50 Fall and Winter Home Maintenance Tips

50 Fall and Winter Home Maintenance Tips

Before the temps drop too much lower, it’s time to get some things done around your home to protect your investment, save on energy costs, and remain warm and cozy through the winter months.

1. Perform a home energy audit or hire a professional to do one.

Whether you prefer to do-it-yourself or leave it to the professionals, there are plenty of ways to conserve energy in your home that will save you money and make your home more comfortable.

2. Schedule a tune-up for your heating system.

Don’t wait until the coldest night to call your HVAC service tech when your heat goes out. A proactive check-up now might save you hundreds of dollars in service calls later, and an annual inspection of your heating system can help prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.

3. Install a carbon monoxide detector or change the batteries in your existing one.

Carbon Monoxide poisoning kills 400 Americans every year and sends 20,000 to the hospital, according to the CDC.  Learn more about CO and how to prevent CO poisoning here.

4. Vacuum your baseboard heating units.

Dirty electric baseboard heaters aren’t only unsightly, they’re also inefficient.  If your home has baseboard heaters, use a soft vacuum brush attachment to keep them looking fresh and working properly.

5. Order propane refill.

If your heat runs on propane and you aren’t set up for automatic delivery, it’s time to reorder when your gauge reads 30% or less.

6. Have your fireplace inspected, cleaned, and repaired to prevent chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.

To prevent chimney fires, CO intrusion, and other chimney-related hazards, Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends having your chimney inspected annually by a certified technician. Learn about the three levels of chimney inspections here.

7. Use draft guards at window sills and exterior doors.

While a draft guard won’t sufficiently seal your home airtight, it’s better than doing nothing at all to keep the cold air out and hold the warm air in.

8. Open curtains during the day to let warmth in.

Thick curtains are great for protecting your house from heat loss during the night, but let the sunlight in during the day for a natural and free heat source!

9. Reverse your ceiling fan blades.

Operate your ceiling fan in a clockwise direction and run on a low speed in the winter to force warm air near the ceiling back down to the occupied space.

10. Install a programmable thermostat.

The EPA’s Energy Star program concluded that homes with programmable or smart thermostats can save up to $180 per year on heating and cooling, which is a sizable chunk of change. A smart thermostat such as Nest may be the preferable investment if you plan on being in your home for a while, however, the same savings can be achieved with a more affordable programmable thermostat.

11. Add extra quilts to your beds.

This one is from Grandma’s playbook. It’s a little obvious, but how often have you adjusted your thermostat instead of getting extra blankets out of storage?

12. Seal gaps with caulk and weather stripping.

You might be amazed at how much air travels through the cracks and gaps throughout your home. A little bit of caulk and new weather stripping can go a long way in winterizing your home. It also helps to keep pests out in the warmer months.

13. Insulate attic, garage door, unprotected water pipes, etc.

If your attic isn’t properly insulated, you’re probably paying a lot more than you should be to heat your home. Likewise, by insulating your garage door, you will keep the garage at a more moderate temperature, preventing cold air from entering the house every time the interior door is opened and closed.  Wrapping your water pipes with foam will prevent them from freezing, which can cause extensive damage.

14. Change your HVAC filters monthly for best efficiency. 

Don’t make your heating system work harder than it needs to. We’ve heard from several local professionals that it’s okay to buy the cheapest filters available; the key is to change them every 30 days no matter what type of filters you use!

15. Replace any problem windows with more efficient models.

Heat gain and heat loss through windows are responsible for 25%–30% of residential heating and cooling energy use, according to Energy.gov. If your windows are in good condition, there are more cost-effective steps you can take to improve their efficiency, but if it’s time to start thinking about replacing them, here’s what you should know first.

16. Change batteries in smoke detectors.

It’s recommended to change the batteries in smoke detectors once every 6 months (doing it around Daylight Savings makes it easy to remember). If any detectors are older than 10 years, it’s time to replace them.

17. Clean your carpets.

Clean your carpets before holiday guests arrive and enjoy the Fall weather with the windows open while they dry. This will also help to rid your home of germs before sickness hits!

18. Clean the air.

Prepare for spending more time indoors and clean the air throughout your home. Whole house air cleaners can also help extend the life of your HVAC equipment.

19. Quiet those squeaky doors.

Squeaky hinges driving you crazy? Hit them with a can of WD-40 before the cold weather makes them worse.

20. Power wash the exterior of your home.

Wash the exterior and windows of your home to prevent mold and mildew.

