Essential Home Prep Tasks for Fall, Part I: Outside

Take the time now to prepare your home for the upcoming winter, starting with the home’s exterior before heavy rains start. Make the most of your time by focusing on these key tasks each fall to make your home resilient against winter extremes.

Inspect and shore up the exterior

One of the most important fall maintenance jobs is preventing moisture from getting inside your walls. Weather and time cause your home’s siding to swell, crack, and crumble. Use a knife to carefully probe wood doors, window trim, railings, and decks for winter damage. Replace wood, or use specialized fillers to strengthen and fill weak areas. Thoroughly inspect edges and gaps and use caulk to seal cracks between trim and siding, around window and door frames, and where pipes and wires enter your house. Inspect the condition of the exterior paint, and repaint any bare wood spots.

Inspect and clean gutters

After leaves have fallen, clean your gutters of leaves and debris. Inspect the condition of gutters and downspouts. Tighten fasteners and replace worn or damaged parts. Where downspouts meet the ground, they should extend at least 5 feet away from your house; if they don’t, add low-cost downspout extensions sold at most home improvement stores.

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Check the roof

Stay safe and use binoculars to inspect your roof from the ground If possible. Look for damage on the shingles or flashing. Look for excessive moss growth. Call a professional to replace missing shingles or damaged areas.

Inspect your fireplace and chimney

Look at chimney exteriors for missing or discolored mortar, damaged bricks, extensive moss, or leaning. A weakened chimney can allow water into the home, even if the roof and flashing are in good condition. If you see cracked or missing bricks and mortar, schedule a professional fireplace and chimney inspection. A chimney and fireplace servicing contractor can repair bricks and mortar and install a chimney cap to prevent birds from entering and nesting in the chimney as well as preventing rain water from entering.

From the interior, use a flashlight to look up the flue. Make sure the damper opens and closes, and check that the flue is free of birds’ nests and other obstructions. You should see daylight at the top of the chimney.

Check and adjust drainage

Make sure soil slopes away from your house at least 6 vertical inches over 10 feet. That will help keep water from soaking the foundation, which could lead to cracks and leaks. Be sure soil doesn’t touch your siding.

Prep hoses, sprinklers and outdoor faucets

Disconnect hoses to prevent freezing and damaging the pipes just inside the walls. Do this early to prepare for sudden cold snaps. Extend the life of garden hoses by draining and storing them in a shed or garage.

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