It’s time for our quarterly reminder to do thy home maintenance or succumb to the wrath of the season at hand! Some of the tasks below are weather-specific, others simply require regular attention to keep your castle safe, dry and lookin’ good.
10 Fall Home Maintenance Tips
1. Drain the outside water spigots and store your hoses. Be sure to disconnect any hoses, drain them, roll them up neatly and store them in a warm, dry place. Make Marie Kondo proud. Cold snaps can cause rubber hoses to become brittle and weak.
Locate the shut-off valve (if installed) on the pipe leading to the outdoor spigot and close it off to lower the chances of freeze damage. If there's no indoor shut-off valve, you should insulate the spigot from the outdoors (and even if there is a shut-off valve, you may want to do this for extra protection). Here’s a neat video showing how to properly insulate a spigot.
2. Clean and store your patio furniture. If your furniture came with specific instructions, hold onto those—materials vary and require different kinds of care. But in general, follow these steps:
Use a hose with a spray nozzle to remove the overall gunk of summer.
Mix ¼-cup liquid dishwashing soap with water in a cleaning bucket and wipe/scrub everything down with a rag or sponge (do not use an abrasive cleaner).
Rinse everything off once more with the hose.
Make sure the items are completely dry before covering or storing to prevent mold or corrosion of hardware.
3. Winterize your gas grill. Nobody wants rust and rodents all up in their grill! Assuming you won't be grilling in the colder months, it’s a good idea to protect this hot ticket before it’s covered in snow.
Give the inside a good scrub so it’s free from any grease or food bits that can trap moisture. Over time, this can cause metal components to rust. Those icky bits can also promote mold, and that mold might have a party if you aren’t lifting up that lid and looking inside for months.
Coat your grill grates with a light layer of cooking oil using a spray or a rag, just like you would when you season them. Then turn all your burners to high for about a minute or so to vaporize excess oil.
If your grill has an electronic ignition system, remove the battery so the contacts don’t corrode during the winter.
Place an appropriately-sized cover over your grill, especially if you plan on leaving it outside. Prolonged exposure to the elements will shorten the lifespan of your grill, no matter how fancy it is.
If possible, store your grill in a sheltered area. It can’t hurt!
*A note for propane grillers: never store your propane tanks indoors, even if that’s where you plan to keep your grill over the winter. Nope, nope, nope!
4. Trim back trees touching (or hanging over) your roof or gutters. Branches rubbing against your roof cause damage to shingles! Worse yet, when water and debris get under your shingles, your issues can multiply. Of course, we’re also entering fall, so a whole lot of leaves will be falling onto your roof and jamming up your gutters.
Be sure to trim those wandering branches back, and if they are large or tricky to access, hire a professional (and insured!) tree trimming company. Any company that does this work for you should also cut up the branches into smaller pieces afterwards so you can move them more easily--definitely ask about this in advance. Be sure to also trim back any plants and bushes rubbing against the stone or brick of your exterior walls.
5. Clean your gutters! Viva las gutters! We cannot say this enough. In fact, we’d recommend adorning your gutters with Gargoyles if you haven’t already because gutters are the HEROES OF MAINTENANCE, driving away so much of the water that will otherwise take your home down. If you aren’t comfortable doing this yourself, there are plenty of folks you can hire—we recommend prioritizing this.
Gutters are specifically designed to channel water away from your home. If you don’t maintain them, not only is there a much greater chance of water finding its way into your foundation walls, but your roof can also develop leaks.
If you need additional urging, clogged and leaky gutters can lead to:
Rust, mold, and insect infestation within the gutters
Gutters pulling away from the roof due to rusting hangers
A leaky roof
A leaky basement
Masonry deterioration and foundation issues
Sidewalk and driveway damage
A drowning landscape
So get ‘er done!
6. Inspect the radiators. Ideally, you’ll want to have a professional inspect your system each fall, regardless of whether you have a steam or water system. Book early because everyone is going to want an inspection this time of year! Here’s a list of things to look for:
Make sure pilot light is working
Make sure condensate drain isn’t clogged
Inspect piping for corrosion or leaks
Check that pipes are pitched correctly—they are often moved around over time
Check for evidence of a water or gas leak
Bleed hot water radiators (but not steam radiators)
Other good things to know: Banging noises are usually caused by incorrectly-pitched pipes, not the ghost of a woman who was bopped on the head 75 years ago by a large wrench and is now acting out her misfortune. Also, cheap valves, not snake spirits, are often the culprits of hissing noises.