21. Waterproof any gaps in your home’s exterior.

Caulk where masonry meets siding, where pipes and wires enter the house, around windows and door frames, and at corner joints formed by siding, so water doesn’t find its way into the walls.

22. Touch up or add a fresh coat of paint or sealer.

Lower humidity makes Fall a great time to paint (as long as it isn’t below freezing yet). Touch up or add a fresh coat of exterior paint or sealer to protect from weather elements.

23. Caulk first.

If doing any interior painting, be sure to caulk before painting for a more finished look.

24. Inspect your roof and repair any leaks before Winter.

Cold weather can aggravate a small roof leak. Use binoculars to look for any missing, loose, or damaged shingles on the outside, and check your ceiling and attic for leaks inside. Then your best bet is to bring in the professionals to accurately assess the leak and fix any problems quickly and safely.

25. Keep the air flowing.

Make sure vents in the soffit, gables, and eaves aren’t blocked so that air can flow above the insulation. This will prevent moisture buildup and condensation in the Winter as well as overheating in the Summer.

26. Give your gutters some love.

Clean, repair, and protect your gutters to prevent blockages and keep water flowing away from your house instead of into it.

27. Extend downspouts at least 10′ from the house.

Water is one of the most damaging elements to any home. One of the simplest measures you can take to protect your home from water intrusion is to extend the downspouts at least 10-20 feet away from the foundation.

28. Inspect for unwanted guests.

Check the attic for any pests that may have found their way in to get warm. If you have a crawl space, you’ll want to check there too and make sure any vents are properly covered.

29. Repair driveway and sidewalk cracks.

Cold weather can aggravate cracks in concrete driveways and sidewalks and bigger cracks in the Spring can lead to injury if your guests aren’t careful where they step.

30. Move cold-sensitive items and plants indoors.

Many yard ornaments, outdoor lighting, and plants such as cacti can’t withstand below freezing temperatures. Bring them in before the first frost to avoid damage. Don’t forget to check the underside of any plant leaves for hitchhiking insects.

31. Winterize your outdoor faucets and sprinklers.

Drain and store hoses and winterize your outdoor faucets and sprinklers. You can pick up styrofoam faucet covers for around $3.00/each at most any hardware store.

32. Organize your garage.

Take advantage of these beautiful Fall days to organize the garage and make space for your car before the cold weather hits.

33. Wash away pollen and mildew.

Wash away pollen and mildew from your outdoor cushions and perform any annual maintenance that your outdoor furniture may need.

34. Clean lawn equipment.

Clean your lawn equipment before storing it for several months to prevent corrosion. It’s also a good idea to remove your lawn mower battery for the winter and store it in a cool, dry place.

35. Clean garden tools.

Good tools aren’t cheap, but if you treat them right they’ll last for years. Thoroughly clean all of your garden tools and store them on a rack to keep them from falling over.

36. Watch for deals on lawn equipment.

Keep an eye out for good deals on lawn and garden equipment for next year. There are likely to be some great discounts on outdoor items as we head into Winter.

37. Get your snow gear out of storage now.

Get your snow gear out of storage now, including a backup generator if you have one. Don’t wait until the coldest, snowiest days to run to the hardware store. They’ll likely be sold out then.

38. Change outdoor light bulbs.

Change outdoor light bulbs… you’ll want them working for these shorter days and longer nights!

39. Add lighting.

Consider adding lighting to your walkways to enhance your curb appeal. Plenty of outdoor lighting is also one of the best deterrents for burglary.

40. Plant a tree.

Rain helps trees and shrubs establish their root systems and cooler air encourages root growth without new top growth, so planting in the Fall results in a stronger, better developed root system in the Spring!

41. Divide or move perennials, remove dead annuals, and mulch hardy perennials.

While some perennials can withstand a cold winter, many cannot. Know which plants to cut back, divide, or remove altogether and consider mulching around your hardy perennials to insulate the soil during Winter.

42. Pot up some cool-loving plants such as pansies or violas.

Add months to your gardening season by planting one of these 12 cool-weather annuals in the Fall when temperatures are too chilly for more tender varieties.

43. Create fall containers.

Tuck fall combo favorites, such as flowering kale and mums, into containers to add color to porches and patios. Accent the containers with homegrown gourds and pumpkins.

44. Plant ahead for spring…and beyond. 

Planting perennials in your fall garden will make for a more beautiful spring. See how to add these long-lived plants to your garden now.

45. Adjust your watering schedule. 

Cooler temps mean your garden (and indoor plants) need less water. Adjust your irrigation schedule accordingly.

