.

Speaking of space heaters and appliances, assessing the energy efficiency of anything you plugin is a must for your fall home maintenance checklist. While there are experts who can do this for you, you can get an idea of your power usage the first few weeks of colder weather by checking your daily electricity stats. Most energy suppliers now have this information available online. If you notice major spikes, it might be time to zero in on and upgrade older equipment.

14. Perform safety and emergency equipment maintenance.

Test your smoke detector, obviously, and make sure you have one that also detects carbon monoxide. Check the expiration date on your fire extinguisher (you have one, right?). Check any old kerosene or propane heaters out in the shed for power outage emergencies by firing them up outside and making sure everything is still in working order. Stock up on fuel for them, and check the emergency supply kit in your vehicle. Bad things can happen in winter conditions. Don't let being unprepared be one of them.

Equipment and supplies.

  • Rake
  • Gloves
  • Heavy-duty garbage bags
  • Lawnmower and leaf blower
  • Hedge clippers and other gardening tools
  • Ladder
  • Weatherstripping and plastic wrap
  • Double-sided tape
  • Chainsaw, ax and hatchet
  • Tarps and covers
  • Emergency kit supplies: batteries and flashlights, blankets, candles, water bottles and snacks
  • Proper seasonal clothing

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