You’ve got your own piece of the American Dream. It’s a place to come home and relax. It’s a roof over your family’s head. It’s an expression of the things that are most important to you. It’s freedom to live life on your own terms. Your home is a huge investment — an investment you’ll want to protect for the long haul.
The key to a happy and healthy home is consistent maintenance. Completing a few seasonal chores can help you extend the life span of your home while also cutting down on repair and renovation costs. It’s a great feeling to take care of your house. That’s how it truly becomes a home you can be proud of.
Want to make sure you’re keeping your home in tiptop condition? Then don’t skip these seven must-do fall maintenance tasks:
Check for (and seal) air leaks around windows and doors. Leaks in these areas can make it hard to control your home’s climate and, as winter approaches, that could mean sky-high heating and gas bills. It could also make your home pretty uncomfortable year-round. Inspect doors and windows to verify proper operation, security and weather resistance. Clean tracks of windows and sliding glass doors before applying silicone lubricant.
Clean out the gutters. When gutters get clogged with leaves and debris, water can’t drain properly. This might lead to standing water on your roof or eaves, which can cause significant and costly damage over time. Hire a gutter cleaning service or use a ladder to inspect yourself. Leaves and debris will accumulate in the gutters as the seasons change. If you inspect it yourself, carefully climb up to the gutter and scoop out leaves and debris with a small hand shovel. When on the ground, inspect gutters from underneath and look for leaks, rust spots or holes -caulk as necessary.
Inspect your roof & chimney. At the very least, your roof needs an annual inspection. For roofs, visually inspect all surfaces from the ground if possible. Look for tom, broken, missing or cracked shingles or tiles, accumulated debris, gaps in flashing, exposed joints, and obstructed vent pipes. Avoid walking on roof tiles - they will crack. Shingle granule deposits found in gutters are normal and common to new roofs. Check that sealed joints around skylight frames are not cracked and in good condition. Look in attic for water stains on underside of roof or wet insulation.
For chimneys, look for open gaps between the house and chimney, cracks in mortar or stucco and minor settlement. Seal gaps with an appropriate caulk and repaint to match as required. Consult with a mason to repoint or repair mortar and stucco. Never burn pressure-treated wood, Christmas trees, plastic or flammable liquids in the fireplace. Keep flue dosed when not in use to reduce cooling and heating losses. Clean chimney flue once a year by removing ashes as necessary and storing in a metal container to reduce tire risk.
Inspect your attic. Prior to entering the attic, purchase a paper filter mask from your local hardware store to avoid lung irritation from possible airborne insulation fibers. Check that all air vents are unobstructed and intact. Make sure there are no animals nesting in the insulation. If you walk around, be careful not to step on the drywall ceiling below, and watch out for nails sticking through the roof.
Check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. These vital safety devices should always be in good working condition. Check operation by pushing test button or put them in test mode and make sure they’re all functioning properly. Check and replace battery if necessary. Batteries will usually need to be replaced every six months to a year.
Have your heating system inspected. For a heat pump or a natural gas furnace, turn on the system. Heat pumps should not be operated unless outside air temperature is below 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Set thermostat at desired temperature. If the system does not operate, check to see that thermostat is set to “HEAT” setting. Verify that breakers are in the “ON” position. If any breakers relating to the fan or compressor are tripped, switch them to the “OFF” position then to the “ON” position. Otherwise, consult with a qualified HVAC contractor for assistance as necessary. If you have natural gas heat and smell a strong odor of gas, leave the home immediately and call the gas company from a neighbors house. Do not turn on lights or use the telephone.
Make sure the fresh air duct near a natural gas unit is open and unobstructed. Occasionally, heat pumps will activate a defrost cycle which will melt ice buildup on the internal coils of the outside unit. When this occurs, steam will be seen rising from the unit. This is normal and not cause for concern. Consider installing ceiling fans where desirable. They help with air circulation and enable the system to operate more efficiently. Make sure all heating and return air vents are clean, clear and unobstructed.
Check the filter regularly on any heating or cooling system. Dirty filters result in reduced efficiency and higher operating cost. If your system has a disposable filter, you should replace it at least every other month during the heating season (all year if you have air conditioning). Periods of heavy use, high traffic in and out of the home, or other environmental conditions may necessitate more frequent replacement. Verify that the filter arrow points in the direction of air flow. Permanent filters may be vacuumed or tapped to loosen dirt, then washed with warm water or mild detergent. Have unit serviced once a year.
Check Condition of Siding, Paint, Masonry, Stucco, or Eifs (Exterior Insulation Finishing System) & Wood Trim. Perform a walk-around inspection of the perimeter walls. Over time normal weathering and minor settlement can cause cracking, peeling, warping and crumbling in some or all of these materials. Look for cracks in brick, stone and stucco. Identify any areas where mortar has fallen out. A white powdery substance known as efflorescence may appear from time to time and is considered normal Check for warped siding, gaps in wood trim and peeling or blistering paint. Sand, scrape, wire-brush, caulk, stain, repaint and apply wood preservatives where necessary. Consult with a mason, as necessary, to repair cracked brick or mortar and traditional stucco problems. Contact a qualified contractor familiar with the manufacturer’s specifications of repair for homes clad with an Exterior Insulated Finish System (EFIS). Consult with a siding contractor, as necessary, to repair warped siding.
It won’t take long to check these tasks off your list, and the payoff is well worth the effort.