How to Prep Your Home for Fall
After months of triple-digit temperatures and just about zero rainfall, the turning of the seasons is a welcome change. Summer is making way for autumn, meaning cooler weather, dropping leaves and — hopefully — a few wet winter storms to help curb the drought here in Northern California.
With the carefree days of summer having ended, it’s time to start thinking about the months ahead, especially when it comes to your home. Basic home maintenance tends to fall by the wayside when we’re busy with backyard barbecues, pool parties and summer vacations. But now that the kids are back in school and it’s back to our routines, it’s a good idea to give our homes a bit of TLC.
Of particular importance is prepping your home for fall. Taking a few precautions and tackling a few easy DIY home maintenance projects can not only help you avoid costly repairs down the road, it can also keep you safe and save you money as well. Following are some of the top ways to prep your home for fall.
Inspect Your Roof
It’s strange to imagine that the only thing protecting you (and your belongings) from the elements is a sheet of wood and some shingles. While most roofs are made to last at least 20 years or more, they do require upkeep. Prior to the start of rainy season, homeowners should check for any damaged or missing shingles and replace if necessary. It’s also a good idea to look for areas where water can pool, or for holes or gaps where water (and critters) can access attic space.
Clean Your Gutters
While you’re up on a ladder, it’s also a good idea to inspect your gutters and clean them out if needed. It may be early in the season, but leaves have begun to drop in some areas around Sacramento, especially at higher elevations. It’s also possible your gutters may contain dried twigs, animal nests, silt, even broken bits of shingles or kid’s toys. Clean them out now and give them a running start in protecting your home from water damage, and consider installing gutter guards to prevent buildup in the first place.
Check Your Fireplace & Chimney
If your home has a fireplace, autumn is the time to make sure it’s in good working order and is safe to use. First, check the chimney for leaves, nests, feathers or other debris. If you don’t already have one, consider installing a chimney cap. Back inside, check the firebox for cracks or damage, and make sure the damper opens and closes with ease. Inspect the flue from both the top and bottom (if possible) and look for signs of damage. If anything appears out of order, call in a professional to inspect and, if needed, hire a chimney sweep.
Inspect Your Furnace
It’s also wise to inspect your furnace ahead of the chilly weather. Not only does this ensure your system is working at its maximum efficiency, it can save you hundreds in utility bills (and avoid pricey emergency service calls). It’s recommended to hire a pro for a thorough inspection, but if you’re somewhat handy you can inspect the furnace yourself by having a look at the burner flames, vacuuming the blower cavity, and brushing the blower blades. Changing the furnace filter is an easy DIY that should be done at least every three months, if not more.
Check for Air Leaks
Drafts aren’t just uncomfortable, they’re also expensive! In fact, homeowners can save as much as 30 percent on their energy bills just by eliminating air leaks. Sealing gaps around windows, doors and fireplaces is a good start, as is sealing ducts and adding weather stripping. To check for leaks, you can hold a lighted candle where potential leaks may hide, such as electrical outlets, fixtures and door and window jams, and see if the flame flickers. You can also pick up an air leak detector from a hardware store, or hire a professional technician to perform a blower test or an energy audit.
Store Your Outdoor Furniture
The greater Sacramento area has mild winters, and it’s not unheard of for locals to enjoy their outdoor spaces well into November. As long as conditions are dry, it’s perfectly fine to keep outdoor furniture, well, outdoors. However, once the rains come it’s best to store them to avoid water damage. Even an increase in air moisture can lead to mold and mildew on soft cushions, so storing them in a shed or sealed bag (or covering them with furniture covers) is a necessity to keep them looking new come spring.
Fertilize Your Lawn
The best time to fertilize your lawn is right before winter hits. Come fall, grass is recovering from a long summer, in which water sources were scarce. A nitrogen-heavy fertilizer is especially helpful in the fall, as it will help encourage blade growth. It’s recommended to use a spreader, not just your hands, to ensure even coverage.