10 Important Fall Home Maintenance Tips

Tim Lucas
Military VA Loan editor

Whether you’re ready or not, fall is upon us.  There is so much to do, and so much to enjoy with all the colors and briskness that fall brings us.  Below are some tips that I have put to use in my own household, I hope you find them useful for yours.

Check your VA home buying eligibility. Start here (Jun 18th, 2024)

10 tips to prep your home for fall

1. Check your heating system

If you have a forced air furnace, look for a maintenance history record usually posted on the furnace.  If it has been longer than a year since the furnace has been looked over and cleaned by a professional, you may want to get that done.  If the furnace is more than 15 years old, consider having the furnace replaced.  There are many incentives to replacing your furnace, such as tax credits, rebates, and possible financing grants if you qualify.  The biggest incentive of course, is saving money on your heating bill.

2. Fireplace and chimney

Do you use your fireplace to heat your home?  If yes, beware of creosote building up in your chimney.  Chimneys expel the by-products of your wood fire, which are smoke, water vapor, gases, unburned wood particles, hydrocarbon, tar fog, and assorted minerals.  When these substances ascend up through the fireplace, they linger when they reach the cooler part of the chimney, and contribute to condensation. The end result is a residue that sticks to the inner walls of your chimney, as this is how creosote is formed.  Eliminate your risk of chimney fires with a simple chimney sweep every year before your heating season.

3. Inspect your roof, gutters, and downspouts

Be ready for your roof and gutters to encounter more wet weather, moss, and debris.  The best advice is to have your roof inspected by a professional if you’re unsure of your roof’s condition.  Otherwise, trim back any branches or foliage in close proximity to your roof.  Broom sweep or use an air blower to clean off debris from your roof surface, don’t use a pressure washer.  Clean out your gutters and downspouts, and make sure they are all properly mounted and prepared to be put to work.  Consider upgrading your gutters with debris covers.

4. Trim back trees near your home

There’s nothing like having a tree or a large branch drop on your home during the winter.  For starters, if the weather conditions are that severe to cause a tree to fall, chances are that your turnaround time on repairs by a professional is going to be delayed due to the same severe weather.  In the meantime, you have a house that is now exposed to the elements and at high risk for further damage from moisture and mold.  If it’s a large branch, you might hear a big ‘THUD’ hit your roof, but you don’t see where the object is when you investigate.  Later, you discover that the branch impaled your roof like a spear, and let all the rain in your attic during November.

5. Check windows & doors for drafts

There are lots of tips on the web for how to seal drafts in windows and doors.  The most common recommendations include replacing your weather stripping around the exterior doors, re-caulking and sealing your window frames, and using shrink film to seal in your windows from drafts.  Keeping your curtains closed will also help keep the heat in.

6. Reverse your ceiling fan

There is a switch on your ceiling fan that changes the fan’s spin direction.  For summer, your fan should be turning counterclockwise, to push the air downward for a fanning effect.  During the winter, the fan should be turning clockwise to draw warm air upwards and dispense the warm air throughout the home.  You may want to dust the fan while you’re up there.

7. Check fire & carbon monoxide detectors

First off, check every detector in your home.  Replace batteries, test, and confirm that you have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors functioning correctly to keep your family safe.  Next, have a fire escape plan – you should have at least two different escape routes planned out.

If you do nothing else, these two tasks are the most important.  Now think about all the various electrically powered creature comforts and tools you use either regularly or seasonally.  Examples of this are toaster ovens, cell phone chargers, electric blankets, televisions, game consuls, etc.  None of these appliances are safe to be left running unattended, as there is someone living in this world that can tell you a fire-starting story about any of them.  Disconnect your dryer from the electric plug and vent, and clean out all the lint that you find behind, in, and around your dryer.  Use the crevice tool on your vacuum cleaner to reach beyond your lint trap and get as much lint out as you can.

There are ‘life hacks’ on the web that show you how to use lint to get a campfire burning, which would be a better use than an unintentional fire.  The key is preventive maintenance and inspection.  Anything that uses electricity can be a potential fire hazard.

8. Perform yard maintenance

This is the best time to treat your lawn so it looks green and healthy next spring and summer.  It is recommended that you lawn feed spread in early September, and plan two feedings before winter hits.  If you have been cutting your grass high during the summer to mitigate the effects dead spots, now is the time to do the standard mower setting of approximately 2” from the ground.  As the weather starts to get cooler, pests and insects are going to find a warmer climate to move into.  This is the best time to start spraying the exterior of your home with a pest repellent.

9. Clean & store outdoor furniture

The warm summer nights will come back in 2015, so preserve your nice outdoor furniture for the next opportunity.  A cool, dry, and well-ventilated storage area will suffice.  If the furniture needs to be cleaned, I would recommend you wait until warmer weather again for wet cleaning.  Later in the season, when you know you’re done with yard care until next spring, it’s recommended that you drain the fuel from all of your gas-powered lawn tools.  We now unfortunately use ethanol-based fuel in this country, which is problematic for most fuel-burning systems.  Ethanol-based fuel left standing for a lengthy period can ‘gel up’, causing clogs in the fuel line and carburetor.  Nothing is more frustrating than planning a nice spring day for cutting your grass, and your lawn mower won’t start.

10. Plan for power outages

A short power outage that lasts for 4 hours or less is not a major concern for your perishable food, it is advisable to only open the doors of your refrigerator and freezer when absolutely necessary.  To help encourage that conservation practice, open your refrigerator and take several photos inside with your smartphone, then text the photos to your family members.  Tell them to use the photos instead of opening up the fridge to decide what they want to eat beforehand.  Do you have a big freezer?  Does your fridge have an ice maker?  Dedicate a spot in your big freezer for ice to use in case.

Gallon-size ziplock storage bags are good to use when storing ice, or any plastic bag strong enough to handle the weight of lots of ice will work.  Save your plastic milk jugs and fill them up with about 75% worth of water, and keep several of them in your big freezer.  Dedicate a place to store flashlights, a radio, extra batteries, candles, and other handy items you will appreciate when your power is down for longer than a day.  The ice you are storing in your big freezer will work nicely in your portable cooler to keep your food fresh since your fridge is off.  When the ice is melted in the milk jug, you have fresh water to drink if you don’t have running water.  Do you have a generator?  Do a test run now and see if it needs a tune-up, instead of when you really need it to run.  If your home is not wired for the generator, make sure you have your needed extension cords handy, and designate a convenient spot outdoors for your generator to sit while it’s running.

Enjoy the time of the season

Fall brings us unique colors and fragrances, football, harvests, and Thanksgiving. Enjoy this time of year safely with your friends and family.

Check your VA home buying eligibility. Start here (Jun 18th, 2024)