Your fall home maintenance checklist: Simple seasonal tasks to check off BEFORE winter

October 14, 2020

Don't wait for winter - knock out your fall home maintenance checklist today!

A man raking fall leaves as part of a fall home maintenance checklist

Fall in Texas can bring a variety of different unpredictable weather scenarios. It may be sunny and 90 outside one day, and then a front blows through with frigid air and cold rain the next. That's why it's important to take advantage of the more mild spells and begin to prepare your home for the colder ones. But sometimes, the hardest part is knowing where to start. That's why we've put together a checklist! So don't wait for winter - check off these tasks from your fall home maintenance checklist today!

Fall maintenance tasks to do around the house

❒ Gutters and roofing. When we think of fall, images of beautiful leaves of red, orange, and gold falling to the ground come to mind. It makes for a lovely display, but those leaves have to fall somewhere, and that somewhere is often your roof and gutters. 

When extra leaves and sticks gather in your gutters and drains, it disrupts the flow of water and can possibly cause it to leak through your roof. This is especially true in the winter where wet leaves can become frozen blocks of ice. When the leaves remain dry, they create perfect tinder bundles, which can ignite should a wayward ember find its way to them. Of course, wildfires aren't always as common during the fall months, but there are plenty of other sources of fire, such burn piles, or even chimneys.

That's why one of the first things you should put at the top of your fall home maintenance checklist is gutter cleaning! Of course, depending on how many trees you have near your house, this might be something you'll have to do periodically throughout the fall.

While you're cleaning the gutters, this could also be a good time to inspect your roof for the more obvious signs of damage, such as loose shingles broken by the hail from spring and summer storms. Of course, this can be dangerous, and you may not be able to spot more subtle flaws, so you may want to consider having it inspected by a professional. 
❒ Clean the chimney. In the earlier weeks and months of fall, you may not need your fireplace to heat your home just yet.  However, the cold can creep up on us and it's best to be prepared before the front blows in.

When you use your fireplace regularly, the inside of your chimney can accumulate a tar-like substance from the smoke, called creosote. Too much of this can clog your chimney, causing smoke to billow back into your house. Perhaps more importantly, creosote is incredibly flammable, making large accumulations of it a huge fire hazard.  

To make sure your fireplace is ready for that first fire, it's important to have your chimney professionally cleaned and inspected. It is recommended that this is done at least once a year, so it makes sense to take care of this in the fall before regular use begins. 

❒ Check weather-stripping. Fall in Texas can bring bouts of strong winds and icy rain, and any gaps beneath or around your doors and windows can be a problem. While the weather is still mild, take the time to check the weather stripping beneath your doors, windows, and even your garage door in order to check for degrading rubber and caulk.

If any of it appears to be broken or compromised, you can easily replace these with materials from your local hardware store. Not only will this prevent rain and cold drafts from finding their way into your home, they can prevent heat from escaping. 

❒ Check your foundation. During the summer months, hot and dry weather periods can cause the soil around your home to shrink. Because fall can often bring wet weather, that soil will likely expand once water is reintroduced. Furthermore, if the temperature drops too much, the water in the soil can freeze and expand.

This slow but steady process can often cause foundation settling, which leads to cracks in the concrete and potentially the rest of your house too. Before the weather becomes too cold, fall may present a good opportunity to walk around your house to inspect for signs of damage. 

Look for gaps and cracks between masonry, siding, and places where utilities enter the house. If you find them, sealing them with caulk can prevent warm air from escaping and stops water and cold air from entering. Of course, this is only temporarily treating the symptoms, and you'll want to consult a professional to see the true extent of the damage.  

❒ Check your heating system. Although a nice fireplace is a great way to provide some heat during the colder fall months and into the winter, most of us still rely on a central heating system for warmth. Just as it is important to inspect your AC system to save on cooling costs in the summer, it's important to check your HVAC system for heating efficiency in the fall.

Of course, your checklist will depend on exactly what type of heating system you have. However, most homes in Texas have a furnace component to your HVAC system, which uses gas or electricity to provide heat and use the same ducts and vents as your AC. 

