A family sitting on their porch with a pumpkin, two parents and two kids. They are thinking through their fall home maintenance list to get ready for the change in seasons.
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Fall Home Maintenance: Make Your Home Last Longer and Perform Better

Steve Hansen
September 27, 2023

Fall Home Maintenance: Make Your Home Last Longer and Perform Better

After summer’s heat and frequent crazy weather across the country, autumn can’t get here too soon. Maybe we can experience mild weather for at least a couple of months before winter takes over!

That would give us a couple of months to handle some home maintenance tasks, as well. Most of these are tasks that you should do once or twice a year to make sure all your home’s components are working properly, as well as look over the general condition of the paint, roof, driveway, and so on. It’s helpful to break these down into inside, outside, and professional tasks.

Tasks for Professionals

Going into the heating season, it’s a good time to call a professional to look over your HVAC system. Whether you have a forced air furnace, heat pump, or a boiler system, those machines require regular inspections to make sure they’re working optimally. If they’re not, you could be wasting money.

For a boiler system with radiators, it’s great to know that the boiler, thermostat, and all radiators are in good working order and ready to keep you cozy over the winter. You really don’t want your system to be strained or fail during a winter storm or unusual cold snap when service calls might take days.

For forced air systems, they need a regular checkup to make sure that combustion is happening efficiently, and that the blower motor that pushes hot air into the ductwork is working properly. The blower motor should last as long as your furnace, but they do fail earlier sometimes. Usually, that’s during a cold spell in the winter, leaving you with no heat.

You can also have the service tech inspect your home’s ductwork. Keeping the ductwork clean increases the efficiency of your entire HVAC system and also lessens the amount of dust, allergens, and mold blowing around in your home. If anyone in your home frequently feels the effects of allergies, it’s a good idea to check out the condition of the ductwork.

A contractor works on duct work in an attic
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Another pro job is cleaning the chimney, if you have one. Yes, you can go to the home center and get a special brush to clean out the chimney, but this is only half the job, at best. A thorough job involves getting up on the roof and inspecting the condition of the chimney. Do you see any cracks? If so, those will need to be repaired straight away. How about the chimney cap? Is it in good condition and doing its job of keeping rain and snow from coming down the chimney? Finally, a pro will check the operation of the damper to make sure it opens fully and closes tightly so your heated air is not going up the chimney.

Exterior Tasks

As a homeowner, there’s no substitute for periodic inspections, except maybe for just always keeping a watchful eye on things. Walking around your home and looking over everything is what this task is all about. You’re looking for:

  • Peeling paint.
  • Cracks in the foundation.
  • Gaps in the caulking and flashing around doors and windows.
  • Gaps around penetrations like HVAC pipes and vents.
  • Window wells full of leaves and debris.
  • Roof condition: if you’re comfortable climbing a ladder and getting up on the roof, it’s good to have a look up close. However, if you have a clay tile roof, you should not walk on it. Leave that to professionals. If your asphalt shingle roof is more than 10 years old, or has recently been through a heavy hailstorm, it would be a great idea to have a professional inspect it for damage and/or wear.

Next, it’s time to act on what you found. Get out the caulk and seal those gaps. Make sure to use the right caulk for the job, too, as you’ll find dozens of varieties made for different tasks and surfaces. Ask for help at the home center or hardware store if you’re unsure.

A person cleaning out rain gutters that are filled with fall leaves
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Clean out the gutters and window wells when the leaves are done falling. If you have window AC units, pull them out and store them, or cover them so they don’t let drafts into the house.

Interior Tasks

Yes, most of these are pretty mundane—if you’re lucky! The whole point is to take care of small tasks regularly so you rarely need to handle—or pay for—big tasks.

  • Drain your water heater once a year. You’re draining off some sediment, which will help the unit last longer.
  • Check the dryer vent and clean out as necessary.
  • Replace the furnace filter regularly.
  • Check door weatherstripping and replace if necessary.
  • Check the attic insulation and ventilation to make sure the vents are not covered by insulation.
A beautiful patio with trees in the backyard that are orange and yellow for autumn
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Landscape Tasks

Autumn is often cleanup time for our landscapes, but you can still make some improvements, as well. Many people are surprised that early- to mid-autumn is a great time to plant shrubs and trees. The air temperature has cooled down, but the soil is still somewhat warm. How late is too late? Your best bet is to ask a master gardener or the extension service in your area for guidance. But compared to spring, with its cold, moist soil, planting in the fall can make for a lovely day! (It could even be time to start on your drought-tolerant garden!)

 A little girl helping with fall home maintenance by raking leaves
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Another smart autumn task is installing tree guards, sometimes called bark guards, on your deciduous trees. Thin-barked trees like maples and lindens, for example, often show cracking on the south side of the trunk during the winter. A white plastic tree guard that has an inch or more of extra space from the tree itself will solve this problem. Do not use tree wrap, as that traps moisture right on the bark.

As always, keep watering, especially for your trees. As our weather has changed in recent years, we’ve seen some very dry winters that have stressed many plants. When they go into winter fully hydrated, though, they’re much better able to survive whatever comes their way.

Your lawn, also, will look better next spring if it’s fully hydrated this fall, so keep on watering. A fertilizer treatment is also a secret weapon for lovely spring growth in your lawn.

Finally, if you have an irrigation system, you probably already have your winterization date in mind, or your service tech handles this automatically for you. Whatever works best for you, as long as it gets done, so you don’t face repairs in the spring.

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