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October 26, 2018

Around the House Checklist for Fall

By Geoff Ramsey, CRS, GRI
President, Greater Chattanooga REALTORS®

With cooler temperatures, not only is it time to pull out the flannel shirts, but also tackle a few simple household chores to make winter more pleasant and prevent some nasty surprises next spring. Not sure where to start? Here’s a simple checklist from the National Association of REALTORS®:

Clean and stow your mower. your mower sits for months with gas in its tank, the gas will slowly deteriorate, which can damage internal engine parts. Add fuel stabilizer to your gasoline to keep spare gas from degrading and in good condition over the winter. Top off your mower tank with stabilized gas before you put it away for the winter. Run the mower for five minutes to make sure the stabilizer reaches the carburetor.

Remove garden hoses from faucets to prevent water from backing up in the faucets and plumbing pipes just inside your exterior walls. Otherwise, if freezing temps hit, that water could freeze, expand, and crack the faucet or pipes. Make this an early fall priority so a sudden cold snap doesn’t sneak up and cause damage. Turn off any shutoff valves on water supply lines that lead to exterior faucets. That way, you’ll guard against minor leaks that may let water enter the faucet. While you’re at it, drain garden hoses and store them in a shed or garage.

Drain your sprinkler system. Even buried irrigation lines can freeze, leading to busted pipes and broken sprinkler heads. Turn off the water to the system at the main valve. Shut off the automatic controller. Open drain valves to remove water from the system. Remove any above-ground sprinkler heads and shake the water out of them, then replace. If you don’t have drain valves, then hire an irrigation pro to blow out the systems pipes with compressed air. 

Seal air leaks. Grab a couple of tubes of color-matched exterior caulk and make a journey around your home’s exterior, sealing up cracks between trim and siding, around window and door frames, and where pipes and wires enter your house. Preventing moisture from getting inside your walls is one of the least expensive and most important of your fall maintenance jobs. You’ll also seal air leaks that waste energy. 

De-gunk your gutters. After the leaves have fallen, clean your gutters to remove leaves, twigs, and gunk. Make sure gutters aren’t sagging and trapping water; tighten gutter hangers and downspout brackets. Replace any worn or damaged gutters and downspouts. If you find colored grit from asphalt roof shingles in your gutters, beware. That sand-like grit helps protect shingles from the damaging ultraviolet rays of the sun. Look closely for other signs of roof damage and determine whether it’s time for a new roof. Evaluate your downspouts, which should extend at least five feet away from your house to prevent foundation problems. If they don’t, add downspout extensions. 

Eyeball your roof. If you have a steep roof or a multistory house, stay safe and use binoculars to inspect your roof from the ground. Look for warning signs: Shingles that are buckled, cracked, or missing; rust spots on flashing. Any loose, damaged, or missing shingles should be replaced immediately. Black algae stains are just cosmetic, but masses of moss and lichen could signal roofing that’s decayed underneath. Call in a pro roofer for an evaluation. A plumbing vent stack usually is flashed with a rubber collar called a boot that may crack or loosen over time. They’ll wear out before your roof does, so make sure they’re in good shape. 

Direct your drainage. Take a close look at the soil around your foundation and make sure it slopes away from your house at least 6 vertical inches over 10 feet. That way, you’ll keep water from soaking the soils around your foundation, which could lead to cracks and leaks. Be sure soil doesn’t touch your siding.

Check your furnace. Schedule an appointment with a heating and cooling pro to get your heating system checked and tuned up for the coming heating season. An annual maintenance contract ensures you’re at the top of the list for checks and shaves 20% off the cost of a single visit. Change your furnace filters, too. This is a job you should do every two months anyway, but if you haven’t, now’s the time. If your HVAC includes a built-in humidifier, make sure the contractor replaces that filter.

Prune plants. Late fall is the best time to prune plants and trees when the summer growth cycle is over. Your goal is to keep limbs and branches at least 3 feet from your house so moisture won’t drip onto roofing and siding, and to prevent damage to your house exterior during high winds.

Give your fireplace a once-over. To make sure your fireplace is safe, grab a flashlight and look up inside your fireplace flue to make sure the damper opens and closes properly. Open the damper and look up into the flue to make sure it’s free of birds’ nests, branches, and leaves, or other obstructions. You should see daylight at the top of the chimney. Check the firebox for cracked or missing bricks and mortar. If you spot any damage, order a professional fireplace and chimney inspection. Your fireplace flue should be cleaned of creosote buildup every other year.

With these preventative maintenance tips, you can enjoy the fall and winter without stressing about additional repairs when spring arrives. If you need guidance on various providers to help you tackle these chores, contact a REALTOR® for their suggested providers.

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