The autumnal equinox is behind us. In the east, leaves are turning bright colors and beginning to fall. In the southwest, people leave the house in the morning prepared for huge temperature swings during the day. And the further north you travel, the more people are preparing for bitter cold, snow, and the urge to cuddle and make thick, warming stews.
The seasons bring rhythm to our lives. But they take their toll on our homes.
As the neighbors start to set out pumpkins, and you find yourself reaching for the long sleeves and warm socks, there are steps you should take to prepare your house for the arrival of the cold. They vary slightly on latitude and climate, though what works in New England can be useful in the piedmont as well. Here are a few regional home care tips for fall.
In the Southeast
Repair window screens – Lovely fall temperatures will tempt you to open the windows. And you should. But that risks letting in insects, which haven’t gone anywhere just yet. So, inspect your window screens, and repair or replace any that have taken damage from summer storms. If a close inspection of your windows reveals problems with more than just the screens, consider a free consultation on replacement.
Drain the sprinklers – Maintaining a lush lawn is hard enough in southern heat that many homeowners turn to sprinkler systems. In autumn and winter, it’s easy enough to turn them off and forget they’re there, but that risks a major expense – if the ground freezes with water in the pipes, they can rupture. Draining the system can prevent expensive repairs or unexpected water bills.
Cover or bring in outdoor furniture – You won’t be sitting outside much longer. When the days get cooler and the urge to enjoy evenings on the deck or patio fades, ensure that your outdoor furniture lasts by storing it away from the weather, or covering it for the season.
Reverse ceiling fans – The same fans that cooled you through the summer months can help keep you warm on cooler days. Flipping the switch on the side of the unit will reverse the blades, helping to circulate warm air around the room. Just be sure to dust the blades before you do this, or they’ll spray dust everywhere when they first reverse.
Store the lawn equipment properly – If you want your lawn mower to last, you’ll need to drain the last of the gasoline out, clean the air filter, and clean or sharpen the blade before you put it away for a few months.
In the Southwest
Clear fire hazards – An unfortunate reality of climate change is that fire season now begins earlier and ends later than ever before. While the arrival of fall cold fronts, precipitation should begin to reduce fire risk. But it isn’t gone. Particularly in California’s State Responsibility Areas, homeowners should clear brush within 100 feet of structures, to eliminate possible fuel for fires.
Mulch flowerbeds – A layer of hardwood mulch now will help your plants survive the low-water months, trapping moisture closer to the soil in arid climates.
Inspect the roof – Dry summers mean many in the southwest may have put off repairing small defects in the roof…but it’s not going to be dry forever. This month is a great time to inspect the roof for any damage that will become much more expensive to fix when late fall precipitation arrives.
In the Northwest
Clean your gutters. Again. – Light summer rains are about to turn into heavier fall rains. And if last year is any guide, they’re only growing more persistent. It’s best to check on your home’s gutters before the heaviest stuff arrives. If your system is in need of a professional update, our RainPro gutters retain the beauty of your home while permitting maximum water flow.
Check the yard’s drainage – Soggy wet spots in the lawn can keep you from enjoying the beautiful lot you paid for. Close to the foundation, they can be an expensive source of decay. But drainage problems aren’t as challenging to fix as you might think. Ponding can often be fixed with simple splash blocks to route water away from trouble spots. More severe drainage problems can be an invitation to build a lovely rain garden.
Remove damaged limbs – Those autumn storms don’t just bring more rain. They also carry winds we haven’t seen all summer. Removing damaged tree limbs now can keep them from becoming hazardous.
In the Northeast
Drain outdoor faucets – Frozen pipes are an expensive shock in deep northeastern winters. Prevent them now by draining your outdoor faucets – as simple a matter as shutting off outdoor faucets at the valve (usually in the basement or crawlspace), then running the faucet to drain its pipe, and turning it back off.
Stock up on heating fuel – If you use a woodburning stove, stock up on firewood now, before the price goes up any further. If you have old-fashioned oil heat, refill before demand is high.
Have chimneys and furnaces inspected – Chimneys and furnaces that haven’t been in use all summer may need inspection and cleaning before being brought back into service. Better to do that now than to need it in December’s cold.
Ready the winter equipment – Does your snowblower start? Wouldn’t you rather find out now than on a day it makes you late for work? Check the condition of shovels, and stock up on ice melter now, to prevent an unpleasant surprise with the first snow of the season.