Fall brings many changes. School starts, the leaves turn color and fall to the ground, the days get shorter and cooler. When you start thinking about getting jackets and coats out of the closet, it's also time to pull out your fall home maintenance checklist.
In the same way a coat keeps you warm and dry, your home's envelope (roof, siding, windows, etc) protects you from the elements, keeping you warm and dry. When you follow a schedule of routine maintenance, you:
- Save money with lower utility bills.
- Reduce the number and cost of home repairs.
- Extend the life of key home features, saving you replacement costs.
- Protect your home's value, helping grow your home equity.
Our seasonal checklists help you quickly inspect and make the appropriate repairs. The maintenance checklists below offer suggestions for how to inspect many home features, make repairs and update your home to eliminate/minimize problems. You can print our one page version of the checklist (includes key home safety tips) to keep track of your progress completing these tasks.
- Home Maintenance Always Starts with Family Safety
- Fall Home Maintenance & Water Damage
- Fall Maintenance to Save Energy, Money & the Environment
Home Maintenance Always Starts with Family Safety
With inclement weather, there are more chances for injury around the home. Many hazards aren't as visible as the toys on your stairs. You need to make sure that entrance doors are well lit, handrails secure and walkways and steps in good repair. Indoors, it is a good idea to have seating for people to remove and put on boots.
Family safety is so important that it's worth a quick review every quarter. Check out our Home Safety Checklist and sleep knowing your family is safe.
Our checklists are organized to make home maintenance more manageable. You can tackle one or two tasks each week or go through the entire list “inspecting” all items to identify which ones need repair or replacement. Then you can decide which ones you'll do yourself … and which ones make sense to hire a home pro, like your HVAC tune-up.
Fall Home Maintenance & Water Damage
For the fall, we focus on exterior home maintenance tasks to make sure your home is safe and weather tight, so you and your family remain dry and comfy through the winter.
With more extreme weather from extreme heat to high winds, heavy rains and flooding, it's even more important to make sure your home is safe from water leaks. Why? Where moisture levels approach 20% and there is a source of food like wood, you are likely to find mold, carpenter ants or some other problem and the worst part, most of this can continue for years before it becomes visible. That means repairs can be costly when you don't prevent or find and repair leaks quickly.
Maintaining Roofs & All Things on the Roof
|Done?||Task||Fall Home Maintenance: Roofing, Vent Pipes & More|
|Inspect||Inspect the roof while cleaning gutters (binoculars/camera can be used) and/or check the attic for water stains (black). Here's what to inspect:|
> Roofing shingles – missing or loosing lots of granules?
> Flashing around vent pipes – are there any cracks?
> Step flashing around the chimney – missing grout?
|Maintain||Don't wait. If anything looks suspicious, get on the roof and make the necessary repairs before you get water damage inside.|
|Update||Get to know your roof and plan/budget for it's replacement in a timely manner to avoid costly repairs. Once a roof is 10 years old, a professional inspection by a roofing company is recommended. Use their visits to pick your roofing company.|
|Done?||Task||Fall Home Maintenance: Skylights|
|Inspect||Inspect the ceiling and trim around skylights for staining. When on the roof, inspect the flashing around the skylights for signs of wear.|
|Maintain||Condensation may occur with skylights, so a dehumidifier might be needed to reduce indoor humidity.|
|Update||Consider replacing skylights (average life 10 to 20 years) when you get a new roof.|
|Done?||Task||Fall Home Maintenance: Gutters, Downspouts, Fascia & Soffits|
|Inspect||Check gutters and downspouts to make sure they're secure, and water when it hits the ground flows away from your house. Check the fascia for holes from pesky woodpeckers and make sure soffits are clear as they're critical for proper air circulation in your attic (read: Why You Need Soffit Vents).|
|Maintain||Clean gutters and make repairs as needed. If you have trouble with any of the materials, consider upgrading as it will save you money in the long term. One of my handyman customers tried flimsy plastic soffits which came off every winter.|
|Update||If you have water pooling around your house, it might be time to add gutters to direct water away from your home's foundation. Woodpeckers like … wood! We replaced wood fascia boards and gable vents with composite materials, for homeowners in New Hampshire.|
PS If you have problems with critters on your roof or in your attic, it's best to call a local company that has experience dealing with wildlife.
