The weather has turned suddenly across much of the United States. Not all of us saw the 55 degree drop that hit parts of the Rockies in a single day this month, but summer has come to an end and fall is taking over nearly everywhere.
It’s a welcome relief, in many ways. In this year so unlike any other, a break from high temperatures and a return to school for the kids, even if it’s virtual in many places, brings something like normalcy. But it also brings drafts from the windows clogged gutters, and expanding cracks in our sidewalks.
One good weekend of outdoor work in lovely weather can get your home ready for the lower temperatures we know are coming. Here are twelve easy ways to prepare your home for autumn.
Fertilize the Lawn
A brown lawn in spring is caused by neglect in fall. A lush, green lawn in spring is caused by a single hour of effort now. Fertilizing in fall fortifies your lawn’s root system for the winter, so it’s ready to grow come spring’s thaw. The ideal time, experts say, is 3 weeks before the first frost. For most of the country, that means early-to-mid October
Plant Bulbs and Winter Vegetables
While you’re working on beautifying the lawn, why not plant some color that will surprise you in the spring? Bulbs go into the ground in September or October in order to bloom in spring, and there are few more rewarding signs that the cold of winter has faded than the first folds of new lilies and tulips coming through the mulch.
This year, with more Americans stuck at home than ever before, gardening has made a long-delayed comeback. But the wilting of your summer tomato plants doesn’t mean your days of eating what you grow are over. Winter-hardy vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and English peas can tolerate even a hard frost. October is the best time to put them in the ground.
Clean the Gutters
When autumn leaves start falling, gutters start clogging. To avoid water damage from overflowing gutters, and even worse, winter ice dams that can damage your roof, you’ll need to clean the gutters now.
Wash Windows and Repair Screens
Summer rains and splatter have probably left your windows less than clear. This is the perfect time to clean them, while being outside is still so pleasant.
And while you’re working on them, take note of any tears in the screens. Replacing screening material is surprisingly cheap and easy to do, so why let insects into your home when you open the windows to let the glorious early fall air in?
If you’re considering window replacement, autumn is an ideal time – easier than opening the envelope of your home to winter’s cold (though a good window replacement expert can safely do that, as well).
Inspect Siding for Flaws
Speaking of the envelope of your home, you’ll want it to be tight and secure when winter’s cold comes. One of these beautiful fall days is the perfect opportunity to walk around and do a thorough inspection of your siding. Small cracks or displacements can be repaired, or replaced if necessary, to ensure insulation before it’s needed.
The second step of weatherproofing your home’s exterior is to reseal around doors and windows. Caulking small openings, or replacing worn weatherstripping, can eliminate drafts that cost you comfort and raise your heating bill.
Clean and Reverse Ceiling Fans
Another way to minimize your heating bill is to ensure that warm air circulates properly around your home. The same ceiling fans that helped cool you in summer can help warm you in winter – reversing the motion of the blades will circulate warm air around the room without producing a downdraft that makes you feel colder. But you’ll want to clean dust from the blades before you do it.
Seal Driveway and Sidewalk Cracks
The repeated heating and cooling of seasonal temperature changes inevitably creates cracks in asphalt and concrete. They’ll expand this fall, as the material cools from a hot summer of expansion. Before neighborhood kids tromp up to your door in costume this October, take a day to fill in the cracks.
Change Furnace Filters
If you have an old-fashioned furnace, you’re probably already changing the filters monthly. But many newer units have annual filters, or other long-life air filtration systems that only need cleaning once a season or so. Since winter will tax the furnace to its fullest, cleaning or changing filters now is essential to keeping your system in shape.
Change Smoke Detector Batteries
While you’re busy doing these home maintenance chores you don’t have to revisit monthly, change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, just to be safe.
Check on Your Winter Equipment
The worst time to find out that your snow shovel has cracked is just after the first snow falls. Before the cold gets here, start the snowblower (if you live where you need one) to ensure it functions after three seasons of rest, check your shovels to make sure they’ll work, and stock up on ice melter before the first forecast snow of the season drives the price up.
Clean Storage Areas
Finally, recognize that we all tend to acquire stuff when we’re stuck inside all winter. Be ready for it by giving away some old stuff. Fall is a great time to sort through your closets and make space.