46. Trim dead branches out of trees.

Keep dead branches from falling out of trees in a Winter storm by proactively trimming them now.

47. Rake leaves to prevent lawn and gardens from suffocating.

Raking leaves is a matter of lawn health, not just tidiness. Depending on the size and quantity of leaves in your yard and the type of grass they’re covering, consider raking or mulching the leaves to let your grass breathe this Winter. As an alternative to raking, a lawn mower with a bagging attachment provides a fast and easy way to shred and collect the leaves.

48. Put raked leaves in a compost pile or use as mulch.

Once you’ve collected your leaves, add them to your compost pile or use them to mulch your Fall garden and flower beds.

49. Aerate your lawn and spread fertilizer and grass seed.

Unless your grass is healthy and thriving, aeration can help promote root growth in a struggling lawn. For cool-season grasses such as bluegrass, fescue, and ryegrass, it’s best to aerate during the growth periods in Spring and Fall.

50. Prep your firewood pile.

It’s best to store your firewood in an open shed or under a tarp to protect it from rain, and keep it at least 20 feet from the house and elevated to prevent pests from hitching a ride inside.

RECOMMENDATIONS

As always, if you need professional recommendations for any of your home maintenance needs, we are just a phone call away and always love hearing from our clients and friends!

 

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50 Spring and Summer Home Maintenance Tips

50 Spring and Summer Home Maintenance Tips

If the cold weather forced you to opt for hot cocoa by the fireplace instead of Spring cleaning this year, now is a great time to catch up on neglected tasks with these Summer Home Maintenance Tips.

KITCHEN

1. Clean out pantry and fridge.

There’s nothing worse than coming back from vacation to a house that smells like spoiled everything!

2. Vacuum refrigerator coils.

Turn off the power to the fridge and use a vacuum cleaner brush attachment to clean the dust and dirt off these coils. Your fridge will thank you!

3. Inspect and clean refrigerator door gasket. 

These flexible magnetic rubber gaskets on your refrigerator doors can wear out, reducing the efficiency of your fridge. Start by inspecting the seals for cracks, and then clean the gaskets with soap and water. Once dry, test the seal by closing the door on a piece of paper, and gently pull it out. You should feel resistance if the seal is working properly. If the paper pulls out too easily, you may need to realign the door or replace the gasket.

4. Clean range hood and filter.

This seems to be the place that gets the most grease build up, which can become combustible if ignored for too long. Take some time to clean the inner and outer surface of the range hood, and wash the grease filter in hot, soapy water (or run it through the dishwasher). Don’t forget to clean the exhaust fan blades as well if you’re able to access them, turning the circuit breaker off first.

5. Clean appliance faces and cabinet doors.

Give your appliance surfaces a good wiping down with your favorite all-natural cleaning solution. Now is a great time to hit those cabinet doors and areas that have been hit with splatter and drips that you never got around to cleaning.

6. Replace water and icemaker filters.

If you haven’t replaced the disposable filters in your water filtration system and/or icemaker, now is probably a good time to do so. Not only will it keep your drinking water clean (which is why you probably bought a refrigerator with a water dispenser in the first place, right?), but it will prevent the system from getting clogged which could slow and eventually stop the water flow.

7. Tighten up loose knobs and hinges.

Check your cabinet drawer pulls, doors, and doorknobs for any loose screws or hinges that aren’t working properly, and tighten them up or add oil as needed.

Kitchen Appliance Maintenance Tips

BEDROOMS AND LIVING AREAS

8. Be sure locks and deadbolts are in working order.

Check every door and window to ensure all of your locks are tight and working, especially those on the ground level, and replace any broken locks.

9. Store large valuables out of sight.

Don’t advertise your valuables to potential thieves. If any valuables can be seen from the outside, move them to another location away from windows and out of plain view.

10. Lock up small valuables.

Small valuables such as jewelry are very easy to be stolen without being immediately noticed. Protect family keepsakes and important valuables by storing them in a safe that is bolted to the ground or even a safe-deposit box at your local bank.

11. Brighten your whites.

Spend a weekend washing your white bedding, pillowcases, curtains and couch covers, or take them to the dry cleaner if needed… and then get the best sleep of your life!

While the laundry is going, dust or vacuum your blinds and freshen up interior paint (July is a great time to paint with the windows open).

If your furniture is looking dingy, consider calling in the professionals for an upholstery cleaning.

