Animals secure nests and hunker down for winter, and it’s no exception for us human beings. While there is a bit of a checklist, it will give you such peace of mind if you live where winter months mean cold, rain, snow and ice. But even if you live where it stays warm (in fact, the weather is conducive!), doing seasonal maintenance prevents repairs, some of which can be costly.
The two biggest things to prevent: water damage and fire. Attention to safety matters is key during the time of year when everything is drier and we tend to use space heaters, candles, fires, etc.
There are things you can do yourself, and things that are just too important to not hire a professional, like checking your chimney. A great tool is Home Advisor’s True Cost Guide: Put in your location and the job you need done and it will give you a high and low end estimate for your location, and can help you find the pro you need. Look for a double asterisk by the ones that should probably be done by a pro.
Gutters/Downspouts – clear out debris that may block your water flow and cause back up – or freeze over. You want to do everything you can to avoid water damage in the house, especially if you
Roof damage** – repair any damage where shingles are coming off or missing. You may want to hire a pro for this because water is causes so much damage it’s hard to believe. This goes a long way toward preventing that.
Chimney** – Never hurts to have the chimney cleaned for grease and build up to prevent chimney fires, inspected for cracks in the lining.
Pipes — Wrap those that are exposed and are on exterior walls (or outside) can freeze. You will be so glad you did. A pipe that explodes causes mega-damage and bills equal to the headache!
Furnace **–While you’re at it, have it inspected – last thing you want is for this to malfunction during a storm when repair guys can’t get to you.
Filters –Change out both heating and AC (especially good if you have pets). Proper air flow helps both work better and prevents fires, as well as keeps circulating air cleaner. Extra good if people have allergies.
Smoke detectors/Carbon Monoxide detectors –Test all, put in fresh batteries, add any where a need has arisen since last time. Check expiration dates on your fire extinguishers, and if refilling is needed, call your fire department, who often does this on site gratis. Don’t have them? GET THEM! You should at least have two around the house – one easily reachable in the kitchen. And take 3 minutes to familiarize everyone with how to actually use them!
Insulation — If yours is water damaged, moldy, damp, or shredded in places? It can not only cause you to lose heat (which shows up in the monthly bill), but become a nesting place for critters, and even increase respiratory problems for allergic folks in the house. Repair/replacement can be done by you or by pros and there’s lots to know. Check out what This Old House has to say.
Weather stripping –Seals to all the doors – from sliders to the garage – should be strong and free of cracks so it can properly seal and keep out inclement weather. Check too that the surfaces it meets are in good shape. Even a good seal won’t work if they are not. Seal windows and doors with plastic. Or apply caulk (very few years) where there are cracks. Both are easy to DIY and cost very little.
Pest control** — Critters seek warmth as temps outdoors dive so plug any obvious holes with steel wool and foam and if you’ve had rodent problems, call a professional!
Supplies –Buy de-icers, roof rakes, shovels, batteries, extension cords,snow blowers and scrapers for your car now, before the stores are out.
LAWN and GARDEN
Weeding and Mulching — You can let weeding go as things die off, but it pays to keep on them before they flower and seeds spread everywhere –and sprout in spring! Pinch dead flower heads at least. Mulching is more cosmetic in the fall, where in spring they dually function to suppress weeds. It’s personal preference.
Water sources –Drain hoses, wrap neatly and store, shut off all exterior spigots and sprinkler systems.
Leaves – Decay doesn’t make fertilizer. Rake ‘em up into lawn bags and either mulch it, or leave for pick up/take to the dump. Mulch mower helps break them up.
Lawn – Fall is another chance to seed. There’s a temperate window, like in spring, that’s ideal for seeding till the first frost. Be prepared to keep watering it daily. It’s also a great time to fertilize, and, if your soil is acidic, to spread lyme,. There’s a day you’ll cut the grass for last time, and store the mower just like the hoses.
Depending on where you live, cool and warm weather lawns require different care in the fall. Check out this great article by Today’s Homeowner for details.
This is the time to pull up the herbs you’ve been growing all year from your kitchen garden and hang them to dry for use year round.
If your tomato vines are still bearing fruit, keep staking and pruning them until the first hard frost, when they’ll likely die. RE: potatoes and root veggies that are protected by dirt – with rains and cold they can begin to rot so keep an eye on when to pull them all.
The new offshoots that grew your berries will be what produce fruit next season. Clip the ones that bore this year.
Pull everything that has stopped producing out of the ground, instead of leaving them thinking they fertilize the soil.
Bury spent plants in your compost pile; double-bag diseased and infested plants and place in the trash. Recycle your empty mulch bags for this!
Bird lovers can leave seed-bearing spent blooms for them – sunflowers, cone flowers, berries, and black-eyed Susans are great for that.
Stack and cover metal tomato cages. Bundle wooden or bamboo stakes, and store in a dry place so they don’t rot over winter. And retrieve panty-hose vine ties that you can re-use next spring.
Want to dive deeper on this topic? Read more on houselogic.com!
Squirrels store nuts, bears fortify their dens, and we people have our version of the same! Having a year round maintenance list, like this example on Lowes.com, can streamline the process. You don’t always need it all, but doing this each year is a wise investment. Letting things go can end up costing far more time and money. Get the family involved can take the load off, and make it more enjoyable.
Meet Your Contributor:
Rochelle Joseph is a Writer and Image Consultant who has had experience marketing, renting and buying/selling her properties for over 20 years. She has written and edited for several publications, including the Boston Book Review, The Emerson Review, ZooBorns.com, WildLife Magazine, the Houston Zoo, The Wildlife Center of Texas, One Spirit Interfaith Seminary as well as AHRN.com. She currently writes at her great gifts blog at https://lookyhereu.blogspot.com and her animal blog at https://naturegirrrl.blogspot.com.