Images of multicolored leaves and falling temperatures may be welcomed by most homeowners--but they are a nuisance to those who dread the impending yard work and outdoor maintenance. Nevertheless, fall is a great time to address some needed home chores before winter arrives. Get outside and take advantage of cooler weather with these helpful reminders.
A GENERAL CHECKLIST
Every season creates its own concerns when it comes to your home. Here are some points to consider for turning your fall months into productive ones.
- Clean out your chimney. Unless you are well versed in chimney construction, contact a reputable chimney sweep service. Items such as bird or animal nests built during the summer, as well as excessive soot deposits from the previous winter, can easily obstruct flues and dampers, thereby increasing the chances of chimney fires. Regular maintenance can save you from possible misfortune for a relatively small price (typically around $90 to $120).
- Store all outdoor furniture, yard equipment, and garden tools, in a secure, dry place. If you've run out of room, consider elevating these objects above the damp ground by setting them on bricks or concrete blocks. Next, cover them with a tarp or plastic sheet as protection from wind and rain.
- Check caulking around all exterior windows and doors, as well as any construction joints that require sealing (except siding laps, which allow moisture to escape from inside wall cavities). Also, add or replace weather stripping as needed.
- Attics should always be well insulated and properly vented. Pull back insulation that has been shoved too tightly under the eaves so that soffit vents are not blocked. Also, move boxes and other items that might hinder the free flow of air through your attic. While you're up there, take note of any signs of roof leaks, gaps, or separations in the underside decking, and repair accordingly.
- Have your heat pump or furnace serviced and checked by a reliable air-conditioning and heating service business, preferably one that deals with your type of system. Don't wait until winter before you act. By that time, everyone will be lining up for such service.
- Clean out your gutters and downspouts regularly in the fall months. Remember, leaves and other debris that are allowed to decompose can eventually clog your exterior draining system. Also, overflowing gutters are a major cause of wet basements and crawlspaces, not to mention the damage water can do to windowsills and other wood trim.
GROWING CONCERNS ABOUT RADON
While autumn temperatures encourage open windows and outdoor living, the upcoming winter months are a time to barricade your home from the elements. During cold weather, your home is often deprived of fresh air. Aside from frequent replacements of air filters, you must also periodically monitor the radon levels in your home. Radon is a radioactive gas that results from a natural breakdown of uranium in the soil. It can seep through foundation cracks and other openings within your home.
It is a good idea to have radon levels tested. This can be done by either consulting a licensed professional, or by purchasing a testing kit that has been approved by the EPA. These kits, available at home-improvement stores, contain additional information on where to send the results for a lab analysis.
ALL HANDS ON DECK
Few areas are more enjoyable--and more abused by the elements--than a wood deck. Get the most out of your outdoor wood structures by following these suggestions.
Before colder temperatures make outside work unbearable, examine your deck for any weathered or decayed members, and replace as necessary. Pay close attention to posts and supports that come in contact with the ground or your home's exterior. Damage due to moisture and insects is common in these areas.
From time to time, give your deck a thorough sweeping and cleaning. Anything that collects dirt or water, such as leaves, pots, and furniture, will encourage decay. After a suitable cleaning, apply a waterproofing product if you failed to do so in the spring or summer.
Steps are always a potential tripping hazard, regardless of the season. Consider adding slip-proof strips to the treads. Also, once icy conditions begin, you might want to discourage deck use completely by blocking off your steps and other points of entry.