I am surprised every year when summer quickly turns to fall, and this year is no different. We are less than two weeks away from the first day of fall and it’s time again to discuss a few proactive steps that you can take to prepare your home for the change of seasons. Our Kansas City winter weather can come quick sometimes, so starting early can make the transition much easier. Many homeowners don’t start their fall prep until the temperatures drop and the fall rains come. In some cases this can be too late.
Here are a few tips to help prepare your home for the upcoming seasons:
Clean your gutters. I talk about this one a lot, yet this one maintenance issue comes up on almost every home inspection that we see performed. Gutter cleaning is a must going into the fall when we tend to see an increase in rainfall. Mainly because the soil around your foundation has just suffered through the hottest and driest summer months causing it to pull away from your exterior foundation walls. This contraction leaves your vulnerable to water intrusion when the falls rains hit. If your gutters are full at the time, you will see the waterfall effect allowing the rain water to fall right next to your foundation walls. The gap or space around your foundation then serves as a funnel, if you will, allowing water right next to the concrete, stone, or cinder block walls. And as water does, it will find the path of least resistance into your home. If you don’t like to clean gutters, like I don’t like to clean gutters, you can certainly hire it out. Many companies offer fall discounts and you can often get the whole house done for $150 or less.
Clean your chimney. It is important to have your chimney cleaned annually if you intend to burn wood or gas logs. Not only can creosote and other debris collect in your chimney flue, but bird’s nests and other unusual things can make their way into your chimney as well. Don’t skip this step if you use your fireplace at all. You would be surprised how many homeowners have had a flue fire at some time during their ownership and were not aware of it. That is a scary thought. Flue fires burn at such a hot temperature that if it were to escape your flue, the outcome could be disastrous. And hey, gas log people out there, you need to do this too. Cleaning your chimney is not just for the die-hard wood burners. For a real life example, one of our readers stopped me one day and thanked me for writing about this topic because after reading our column, she had her chimney inspected (a level-two inspection with a camera) and they discovered that she had recently had a flue fire.
Have your roof inspected. If your roof is getting older, it is never a bad idea to have it inspected by a trusted roofing company. A few years ago when we had long periods of snow on the ground, and quite a bit of it, I remember a wave of calls received from clients and friends concerning roof leaks. Roof leaks in the winter are typically caused by ice dams. This is when snow and ice collect at certain parts of your roof and then they freeze, thaw, then refreeze again. In between stages, the melted snow and ice find their way under roofing shingles or around nail pops in your roof. The result is at the least a very annoying water stain in your ceiling. However, if the ice dam is large enough, it can cause major water problems. A little roof buttoning-up can go a long way when it comes to preventing water intrusion.
Service your furnace. Don’t wait until the first cold snap to find out that your vintage 1957 furnace has decided to finally retire. If a major repair or replacement is needed, you want to give yourself time to explore your options and shop around. When it is freezing outside and your furnace does not work, you really don’t have the luxury of time at that point. Also, as it pertains to older furnaces, it is important to have them serviced and visually inspected to insure that there are no potential health risks such as a cracked heat exchanger which can allow carbon monoxide to be pumped into your home. Air quality is certainly important when we spend so much of our time indoors during the winter. The elderly and children can be especially susceptible in these cases.
Put away your garden equipment. This last one may be obvious, but I bet I throw away a frozen water hose at lease every other year. Hoses, gardening tools, gardening pots, and even patio furniture should be cleaned and stored for winter each year to extend their useful life. The cost for replacement may not seem significant, but over time it can add up.