Fall Home Maintenance Honey-Do List

With fall officially well underway, it’s time to prepare our homes for colder weather. Although most of these items can be performed by a motivated Do-It-Yourselfer, feel free to give me a call or email if you would like a recommendation for a qualified professional.


– Reverse your ceiling fans – This simple trick can potentially allow you to set your thermostat a degree or two cooler. Energy Star says the fan will produce an updraft and push down into the room heated air from the ceiling (remember, hot air rises). This is especially helpful in rooms with high ceilings. Here’s how to do it.

– Caulk around windows and doors – Most home inspectors will agree that if the gaps between siding and window or door frames are bigger than the width of a nickel, you need to reapply exterior caulk. (Check the joints in window and door frames, too.) Silicone caulk is best for exterior use because it won’t shrink and it’s impervious to the elements. Check window-glazing putty, too (which seals glass into the window frame). Add weatherstripping as needed around doors, making sure you cannot see any daylight from inside your home. This video will give you a good idea of what you need to do.
– Call a chimney sweep – Before you burn the Yule log, make sure your fireplace (or any heating appliance burning gas, oil, wood or coal), chimney and vents are clean and in good repair. That will prevent chimney fires and prevent carbon monoxide from creeping into your home. Search for a sweep certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America.




– Clean the gutters – If your gutters are full of detritus, water can back up against the house and damage roofing, siding and wood trim — plus cause leaks and ice dams (if it gets cold enough here in South Texas). You’ll typically pay anywhere from $100 to $250 to clean gutters on a single-story house, depending on its size. Also look for missing or damaged gutters and fascia boards and repair them.

– Check your roof – Using binoculars (if you’re not daring enough to climb on the roof – nobody will blame you!), scan closely, looking for loose, damaged or missing shingles. Check and repair breaks in the flashing seals. And while you (or your roofer) are up there, make sure to rake or blow off leaves and pine needles.

– Drive water away from your home – To prevent future issues by the foundation, it may be wise to add extensions to downspouts so that water runs at least 3 to 4 feet away from the foundation. Depending on the soil grading and if you have standing water close to your home, it might be necessary to get a French drain installed. Talk to a professional if you’re concerned.

– Turn off exterior faucets – As prior winters have proven to us all, undrained water in pipes can freeze, which will cause pipes to burst as the ice expands. Start by disconnecting all garden hoses and draining the water that remains in faucets. If you don’t have frost-proof faucets (homes more than ten to 15 years old typically do not), turn off the shut-off valve inside your home.

– Mulch leaves when you mow – Mow your leaves instead of raking them. The trick is to cut the leaves, while dry, into dime-sized pieces that will fall among the grass blades, where they will decompose and nourish your lawn over the winter. Use your lawn mower without its bag, and optionally swap the cutting blade for a mulching blade (about $15 to $25).

– Prepare to stow your mower – As the mower sits through the winter, fuel remaining in its engine will decompose, “varnishing” the carburetor and causing difficulty when you try to start the engine in the spring. John Deere offers these preventive steps: If you’ve added stabilizer to your fuel to keep it fresh longer, then fill the gas tank to the top with more stabilized fuel and run the engine briefly to allow it to circulate. If not, wait until the tank is nearly empty from use and run the engine (outdoors) to use up the remaining fuel. Check your mower’s manual for other cold-weather storage steps.

– Don’t prune trees or shrubs until late-winter – You may be tempted to get out the pruning shears after the leaves fall off the crepe myrtles, when you can first see the underlying structure of the plant. But horticulturalists advise waiting to prune until late winter for most plants, when they’ve been long dormant and just before spring growth begins. One exception: You may need to hire an arborist to remove deadfall or trim limbs close to your home or power lines that could cause problems in a winter storm – particularly those dead trees that were killed by the recent drought.

Maintain your pool – Unless you’re training for the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon, or if you expect revenue for keeping the pool warm at all times, the days of heavy swimming are close to being over. The good thing for us that live in “warmer” areas (yes, we do have warmer winters than say, Ohio!), is that we don’t need to winterize our pool — in essence, add chemicals to prevent freezing. Pool experts recommend that we continue cleaning the pool, balancing our chemicals as usual, and in the event of extreme cold weather (Ohioans, please don’t laugh at our definition of “extreme”), that we keep the equipment on, since moving water will not freeze.


Drain your lawn-irrigation system. Although it looks simple in some YouTube videos (and my husband has done this himself), I recommend that you call in a professional to do the job if you feel uncomfortable doing this. Draining sprinkler-system pipes, as with spigots, will help avoid freezing and leaks – and can prevent the geyser-fest that happened a few winters ago. While you’re are it, you might want to make sure that your system is not operating during the winter timeframe. The Woodlands Joint Powers Agency (the MUDs, basically) advice that lawns need little to no water as grass goes dormant.

 –  Tune up your heating system– For about $80 to $100, a properly accredited technician will inspect your furnace or heat pump to be sure the system is clean and in good repair, and that it can achieve its manufacturer-rated efficiency. The inspection also measures carbon-monoxide leakage. If you act soon enough, you’ll make sure you’re not the 50th in line – similar to spring/summer-time, the demand for these experts is high.
 Test your sump pump –  Slowly pour several gallons of water into the sump pit to see whether the pump turns on. You should do this every few months, but especially after a long dry season or before a rainy one. For more complete instructions for testing and maintenance, check your owner’s manual. Most sump pumps last about ten years, according to Chubb Personal Insurance.




Adapted from Kiplinger Personal Finance

About Rianne Sanchez

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