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15 Fall Home Maintenance Tasks to Avoid Costly Repairs

Your home and property are likely your largest investment. Seasonal maintenance is key to protecting it. Completing a few seasonal chores can help extend the life span of your home, while also decreasing potential repair and renovation costs later.

Want to make sure you’re keeping your home in top condition while protecting your savings? Don’t skip these fall maintenance tasks.

Inspect windows and doors. Air leaks make it hard to control your home’s climate and can keep your house unnecessarily uncomfortable year-round—plus, surprise you with high utility bills. To seal air leaks, recaulk and/or replace weather stripping where necessary.

Check door sweeps. Sweeps help close gaps at the bottom of exterior doors. To test them, place a piece of paper on the threshold (the bottom trim in the doorway), close the door and see whether the paper pulls out easily. If it does, you might need to replace or adjust the sweep or add a door shoe, which is another way of filling the gap under a door.

Clean gutters. Accumulated leaves and debris in gutters can lead to clogs. If gutters can’t drain water properly they will overspill leading to potential roof and/or foundation issues. Standing water on your roof or eaves from clogged gutters can cause significant and costly damage over time. Don’t forget to clean autumn leaves from gutter spouts before blockages damage the gutters. Consider installing gutter guards, especially if deciduous trees are close to your roof.

Winterize outdoor faucets. When water remains in an outdoor faucet and then freezes it can cause pipes to crack—leading to thousands of dollars in potential damage. You’ll need to make a few trips inside and out to shut off the exterior supply lines (look for a lever handle with a bleed cap in the basement ceiling or near the main water shut-off), open faucets and drain bleed caps, and remove and store hoses. Consider hiring a plumber to retrofit your outdoor faucets to the frost-free type for convenience.

Clean window wells. Under the gravel at the base of a window well is a drainpipe that carries water away from the house. Leaves and dirt can plug the gravel and block rainwater from reaching the drain, potentially leading to a wet basement. Before winter, clean out anything that has collected over the gravel. Installing a cover over the window well will help keep the gravel and window glass clean, but if the window well provides an escape route in case of a fire, be sure to get a cover that meets safety standards. It should push open easily from the inside, without the need for tools.

Inspect your roof. This is a good time of year for an annual roof inspection. Over time, even small leaks or missing shingles can cause big problems such as water damage, mold, mildew and more. Many people hire a professional roofer to make any necessary repairs.

Mow fallen leaves. The easiest way to manage the foliage on your grass is to mow it. Some lawn mowers come equipped with a mulching blade that deposits leaf fragments between grass blades. The tiny leaf pieces break down gradually or you can use high-nitrogen fertilizer to speed the decay process.

Maintain your lawn mower. Now is the time to properly winterize your mower so it starts up easily in the spring, Wipe away any grass or other debris that clings to the machine and consider having the blades sharpened by a professional. If you have a gas-powered lawn mower, use the last of the gasoline in the tank or add fuel stabilizer to prevent damage (check the manufacturer’s instructions).

Touch up paint. As days grow shorter and the sun angles lower, eventually there isn’t enough time each day with the right temperature and humidity for exterior paint to dry properly. Fall offers a last opportunity to touch up wood trim or repaint a porch.

Clean and pack patio gear. Clean your grill and its grease drip pan thoroughly before moving the grill indoors or covering it for the winter. Leave the propane canister outside, though; if the valve leaks even a little, it could lead to an explosion. Also, clean outdoor furniture before you store or cover it for the winter. If you plan to leave it outdoors and uncovered for use when the sun’s out, it still makes sense to clean it now. Clean surfaces are far less likely to become covered with mildew.

Service your HVAC system. If you have an oil or gas furnace or an electric system that combines heating and air conditioning, schedule a maintenance appointment. This unit should be inspected at least once per year. Furnaces can pose serious fire and safety hazards if they’re not functioning properly. Clean or replace the furnace filter.

If you have electric baseboard or wall heaters, vacuum any lint and wipe down the grills. Radiators? Drain trapped air by opening each radiator’s valve counterclockwise using a radiator key, socket or flat screwdriver, depending on the valve type. Use a cup or bowl to catch the water. If you burn wood, schedule a chimney cleaning. Check the gasket on the fireplace door and replace it if it’s frayed. Steam radiators have an air hole at the top of the vent that you can clear with a sewing needle.

Seal the driveway. If you have an asphalt driveway, reseal it in the fall when temperatures are between 50 and 70 degrees and no rain is in the forecast. Begin by sweeping dirt, leaves, and other debris off the asphalt; then pour asphalt sealant over the driveway. Using an asphalt squeegee, evenly spread the sealant across the driveway’s entire surface. Allow the sealant to cure for at least 24 hours before parking on the driveway.

Fix concrete. Before water collects in any crack, then freezes and expands making the crack larger, repair it. First, clear away any dirt or debris from the damaged area and then fill in the crack with masonry crack filler or concrete patch. Once you’ve filled the crack, smooth the edges of the new material with a trowel and let the repair cure overnight.

Clean your dryer vent. Even if you clean the filter after every load, lint can build up in the dryer vent and cause a fire. Fall is a great time to start an annual routine of pulling the dryer away from the wall, detaching the vent pipe and vacuuming it out. If lint has collected on the baffles where hot air vents to the outdoors then clean those, too. If you find lots of lint, repeat this process more frequently than once a year.

Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. These vital safety devices should always be in good working condition. Put them in test mode and make sure they’re all functioning properly. Batteries will usually need to be replaced every six months to a year.

Your home and property need consistent care to protect its value—and to protect your wallet from costly, preventable repairs. These seasonal maintenance chores will go a long way to safeguard your largest investment. It won’t take long to check these tasks off your list, and the return is well worth the effort.

If you do end up needing repairs and are short on cash, check out the ways Tower can help with a personal, home equity, or home improvement loan, And receive credit card rewards and cash back.

Resources: washingtonpost.com, bobvila.com, familyhandyman.com