7. Give your furnace a check-up and change the filter. You can save energy and money in addition to extending the life of your furnace if you clean it regularly. Think of all the dust and dirt being sucked up and moved around in those ducts—nobody wants that stuff blasting into their tidy (or even non-tidy) room. Again, what would Marie Kondo do?
We’d recommend hiring a professional to service your furnace each fall before the heating season begins. They will do a thorough examination and clean the parts that commonly malfunction, like the air filter, the fan, the pilot light, and the heat exchanger. This should keep things running smoothly and ensure there aren’t any carbon monoxide leaks.
While you only need to have your furnace cleaned once a year, you should change the filter more regularly. The basic consensus among HVAC professionals is that you should replace your furnace filter every three months—so, put this on your maintenance list for every season. That said, some thicker filters have more room to collect dirt and dust, so they may not need to be changed as often. Make sure you follow the directions on the filter you last installed.
8. Check your fireplace. Fireplaces are the BEST, but nothing you want to mess with if they’re in disrepair. Here are some maintenance tips to keep things working safely:
Check the exterior—is your chimney leaning? Are there any cracks or holes? If your chimney is exposed in your attic, make sure to check there, too.
Install or replace the chimney cap to reduce damage caused to a chimney by water or wildlife. If rain and snow get in, they can cause freeze and thaw cycles to happen and expansion damage may result. You also might find some nests in there, so install a cap with a screen mesh to keep animals out while shielding your roof from embers and sparks.
Inside your house, check the area around your chimney for any stains or dampness. Stains could be caused by faulty flashing around the chimney at the roofline, or by a damaged flue liner. If you see signs of water around your chimney, call a chimney professional right away.
Open the clean-out door from the base of the flue located either in your basement or outside the house. Use a small mirror and flashlight to look inside and up the chimney for sooty buildup and any cracks or holes. If you’re not sure, it’s a good idea to call a chimney professional for a thorough checkup and cleaning!
Check the brickwork in your fireplace for wear, as well as the damper, which should open and close easily. Look into the smoke chamber above the damper to see if it looks sooty. Again, call a professional if you aren’t sure or if you see anything concerning.
9. Prevent ice dams. Ice dams are a common issue for homes like bungalows because they sport those wonderful overhanging eaves. While those extended eaves are like long eyelashes making your house look *good* and blocking out solar gain in the summertime, they can be troublemakers in the winter.
If there’s a buildup of heat in your attic and improper ventilation, the snow on your roof can melt and slide down to the end of your eaves. If those eaves extend beyond the boundary of the attic space, they won’t receive any heat from the attic. Once that melted snow reaches the ends of the eaves, the water freezes and that ice can expand and damage your shingles and gutters and create all kinds of chaos.
To prevent this, properly air seal and insulate your attic, then be sure to have ventilation with soffit and ridge vents to circulate air evenly.
10. Garden maintenance: what to plant and what to pot. Yes, there is still planting to do in the fall! You’ll want to get any flowering bulbs, garlic, and rhubarb into the dirt before it freezes. Also, take advantage of the cool weather, and sow seeds of spinach and mache (corn salad). They'll start growing for you in early spring.
You also can plant trees and shrubs until the soil freezes! Fall is a great time plant these because they can put all their energy into establishing their roots. But, if the ground never freezes, you will need to water a new tree or shrub all winter long. Likewise, perennial plants will need water until the ground freezes. They may be going dormant, but they aren't dead.
If your plants are still looking good, put them in pots and bring them indoors! For example, many herbs can make great houseplants, and they can be replanted in the garden after the cold weather has passed. (Read more tips here.)
Want a more ambitious chore list? There are countless maintenance checklist examples online. Some people really geek out on tracking their maintenance tasks, so if that’s your thing, we salute you, homeowner.
What else do you recommend? Share your fall home maintenance tips below!