We’ve had a wonderfully warm summer. But it’ll be over before you know it. And in the Pacific Northwest, you can expect steady, strong winds, and depending on where you live, at least a dusting of snow before next spring.
Fall and winter weather can be tough on your home. There’s no way to predict whether we’ll get a big ice storm, another snowpocalypse, or some strong winds. Be prepared and to stay on top of what you can control to keep your home safe and sound.
That’s why you should work your way through our Fall Home Maintenance Checklist. We’ll give you ideas on how to prepare your home for the winter weather hiding just around the corner. We’ll talk about the steps you can take outside and inside of your home to make sure your home’s ready for the end of summer, even if you’re not.
Most of the damage done to your home during the fall and winter will happen to the exterior of your house. We recommend starting with the outside of your house as you work through our home maintenance checklist..
Early fall before the rain really starts is the perfect time to have your roof inspected. You’ll want to make sure there are no missing or loose shingles, and that there are no potentially leaky areas. Luckily, these are usually relatively easy fixes.
If you discover your roof is in bad shape, however, you may want to consider re-covering– that is roofing over your existing roof. This is quicker and less costly than replacing your entire roof, but there are some downsides. It can be a good idea if you need a new roof quickly to prepare for fall and winter weather.
Also take a close look at any trees hanging over your roof. You might want to have them removed to make sure they won’t fall and cause damage during a winter storm.
Foundation & Masonry
Walk around your home and inspect the foundation for cracks and other problem areas, especially where pipes enter the house. Gaps and cracks can let moisture into your home, resulting in potentially dangerous mold. And if we get a few hard freezes, those tiny cracks can expand as they fill with ice.
Also check around your windows and doors. Do you notice any gaps? If so, that’s where cold air will enter your house, making it harder to stay warm during the winter.
Now’s the perfect time to have any cracks and gaps you find, no matter how small, filled with caulk. You’ll not only make your house more energy-efficient, but you’ll keep little problems from getting out of hand.
Paint & Siding
How’s your house’s paint and siding look? Is it peeling or looking a little rough around the edges? Remember paint isn’t just for looks. It’s protection against water, mold, and rot.
You probably won’t be able to get out and paint once the weather turns cold and rainy, so touch it up now, before it’s too late.
Gutters & Downspouts
Clogged gutters aren’t just messy, they can cause major headaches down the road. Before the trees drop their leaves and add to the mess, make sure your gutters are completely clean and free of clogs.
Check your downspouts, too and make sure they’re connected to your gutters and that all sections are fastened together tightly so water can flow through them easily.
The City of Portland recommends your downspouts extend at least 6 feet away from your walls, especially if you have a basement. Otherwise, you run the risk of excess water pooling around your foundation or finding its way inside your house.
Now’s also a great time to set up a rainwater collection system. You can use 55 gallon drums to collect rainwater you can use to water plants. It’s a clever idea to save some money on your water bill.
Driveway & Garage
If you have a paved driveway, check it for cracks. You’ll want to patch those so water can’t pool and cause bigger cracks and holes to form as it freezes. This is especially true if your driveway is level and doesn’t slope. You might also want to use a pressure washer to remove any built-up mold, which can get really slick when it rains..
And be honest, when’s the last time you thought about everything in your garage? Do you even know what’s in there? Consider talking to your neighbors and organizing a community garage sale or making a trip to donate any items you don’t need to Goodwill.
Lawn, Garden & Yard
If you’ve been tending your garden during the spring and summer, there’s no reason to stop now! Start by harvesting any fruits or veggies left in your garden. If you’re not going to eat them right away, try canning them! It’s surprisingly easy.
Then decide what you’ll be growing during the fall and winter. The Portland Nursery suggests vegetables like:
Those are all great ingredients to throw in hearty winter stew!
While you’re working on your garden, make sure to put away any lawn tools and equipment you won’t be using during the winter. You don’t want to end up with a rusty lawnmower as an eyesore in your backyard!
Drain any exterior faucets and pipes and shut them off. This will keep them from filling with water that can freeze and expand during the winter. Don’t forget to coil up any hoses and put them away, too. And if you have a porch or deck, make sure your barbecue grill and outdoor furniture is either put away or securely covered.
You’re over halfway there! Now let’s move inside your house and look at a few things you might want to investigate before winter rolls around.
HVAC, Furnace, Fireplace & Chimney
You know who’s busy during the winter? Furnace repair companies. The best time to identify and fix a problem with your first, forced air heating or other HVAC system is before you’re bundled under 10 layers of quilts and blankets trying to stay warm inside your own house.
Energy Star provides a nice guide to help you know what to look for when checking up on your heating system. Don’t forget to replace the filters!
If you use a fireplace during the winter, make sure you’ve socked away plenty of dry firewood. Then take a close look at your chimney. Odds are you haven’t used it for the past 4 months or so. You want to be sure no birds or other creatures have set up a home in there. Also take the time to clean out any leftover ashes or debris in your fireplace.
Since we’re talking about keeping warm, we’ll mention one of the easiest ways you can keep your house nice and toasty, especially if you have high ceilings: reverse your ceiling fans!
Ceiling fans can spin in both directions. By reversing their direction, they can push the warm air that gathers up near the ceiling down on you, helping to keep you warmer.
Attic & Basement
Now head on up to your attic and check your vents and filters. Keep an eye out for any rodents or animals that made a nest up there during the summer, too.
Then take a trip down to the basement. Make sure it’s dry and well-insulated.
If you’re storing valuables down there, make sure they’re raised off the floor so they’re not damaged if any water does get inside.
Then inspect and test your sump pump and make sure it’s working well. Your sump pump removes accumulated water from your basement and if it’s on the fritz, it’s best to find out about it now. Finally, wrap and insulate any pipes that might be at risk of freezing during the winter.
Fire Alarms, Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Safety first! If you only do one thing on our fall home maintenance checklist, test your fire alarms and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Make sure to replace all the batteries, even if they seem to be working OK.
It’s much better to be safe than sorry, especially when it comes to your family’s safety.
Owning a house can be great fun. But it’s also a lot of work, especially if you let it pile up. That’s why we recommend doing a bit of maintenance every season to keep little problems from becoming big ones.
Our fall home maintenance checklist might seem a little overwhelming, but it really isn’t. Start by picking one or two things to look at next weekend and then keep going from there. Every little bit helps.
Do you think we missed something? Have an idea for what we should add to our checklist? Tell us in the comments. Or get in touch if you’d like us to take a look at your roof.