5 Ways to Get Your Home Ready for Fall
Check these maintenance projects off your list before winter approaches
Along with colorful leaves and cider donuts, fall brings a unique set of homeowner chores. From fixing the roof to cleaning out the gutters, here’s our list of five fall maintenance projects you should address in autumn — before the cold and snow of winter arrives.
Look for roof leaks
There’s never a good time to discover you have a leaky roof, but fall may be your last chance to correct any problems before your house is blanketed in snow. Look for brown stains on exposed framing or ceilings in the attic or top floor of your home. Sagging drywall or separating plaster in a finished attic or top floor can also indicate a problem.
If you find evidence of leaks, the Department of Energy suggests renting a moisture meter from a home improvement center to scope out the extent of the damage. Wood framing like roof trusses should have a moisture content below 20 percent, while drywall and plaster should be at 2 percent or less. If the moisture meter confirms a leak, contact a licensed roofing contractor to assess and fix the problem, well ahead of the first snowfall of the season.
Protect your pipes
Tend to pipes and plumbing fixtures at risk of freezing. The Red Cross identifies exterior fixtures like hose bibs, sprinklers and pool supply lines as the culprits behind the majority of burst pipes.
Start by shutting off interior valves that supply water to these fixtures, then open the bib to drain out any residual water. Leaving bibs open over the winter ensures that if any residual water in the lines does freeze, it will be able to escape once it thaws. Inside the house, look for exposed pipes installed along exterior walls or in unheated basements or attics. Consider covering them with insulating pipe sleeves.
If access to the pipes is blocked, the Red Cross advises installing UL-listed heat tape or cable, which gently applies enough heat to prevent freezing without significantly impacting water temperature.
Related: Preventing and Thawing Frozen Pipes
Swap out your thermostat
Replacing your old dial thermostat with a programmable model ensures you’re getting a more accurate reading and lets you schedule the heat to kick in only when people are home. Most newer options allow you to set specific cycles for each day of the week, so you can time the heat to turn on before your family wakes up or shortly before you get home from work.
Setting the thermostat to dial back the house temperature overnight can help you save 5 to 15 percent on your heating bill.
Perform an energy audit
If you’re perpetually hit with staggering heating bills, a home energy audit is a great way to find leaks, drafts and inefficiencies. The Department of Energy suggests hiring a pro from the Residential Energy Services Network, or following their checklist to perform your own audit.
According to Pennsylvania State University, leaks in walls, windows and doors siphon off as much as 38 percent of the heat in a typical home, making these areas the most important spots to address. Seal windows and doorways with caulk or weather stripping. Install draft guards along the bottom edge of exterior doors, and caulk openings for pipes, vents or electric lines to prevent cold air from entering.
Get your gutters ready
The U.S. General Services Administration recommends cleaning leaves out of your gutters every week in the fall. Remove leaves and large debris, and look for moss or lichen. You can kill most vegetation with a 50/50 mixture of bleach and water, but keep in mind that growth in gutter pipes can indicate they’re not properly pitched toward downspouts. Also look for corrosion around nails that secure gutters to the roof.
Downspouts should be equipped with wire strainers to filter out large debris and leaves. Any obvious problems like loose pipe or missing hardware should be fixed immediately. If you’re uncomfortable performing the work yourself, consider hiring a licensed roofing contractor.