Keep Siding Dry & Repair Wood Rot ASAP
|Done?||Task||Fall Home Maintenance: Siding & Wood Rot|
|Inspect||Visually inspect (binoculars if unable to get on a ladder) your home's siding and wood trim for signs of deteriorating paint or water damage. If there is discoloration, use the sponge test to see if the wood is rotten.|
|Maintain|| Paint, paint, paint! Paint isn't about pretty houses, rather it protects wood with a layer of film that keeps water and moisture away from the wood. Caulking where different materials meet is also important. |
Repair rotting wood as soon as you discover it. Why? The longer you delay, the more extensive the damage and the higher the repair costs. Read Repairing Rotted Window Sill & Estimating Repair Costs to learn how much more!
|Update||If you're not painting frequently enough or have to replace damaged wood, consider switching to a composite material that doesn't rot, like Azek trim. Homes that require frequent painting are good candidates for vinyl or fiber cement siding, i.e. James Hardie siding.|
Windows & Doors Need Maintenance Too
|Done?||Task||Fall Home Maintenance: Windows|
|Inspect||Check windows at the top to insure flashing isn't compromised. Look at the frames around the windows, plus window sills for discoloration. The most common problem is found on window sills where water puddles, held there by dirt.|
|Maintain||Caulk around windows where they meet the siding, to stop water from getting behind the wood where it can cause wood rot. Repair (or replaced) wood rot as soon as it's found.|
|Update||If there are lots of water problems, consider removing/installing the windows to replace the water barrier and flashing because it's either missing or wasn't installed correctly. You can also replace trim boards with a composite material that won't rot. Read about 10 Low Maintenance Building Materials That Save Time.|
|Done?||Task||Fall Home Maintenance: Doors|
|Inspect||Check windows and doors at the top to insure flashing not compromised. Look at the bottom of doors and windows, plus window sills. Most problems are found on window sills (water puddles held there by dirt) and the kickboard below doors (water splashes up from step below).|
|Maintain||Caulk around windows and doors, where they meet the siding … and paint. This will stop water from getting behind the wood where it can cause wood rot. Replace worn weatherstripping to save on heating/cooling bills.|
|Update||If there are persistent water problems, consider redoing the flashing over doors and/or windows, because it's either missing or wasn't installed correctly. If you find to many problems with the trim around doors and windows, consider replacing these boards with a composite material that won't rot due to water/moisture. Read about 10 Low Maintenance Building Materials That Save Time.|
Exterior Faucets & Foundations
|Done?||Task||Fall Home Maintenance: Faucets|
|Inspect||Make sure there are no leaks which might freeze.|
|Maintain||Shutoff outside faucets and remove hoses to drain water left in the line. Cover faucets with insulating jackets.|
|Update||Replace faucets with frost free spigots like the new Freeze Miser Faucets. Alternatively, install a traditional freeze proof hose bib that extends the piping about 12 inches inside your home.|
|Done?||Task||Fall Home Maintenance: Foundations|
|Inspect||Walk around your foundation and make sure there aren't any places for water to pool next to the house and seep into your basement.|
|Maintain||Use splash blocks (shown above under the faucet) to direct downspout water away from your house. Maintain landscaping to insure ground water runs downhill and away from the house.|
|Update||Serious basement water problems may require extra drainage solutions from French drains outside or sump pumps to remove water that enters your basement.|
Decks, Porches & Stairs
|Done?||Task||Fall Home Maintenance: Decks, Porches & Stairs|
|Inspect||Check wooden structures for damaged wood and potential wood rot. The biggest problem area is where decks/porches attach to the house, as the flashing is often done wrong or missing. Check railings too, to make sure they're secure.|
|Maintain||Replace damaged wood and wood rot, either entire pieces or something smaller that looks okay. Clean weep holes or anything else causing water to pool to reduce wood rot. All wooden structures need to be cleaned and sealed periodically but please … stain, do not paint!|
|Update||For problem surfaces, or when updating a deck or other exterior structure, consider composites that aren't vulnerable to wood rot.|
Fall Maintenance to Save Energy, Money & the Environment
With higher heating and cooling costs, it's important to reduce the energy used to keep your home comfortable. Tackle small projects each year, focusing on rooms where you spend the most time, i.e. a few replacement windows versus the entire house. While we will continue to offer suggestions via our website, here are some of the most important ways to save and when updating your home for energy efficiency, always check for state and federal incentives:
- Visit State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency.