12. Clean ceiling fan blades.

How do ceiling fans collect so much dust when they’re almost constantly in motion?! I don’t know that answer, but I do have a good tip for cleaning ceiling fans without dropping all that dust on the floor (or better yet, your bed). Get an old pillowcase and slide it on to each fan blade, pulling the dust into the pillowcase as you wipe the blade clean. So much better than clogging your vacuum with dust bunnies (or sleeping with them).

13. Prepare for summer guests.

A freshly tidied guest room equipped with a basket of toiletries and snacks will make your visitors feel right at home. Add some fresh flowers on the nightstand with the Wi-Fi password and an extra key to your exterior doors if they will be coming and going on their own. If you don’t have an extra bedroom for guests, consider giving your living room or den the option of privacy with a folding room divider.

Fresh flowers, clean linens, natural light in guest room

BATHROOMS

14. Check for leaks around sinks and toilets.

We recently discovered a lot of water under our bathroom sink – twice – and couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. Our 7 year old had been soaking the vanity each time he washed his hands, and water has been seeping under the faucet knobs and dripping under the cabinet.

He’s also spending a lot more time outdoors and needing more baths than usual, which means our floor tiles are getting a lot more water than usual.

This is a good time of year to check for leaks, tighten any loose plumbing, and caulk anywhere water may be getting where it shouldn’t.

15. Run water and flush toilets in unused spaces.

If you have a bathroom that doesn’t get much use, be sure to run water and flush toilets regularly to avoid a “sewer smell.” All plumbing fixtures have a pipe called a trap, and running water periodically keeps the traps full and avoids letting the sewer (or septic) gas into your home.

16. Clean bathroom vent fans.

Remove the cover and vacuum any dust out of your bathroom vent fans to keep them working quietly and efficiently.

17. Clean tub and sink drains.

Remove your drain stopper and clean out with an old toothbrush and paper towels, or a drain stick if necessary. Pour a cup of bleach down the drain and let it sit for 10-15 minutes before flushing the drain with hot water, and reinstall the drain stopper.

18. Clean showerhead or replace it with a water-saving model.

Tie a plastic bag full of vinegar over the showerhead and allow it to soak overnight; then, turn on the hot water to rinse it out. If your showerhead needs more than a light cleaning, perhaps it’s time to replace it with a new, water-saving model.

Bathroom Home Maintenance Tips

LAUNDRY

19. Clean the dryer vent to avoid fire.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, 2,900 home clothes dryer fires are reported each year and cause an estimated 5 deaths, 100 injuries, and $35 million in property loss. Failure to clean the dryer (34%) is the leading cause of home clothes dryer fires. Be sure to clean the lint filter every time you dry a load of clothes, and clean out the dryer vent now and every three months to avoid a fire. Click here to read other helpful tips from USFA.

20. Check washing machine hose.

Make sure there is ample space between the machine and wall to avoid any kinks in the hose. Make sure your connections are secure and look for any signs of deterioration, replacing the hose if needed.

21. Wash out the washer and dryer.

Follow the instructions in your washing machine and dryer manuals to clean them out, including the rubber seal – especially if you have a front loading washer. If you have a sink in your laundry room, rinse especially dirty clothes before putting them in the washing machine to avoid excessive dirt build up.

22. Give old-fashioned line drying a try.

This is a great time of year to hang your clothes to dry outside. The sun is a great, natural substitute for chemical bleaching agents and you may even save a little money!

Old-fashioned line drying outside, sun bleaching, natural laundry

HALLWAYS

23. Check safety devices.

Most safety experts recommend changing the batteries in your carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors when the time “springs forward” and “falls backward” (i.e. Daylight Savings). If you didn’t get around to doing it then, here’s another reminder. Test, replace batteries, and if the device is over 10 years old go ahead and replace the whole thing.

24. Install a programmable thermostat.

Control your home energy costs with a programmable thermostat. Customize the heating and cooling of your home based on your needs. Set the system for one temperature while you’re home and another temp when you’re away, either setting it to adjust automatically based on a schedule you create or by controlling it remotely via WiFi. Some “smart” thermostats such as Nest are even capable of learning your habits and adjusting accordingly!

25. Clean and replace filters.

Keep your air conditioner running efficiently by replacing the air filter every 1-3 months. While you’re at it, use the vacuum brush attachment or dusting wand to clean the intake vents and filter covers.

