Your fall home-maintenance checklist Oct 13, 2006, 5:00 am PDT
Fall is already in the air, which means that another chilly winter can't be too far behind. So before the cold weather arrives and you snuggle up indoors again, here's your annual checklist of things to do to get your home ready for the change of season.
INSIDE YOUR HOME
Check smoke detectors: Please don't neglect that smoke detector any longer! Take some time right now to check the operation of detectors and to change the batteries. If you have an older house with a limited number of smoke detectors, you really need to install some additional ones. Battery-powered smoke detectors are inexpensive and very easy to install, so add one to each bedroom and make sure there is one centrally located on each level of the home as well.
Install a carbon monoxide detector:A fire is not the only danger you can face inside your home. As houses get closed up for winter, the chances of carbon monoxide poisoning from malfunctioning gas appliances increases substantially. If you have a furnace, fireplace, water heater or other appliance that is fueled by propane or natural gas, now is the ideal time to install a carbon monoxide detector. They're available inexpensively from many home centers and retailers of heating system supplies, they're an easy do-it-yourself installation, and they can truly be a lifesaver!
Clean furnace ducts: A surprising amount of dirt can accumulate inside your home's furnace ducts, which can decrease your furnace's efficiency and add unnecessary dust to the indoor air. Now is the time to have a professional duct cleaning service come out and take care of this for you.
Change your furnace filters: Now is also the time to change your furnace filter and you might consider spending a few extra dollars and install one with a higher efficiency rating then the standard inexpensive filters have. While you're changing the filter, consult the owner's manual for the furnace to see if any annual fix-ups of belts, pulleys and other components are necessary - follow all of the manufacturer safety instructions for shutting the power and fuel to the furnace before servicing.
Clean and inspect the fireplace: Last winter your hardworking fireplace was building up a layer of soot and creosote and you've no doubt forgotten all about that during the summer. Before you light the first log, clean the fireplace chimney or wood stove flue using brushes approved for the size and type of flue you have, or consider hiring a chimney sweep to take care of this task for you - most do a great job at a very reasonable price. Clean out the firebox, making sure you place the ashes in a fireproof container with a tight lid for proper disposal. If you have an airtight wood stove or fireplace insert, check the door-seal gasket, and clean the glass on the door.
OUTSIDE THE HOUSE
Check weather-stripping: When you have gaps around doors, windows or other areas that penetrate the exterior of your home, you waste expensive heated air from inside as well as allow annoying drafts to keep you from feeling comfortable. Fall is the time to check the weather-stripping around doors and windows, and replace any that are worn. Everything you need can be found at home centers and retailers who specialize in doors and windows. Now is also a good time to close up a few more air leaks by checking the condition of caulking around exterior door and window frames and other penetrations.
Check and clean gutters: Time to break out the ladder and clean your gutters of leaf and pine needle debris and check that the opening between the gutter and the downspout is unobstructed. Check the entire system for loose joints or other structural problems, and use a gutter sealant to seal any connections where leaks may be occurring. For any repairs or cleaning you don't want to undertake yourself, you can also consider the services of a professional gutter company.
Adjust exterior grade: Fall is also a great time to take a long look at the grade around your home, and make sure that everything slopes away from your foundation to avoid costly problems with ground water. Add, remove or adjust soil grades as necessary for good drainage.
Drain sprinkler systems:In colder areas, now is the time to be thinking about having your sprinkler and irrigation systems blown out. You can rent a compressor and do this yourself or contact a landscape or irrigation system installer and them handle this for you. This is also the time to shut off outdoor faucets and install freeze-proof faucet covers as needed.
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