Whitney and I seem to have the same conversation every time something malfunctions, blows out or disappears in our home. No matter what the details of the issue are, our conversation boils down to a common moral of the story, every time: “To whom much is given, much is required.” Homeownership is a HUGE responsibility, and when you own an older home like we do, it requires a little extra to keep everything running smoothly. As a wise-cracking friend once told me, “The only thing that works in an old house is the homeowner.” There’s always something to be unclogged, replaced, painted, repaired, oiled, cleaned, mowed, or trimmed. You get the idea. Homes (new or old) require constant attention to keep the roof from falling in.
Doing a little preventative maintenance can go a long way in keeping you from having a disaster on your hands. Each fall, it’s a goal of mine to get ahead of potential problems by trying to tackle most of the list below.
While your list might look a little different depending on your house and geographical location, I tried to be as thorough as possible and include ideas that would appeal to a wide audience. We don’t have a radiator, so if you live in radiator country, please ask your favorite plumbing or boiler contractor for their recommendations concerning radiator maintenance.
Fall Preventative Maintenance List:
- Clean out your gutters or inspect gutters that may be fitted with leaf prevention. Water and leaf build up in the gutters could cause drooping and damage.
- Check smoke and C02 detectors (go ahead and replace batteries and make a note of the date you replaced them).
- Keep watering the lawn. Watering in cool temps helps the grass recover from a hard summer.
- If you want to go hardcore on the grass, rent an aerator to let the roots breath and get moisture. Your gift for this labor will be a lush lawn come spring.
- Freezing temps will ruin latex paints and caulks left out. Find a less used indoor closet to let them hibernate. While on the subject, don’t paint when freezing temps are on the horizon. The adhesion of certain paints is minimized when the temp drops.
- Fertilize in the fall. Look for the 4-1-2 label on the fertilizer brand you choose. It’s best to fertilize 4 times a year, but once in the fall is better than none. Or find a good turf expert (Like Lawn Doctor or TruGreen) and sign up for the yearly plan. It usually consists of 9 trips out to fertilize and provide weed control. You will also have a good resource for one-off questions or problems when they arise.
- Snake your gutter downspouts. Your plumbing snake is a great tool for this! Get those leaves out and prevent excess water from standing on the roof or building up in the gutter and turning to ice. Bad news on both accounts.
- On your final mow until spring, take it down low. Grass could get matted down and prevent new growth from sprouting. The lower grass height will also allow for any over-seeding to get down in the soil better.
- Disconnect and drain all water hoses connected to your house prior to the first freeze. You could also cover the exterior faucets with an insulating cap. The hoses could hold water and freeze all the way into your house. Again, when they thaw, you have potential trouble on your hands.
- Find a good chimney sweep. If you love the smell of burning wood in your fireplace like I do, start this fall with a good cleaning of the chimney. From then on, it’s recommended to have it swept every 50-70 burns. Embers that don’t completely burn will hang out in the chimney and build up as creosote and soot. Creosote and soot could re-ignite and turn into a fire you can’t control. If your flu is open, the fire is on, and all the smoke is not venting, this is a sign you may have a blockage. If you’ve never had the chimney swept, schedule it now. The longer creosote and soot build up, the harder it is to remove.
- Bring in or cover the lawn/patio furniture and cushions. Cold and wet will deteriorate your furniture faster than anything. Also, there is nothing worse than chasing blown away cushions in a blizzard.
- Here’s the one you probably hear often: change your air filters. Don’t make your furnace, heat exchanger, etc. work harder than it is supposed to. Your warmth throughout the winter and your budget will thank you.
- Inspect windows for drafts and seal them with caulk. 47% of energy costs in your home come from heating and cooling.
- Check the weather stripping around doors and repair split or gouged pieces.
- Remove soil from outdoor pots and planters. The soil left in the pots will hold moisture and cause the pots to crack when they freeze. Clay pots must be pulled in out of the elements. We stack ours in the corner of the garage.
- Give your interior furnace a once-over with a vacuum to remove any dust build up that could catch fire and cover or remove any window a/c units to prevent rusting of important parts.
- Bleed hot water radiators to remove air pockets—they prevent fins from heating
- Make sure radiator vents are clear, especially if the radiator has been painted recently. Paint, dirt, and dust can collect and clog.
- Clean your basement window wells. Any build up could lead to unwanted water in your basement.
- Check your gutter levels. Ice coming off the roof will cause them to droop and not catch what they are supposed to. An easy tool to use for this: a length of angle and a HD chain link. Attach the link to the gutter spike and insert the angle iron. Then, lift the angle iron to reset the gutter to the proper level.
- Hire a pro to blow out your sprinkler system or follow these guidelines for DIY. Either way, this little hack could save you tons of frustration and repair dollars come the spring thaw. However, if you choose not to tackle this one, your kids will love running through the “pretty new fountains” in your yard until you replace all the sprinkler heads. Your call.
- Grab a bag or two of ice melt as soon as you see it at the local hardware stores. Beat the rush!
- Drain the fuel from your generator and allow the tank to dry out or add water remover to your tank. Best practice is to run the generator for 10-15 mins four times a year to keep it ready for use.
Any other tasks I should add to my list? Let me know in the comments or reply to the English Edit email you received. We would love to hear from you!