To make sure your furnace operates efficiently, you'll want to ensure that the airflow in your home is adequate. Ideally, you should replace or clean your air filter once every 90 days, but it can't hurt to do so at the beginning of fall. Check the vents in each room in order to make sure they aren't obstructed and dust them if necessary. 

If you have the equipment, you can attempt to vacuum your air ducts. However, this usually requires a powerful vacuum with a long hose attachment. Don't worry if you don't have the equipment - a professional HVAC service should.

You can certainly perform some of these maintenance tasks on your own, but you may find that it is worth it to have an HVAC service come and inspect your system. They can usually measure the airflow and correct issues they find. Furthermore, they can inspect the heating elements, such as the gas burners, for safety and performance.

While you can have this done at any point in the year, fall is the perfect time to do so. As you probably know, the attic of your home can be sweltering in the summer, making it difficult to perform work there for long. 

Lastly, if you make use of small space heaters for warmth during the fall and winter months, consider taking them out of storage for a brief inspection. If they're frequently used or in storage for a while, they can quickly gather dust and hair, which makes them far less effective, and potentially dangerous. 

Fall maintenance tasks to do in your yard

❒ Trim trees and shrubs. Trimming trees is a little more complicated than simply lopping off limbs any time of the year. Like many animals, trees begin to wind down as the weather changes in the fall, slowing their internal processes to prepare for the cold of winter. It is during this time that they are actually better-suited to mend the cuts made during trimming. Pruning trees during the fall not only encourages better growth in the spring, it can help prevent strong winds and ice from breaking branches near electrical lines or near your roof. 

Furthermore, some trees become far more vulnerable to insects and disease when their limbs are cut during warmer seasons. This is especially true for oaks, which are often susceptible to a fungal disease known as oak wilt. During the months of February to July, known as "oak wilt season," open wounds attract insects carrying this harmful fungus, which can kill the tree and possibly the trees surrounding it. Oak wilt is considered an epidemic in Texas, which means it is especially important to limit trimming to the fall. 

❒ Rake leaves and twigs. For most people, when we think of our fall home maintenance checklist, raking leaves is likely the first thing that comes to mind. As previously mentioned, many of the falling leaves accumulate on your roof and in your gutters, but the rest are scattered across your yard! While this can often be a picturesque sight, if they are left on your lawn for too long, they can starve it of light and cause it to die. 

With that in mind, there's only one thing to do: Get the rake! While the process of raking leaves in your yard seems like a given when it comes to fall maintenance and yard work, what isn't so obvious is what to do with them afterwards. Many communities offer special trash pickup days where they will collect extra bags of leaves and lawn refuse, but there are often better options available apart from sending it to a landfill. 

In fact, piles of fallen leaves, small sticks, and lawn clippings are perfect for composting! By creating a place for all of this organic waste to decompose, you can clean up your yard and make some nutritious fertilizer for a spring garden.  

❒ Fertilize lawn. While the grass blades in your yard may slow growth during the fall, their roots begin to grow deeper in order to help them survive the winter cold and bounce back in the spring. To help your grass during this process and promote a healthy yard the following year, fall is a perfect time to fertilize.

❒ Disconnected unused hoses. Fall may be too early to begin completely winterizing your home but depending on where you live, the autumn months can bring some seriously cold spells. Instead of going through the full winterization process, you can give your future self a little help by disconnecting and draining exterior garden hoses that you probably won't need anymore. If you have faucets further away from the house, like on a separate shop or shed, you can go ahead and put faucet coverings on them if you don't think you'll need them. 

❒ Chop firewood. If you have larger dead limbs or trees that you're clearing, those won't do for a compost; they take far too long to decompose and may throw off the balance. However, they are perfect for your fireplace! No one wants to go out in the cold to chop firewood, so stack some up before you actually need it! 

They say, "make hay while the sun shines," but that's solid advice even if you don't have hay to bale. Before the chilly part of fall sets in and gives way to the downright cold of winter, take advantage of the time you have and start checking off your fall home maintenance checklist today!

Fall leaves on a home's roof shingles

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Read more: Changing a flat in the cold isn't fun, either! Now is the perfect time to take care of essential tire maintenance - read our blog to learn more!

by Geoff Ullrich

About the Author

Geoff Ullrich is a writer and Content Marketing Strategist at Germania Insurance.

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