Ahhh, fall is finally here! The leaves are changing, there’s a crisp coolness in the air, and our favorite pumpkin-flavored treats line store shelves once more. Decorating and meal-prepping might be the first things on your mind when it comes to preparing your home for the colder months — but the National Weather Service is predicting strong winter storms that could affect homeowners across the country this year.
Here are 8 important fall maintenance tips that can make all the difference once winter’s first freeze hits.
1. Clear out your gutters
All those colorful leaves falling from the trees sure are pretty — but they also pile up pretty quickly in your home’s gutters.
Excess debris can lead to clogs (or ice dams in wintery conditions), which can prevent gutters from draining properly. In turn, there’s a chance water could seep into your home since it has nowhere else to escape to, causing a multitude of issues like damage to your valuables, mold growth, and even structural rot.
Before winter hits, clear your house’s gutters of leaves and any other debris that might’ve accumulated during the summer months. It also helps to run water through the gutters afterward to check for any leaks or misalignments that could damage your home.
2. Inspect for air leaks
Things like damaged weather stripping and small cracks in your home’s structure allow warm air to escape, causing your heater to go into overdrive to keep your place warm.
The solution to your chilly house and high utility bills is pretty simple: before it gets wintery outside, inspect your home’s windows, doorways, and any other places where air might be able to enter or exit.
You can use caulking to stop leaks in the stationary components of your home (like a crack in your doorframe) and weather stripping to insulate the moving components (like windows and doors).
3. Have your heating system checked
Home just doesn’t feel like home if a malfunctioning heater is leaving you with the chills. And in parts of the country with freezing temps, it can be a much more serious situation.
That’s why it’s wise to have a licensed contractor come out to inspect your heater at least once a year, especially before the weather outside becomes frightful.
4. Prepare your pipes
Get to know where the pipelines in your house are located and make sure to inspect them every autumn (at least).
Simply patch any small leaks with heat tape to help reduce weaknesses that might cause the pipe to burst in freezing weather. And you can further protect any exposed outdoor pipes by insulating them with foam or rubber pipe wraps, which can be found at your local hardware store.
For larger leaks or pipeline problems, it’s always a good idea to play it safe and call the pros.
5. Drain any outside faucets and irrigation systems
Speaking of bursting pipes, it’s important to pay attention to the water systems immediately outside your place too. Undrained water in outdoor faucets and irrigation systems can expand when frozen and cause a pipe to burst.
Draining faucets is simple enough: just pack away your garden hoses in the garage for the winter and let out any remaining water — easy as that!
Irrigation systems, on the other hand, often vary in the way they should be maintained. It’s best to call a professional who has experience with underground water systems, just to cover all your bases.
6. Have your roof inspected
For your safety, a full-blown roof inspection should be done professionally. The cost to hire an inspector can be as low as a little over $200 and can prevent seriously hefty repair expenses down the line if a winter storm wreaks havoc on your roof and you don’t have sufficient insurance coverage to cover repair costs.
Reinforcing your roof now can help you avoid a whole host of hazards, like air and water leaks, water damage, mold, and more — all of which could put a damper on your seasonal festivities (and your wallet).
7. Restock cold-weather home essentials
Key items like rock salt or kitty litter, snow shovels, space heaters, extra batteries, and heated blankets can help make your home both more functional and comfortable during wintertime. Stock up on these helpful winter wares ahead of time to help avoid any extra hassle or stress come holiday season.
8. Take a peek at your homeowners insurance
Believe it or not, your homeowners policy could come to the rescue for a whole host of cold-weather mishaps.
Whether a hailstorm leaves holes in your roof, a vandal breaks into your home and destroys valuables while you’re out holiday shopping, or the weight of snow and ice results in structural damage to your house, homeowners insurance could help pay to repair or replace your losses.