Fall Home Maintenance Checklist
Ready your home for the coming cold of winter. This checklist prepares the house for the freezing temperatures by taking a look at the heating systems, water systems, and energy efficiency. Depending on your systems and climate, some tasks may be more important while others are not applicable at all. Try to focus on what is relevant to you and how it affects your home.
Fireplace Inspection and Cleaning
Before entering into the colder months, verify that the fireplace is clean and clear of debris. Buildup of creosote is a recipe for disaster. Over time creosote is layered onto the walls of the chimney from smoke. It happens to be a highly combustible material and can start a chimney fire with the right spark. Many smaller chimney fires happen without the homeowner even realizing it.
Wood burning fireplaces should have a professional sweep once a year. Gas fireplaces tend to burn much cleaner, but should still be inspected yearly. While on the roof performing the sweep, check the flashing around the brick. Also, look for any cracks in the brick and mortar.
At the fireplace do a quick inspection and cleaning. Look around the hearth and mantle for cracks or smoke marks. Cracks should be repaired by a professional. Smoke marks could indicate blockage in the chimney (e.g. bird’s nest). Clean up the smoke marks with a mixture of vinegar and water.
Window and Door Draft Inspection
A major factor for the house’s heating efficiency is how well it is sealed. The edges of windows and doors are the primary suspects. Inspect the caulking seal around the outside edge of every window for gaps or cracks. Remove the old seal with a putty knife and replace with new caulking. Make sure to fully seal the gap with the caulking because as it dries thin application could crack.
Around doors inspect the weatherstripping. Replace any damaged areas with new material. Weatherstripping is cheap so don’t be afraid to replace the whole seal. Also, run your hand along the edge of the door and feel for drafts. If the weatherstripping is in good shape and there is still a draft, there might not be enough material to bridge the gap. It is possible to layer the strips on top of each other to seal larger gaps.
Winterize Water Systems
Winterizing water systems is one of the most important tasks to add to a home maintenance calendar, if applicable. Not all homes are in an area that requires winterization. Or some areas only require it for the sprinkler system but not faucets. Sprinkler systems and pools are two systems that should be winterized for any area where the temperature hovers near freezing or lower.
For the sprinkler system turn off the automatic timers, open the pressure valves, and drain out water from any sections that are susceptible to freezing. Most often the pressure vacuum breaker is caught by a freeze and breaks. This component prevents water from entering the water supply and causing contamination. It is above ground and any plastic parts inside the metal housing are susceptible. Luckily, this part is easy to drain by shutting off the water supply and opening little valves on the side.
Pools are a little more work and a lot of people opt to have professionals handle it. The general outline is balancing the chemicals, removing loose or moving parts, lowering the water level, and draining the pumping system. The pumping system might not have to be drained but pool antifreeze (not to be confused with the stuff for a car!) should be added to the water. Also, many homeowners will add algaecide to help keep the pool clean.
Any homes in mild climates shouldn’t have to winterize faucets, but for homes in a colder region this is a must. The water supply should be shut off to start. Then pull off any attachments or vacuum breakers. Open up drain valves and leave the faucet in the open position for the winter.
Furnace Inspection and Filter Replacement
One of the most important tasks for a fall house maintenance checklist is the furnace servicing. It is generally best to have a professional service this system. The blower motor will need to be lubricated. Then the burners, sensor, and pilot should be cleaned. Most importantly, a professional with check for potential carbon monoxide leaks.
To help keep the furnace clean between servicings, change the air filters every 2-3 months. Both the heating and cooling systems utilize the air filters so this will be a year-round task. Luckily, it is an easy DIY job and cheap.