Nest thermometor and smoke detectors

BASEMENT & GARAGE

26. Monitor basement humidity.

High humidity is the leading cause of mold growth in the basement. The ideal relative humidity level is at or near 50%. Many basements in warm, humid climates need dehumidification during the summer to prevent mold growth. If you suspect high humidity in your basement or crawl space, you may want to consider purchasing a hygrometer or hire a professional to calculate it for you to determine if you need a dehumidifier.

27. Check basement pipes for condensation or dripping.

Moisture is another common culprit for mold growth in basement and crawl space areas. Check the basement pipes or HVAC trunk line for condensation or dripping, and talk with a professional to determine the best method to correct any moisture or mold you discover.

28. Check the basement floor drain.

Floor drains, much like the drains in unused bathrooms, have a pipe called a trap. When the water evaporates from the trap, foul-smelling sewer gas will find its way into your home. Make sure your floor drain has water and refill when necessary.

29. Examine basement, attic and other small spaces for summer pests.

This goes without saying, but you don’t want pests taking up residence in your home. Some pests can be very destructive and others can be harmful. Check any spaces that have openings to the exterior or have been undisturbed for a while, and contact a professional exterminator if needed.

30. Inspect and drain your hot water heater.

Brightnest says your water heater accounts for up to 25% of the energy usage in your home. Like an oil change for your car or regular cleanings of your washing machine, regular maintenance of your hot water heater keeps the cost from rising. Read step-by-step instructions for draining your water heater here.

31. Organize supplies, sports equipment, and tools.

Declutter your garage and outdoor storage closets by selling, donating, or throwing away what you no longer need. Check with your local government regarding proper disposal of old paint, motor oil, and other toxic substances, and dispose of them responsibly. You may also consider calling a service such as Carter’s Junk Removal to haul away all of that unwanted stuff. We have personally used Carter’s and recommend him to all of our clients and friends!

Basement and Garage Maintenance Tips

OUTSIDE

32. Secure outbuildings.

Be sure any sheds or outbuildings are locked to prevent theft, as the most typical contents, such as lawn equipment and tools, are easy to sell.

33. Lock gates.

Gates to the backyard should remain locked to thwart intruders who may be looking for a way to gain access to your home or to keep someone from opening the gates and allowing pets to get free.  This is also important if you have a pool or pond in the backyard to keep children from entering without your knowledge.

34. Install automated outdoor lighting.

Keep your property safe by setting outdoor lights to turn on and off at certain times and/or installing motion sensor floodlights and porch lights.

35. Secure small openings.

Securing small openings into your home, such as dryer vents, pet doors and mail slots, will prevent rodents and other pests from entering and may keep intruders from reaching in to unlock a door.  This may just save you a little money on your utility bills, as well.

36. Repair brick and concrete.

Now is the time to repair small cracks in your brick and concrete, as colder temps later in the year will likely cause them to worsen.

37. Trim Shrubs and Other Landscaping

Keep tree limbs, shrubs and other vegetation pruned back away from the house to prevent pests from getting in and away from HVAC units to allow for good air circulation, which is crucial for efficiency. The unit should have at least 18” of room around the sides and at least 36” inches above the top.

38. Inspect and repair window screens.

Inspect your window screens for small tears, and use a screen patching kit for repairs to keep bugs out, particularly mosquitoes this time of year.
Summer home maintenance tips, fence repair, lawn care, etc

VACATION SAFETY

If you’ll be traveling this summer, take the following precautions to ensure your home and belongings remain safe in your absence:

39. Install timers on your electronics to give the appearance of someone being home.

40. Install home security cameras so you can monitor any traffic to or from your home remotely via WiFi.

41. Have newspaper and mail stopped or regularly picked up by a trusted friend or neighbor.

42. Make sure a neighbor knows where the water main shut-off is located in the event of a broken pipe.

43. Unplug your TV, computer, and any appliance susceptible to lightning and power surges.

44. Take jewelry and valuable documents to a safe deposit box.

45. Turn off water valves to your washing machine, icemaker, and dishwasher.

46. Arrange for lawn care while you’re away.

47. This seems obvious, but make sure every door and window (including the garage door) is locked before leaving.

48. If trash day falls during vacation, ask a neighbor if they will roll your cans to the curb and back to the house after pick up.

49. Resist the temptation to broadcast your vacation in real time on social media. If you can’t wait until you return to share those amazing pictures, at least make sure your privacy settings are secure.

50. Watch Home Alone for additional tips… or just use it as an excuse to put your feet up after completing this list! 😉

RECOMMENDATIONS

As always, if you need professional recommendations for any of your home maintenance needs, we are just a phone call away and always love hearing from our clients and friends!

 

 

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