Fall is a good time to take care of big home repair projects before shorter days (and in many areas, ice and snow) make outdoor work too difficult. And if you do live in an area with cold winters, take some time this fall to boost energy efficiency throughout your home and prevent damage from winter storms with proper tree care. (We spoke with an expert to find out what you need to do.) Tick these items off your list this season, and you can rest easy knowing that your home and yard are buttoned up and ready for winter.
Tasks to Check Off Your List in an Hour or Less
Stock up on winter supplies. If you live in a region with cold, snowy winters, fall is the time to prepare.
Check the condition of snow shovels and ice scrapers; replace as needed.
Pick up a bag of pet- and plant-safe ice melt, if needed.
Restock emergency kits for car and home.
If you use a snow blower, have it serviced and purchase fuel.
Shut off exterior faucets and store hoses. Protect your pipes from freezing temperatures by shutting off water to exterior faucets before the weather dips below freezing. Drain hoses and store them indoors. Drain and winterize irrigation system, if using.
Check walkways, railings, stairs and the driveway for winter safety. When the landscape is covered in ice and snow, just walking from the driveway to the front door can be a challenge.
Make navigating around your home safer by checking that all stairs are in good shape and have sturdy railings, and that the driveway is in good repair to make for easier shoveling.
Test outdoor lights and replace bulbs as needed. As the days get shorter we rely more on exterior lighting, both for safety and ambiance. Test lights on the front and back porch, on the garage and in the landscape, and replace bulbs as needed.
Check safety devices.
Test smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors; replace batteries as needed.
Check the expiration date on your fire extinguisher and replace if needed.
If you haven’t checked your home for radon, fall is a good time to do so — as the weather gets cooler and windows stay shut more often, radon is more likely to become trapped in your home.
Radon at high enough levels is extremely harmful, so if you find that your home has radon (a radon level of 4 or above is considered unacceptable by the Environmental Protection Agency), hire a contractor qualified to fix radon issues.
Vacuum radiators, baseboard heaters and grates. Get ready for heating season by clearing away dust and grime from radiators, baseboard heaters and heating grates. If your radiators have removable covers, take them off and vacuum beneath the cover before replacing.
Remove window A/C units. If you use window air conditioning units in the summer, remove them before the weather turns cold. If you must leave in window A/C units, cover the exterior of the unit with an insulating wrap to keep cold air out.
Tackle These To-Dos Over a Weekend
Rake leaves. Leaves look beautiful blanketing the ground, but leaving too many leaves on a lawn over winter in a snowy area can inhibit spring growth. To make the job easier, choose a lightweight rake, wear gloves to protect your hands and use handheld “leaf scoops” to bag leaves quickly.
Seal gaps where critters could enter. Mice need only a tiny gap to be able to sneak into your house and raid your pantry. And with colder weather coming, all of the little critters out there will be looking for warm places to make a home. Fill small holes and cover any larger gaps securely with heavy-duty hardware cloth to keep the wildlife outdoor.
Clean dryer vents. Lint buildup in dryer vents can make your dryer work less efficiently and even cause a fire — cool, dry fall weather increases static electricity, which can ignite lint that has built up, so now is a key time to get that lint out. You can hire a duct cleaning specialist to clean the vents for you, or clean the vent yourself. If you decide to do it yourself.
Make exterior repairs. Take a walk around your property, looking for signs of damage to the roof, siding and foundation. If you spot anything that needs repair, schedule it before winter weather hits.
Clean gutters and downspouts. Once most of the leaves have fallen, clean out gutters and downspouts (hire a helper if you are not comfortable on a ladder). Clogged gutters during rainstorms can cause water to pool and damage your roof or siding.
Schedule a chimney cleaning and heating system maintenance. Making sure your chimney and furnace or boiler are cleaned, maintained and in working order before you need to turn on the heat is an important safety measure. And be sure to add a chimney cap if you don’t already have one — it will stop critters from crawling down your chimney!