- Look for Approved Energy Efficient Appliance Rebate Programs.
- Changes annually, so be sure to check the Federal Tax Credits for Consumer Energy Efficiency.
Maintain HVAC System & Thermostats to Stay Comfy
|Done?||Task||Fall Home Maintenance: Heating Systems|
|Inspect||Make sure you have enough filters to replace them monthly through the winter when you're using your system round-the-clock.|
|Maintain||Schedule your annual heating system tune-up to insure your system is operating as efficiently as possible.|
|Update||Discuss your furnace/boiler operating efficiency with your service professional and get advice on when you should plan to replace your system for energy efficiency. If your home gets too dry in the winter, consider a humidifier, from small ones in bedrooms to a whole house humidifier in the basement.|
|Done?||Task||Fall Home Maintenance: Programmable Thermostats|
|Inspect||Check that your heating/cooling system turns on when you change setting. Don't assume it will as I moved into a house with no heat because the inspection was done when the HVAC system was cooling the house!|
|Maintain||Review thermostat programming as each season changes. Try adjusting target temperature by 1 to 2 degrees, i.e. lower during winter and higher in summer, to reduce heating/cooling costs. Review EnergyStar guidelines for recommended temperature settings.|
|Update||For really high energy bills and long heating/cooling seasons, consider adding additional heating/cooling zones so you only heat/cool rooms you use.|
Insulation & Weatherstripping
|Done?||Task||Fall Home Maintenance: Insulation|
|Inspect||Use a thermometer like Black & Decker's Thermal Leak Detector to find where you're losing conditioned (warm or cool) air. Common places to find air leaks:|
> Between conditioned space and your attic.
> From outdoors through exterior walls that don't have enough insulation.
> Duct work and hot water pipes not properly sealed and/or insulated.
|Maintain||Replace insulation that's wet as this reduces the insulating value. Make sure vents aren't blocked by insulation, seal gaps and add weatherstripping around exterior doors, windows and even outlets on exterior walls.|
|Update||Often homeowners want to add more insulation to their attic which works but first make sure you understand how insulation and ventilation work together (read: Insulation 101 for Smart Homeowners). The best time to add insulation to exterior walls is when you're replacing siding|
Making Doors & Windows Energy Efficient
|Done?||Task||Fall Home Maintenance: Window Energy Efficiency|
|Inspect||Check windows and storm windows/doors for a tight seal.|
|Maintain||Swap screens for storm door panels; install storm windows or similar barrier to slow air transfer. Replace worn weatherstripping to save on heating/cooling bills.|
|Update||Replace single pane windows with more energy efficient windows with double and triple panes. Alternatively, you can build custom plexiglass storm windows that are easier to maneuver than storm windows. |
My handyman had several customers who had us do this for sunroom as it creates a longer season and slows heat loss.
|Done?||Task||Fall Home Maintenance: Winterizing Window Air Conditioners|
|Inspect||Inspect air conditioners (window and central A/C systems) to make sure they're working before you winterize them. Clean before winterizing (here's a really good video on how to clean a window AC unit).|
|Maintain||Clean/change the filter and clean the AC (here's a really good video on how to clean a window AC unit) before storing for winter. If you want to leave them in place, install a protective cover to reduce air flow to the outdoors (shown above, you can find them on Amazon).|
|Update||Monitor improvements in energy efficiency. Compare product costs to annual operating costs. Replace older window AC units when the cost of a new unit can be recovered in electricity savings in less than four years. Here's a Window AC Buying Guide to help you find the best unit for your space.|
We hope you find this Fall Home Maintenance Checklist helpful. We're also providing a one page summary checklist to save ink and paper. Good luck maintaining your home and please, share your input as to how we can improve this checklist.