Homeowner Helpers: 10 essential maintenance tasks for the fall

Homeowner HelpersYou’re not going to get them all done in one weekend, but here are 10 essential maintenance tasks for the fall.

Like all home maintenance, these jobs pay off by keeping your home safe and operating at maximum efficiency, reducing repair costs, and, in many cases, even helping you get top dollar when you sell.

1. Yard, garden and wildlife

Rather than having your yard and garden look pristine as you head into winter, why not leave a little something for the birds, insects and other creatures who have to survive until the spring?

Dead flowers, fallen leaves and even twigs provide food for birds, and the insects that hide in the natural debris are especially treasured by chickadees, nuthatches, bluebirds and others. This material also provides shelter for pollinating insects, and brush piles offer wintertime protection for many types of wildlife.

2. Gutter gunk

There may still be plenty of leaves on the trees, but that doesn’t mean that some aren’t also collecting in your gutters. Leaving them there means potential problem this winter, including a frozen mess that stops melting ice and snow from running down the drainpipes and away from your home.

Worse, ice can accumulate in the gutters and work its way back up under the shingles, causing leaks inside your home.

Clean your gutters now and then again when all the leaves have fallen. Remember to follow ladder safety rules.

3. The big freeze

Chilly times are ahead, which means your outdoor faucet could wind up frozen. The problem is, water expands when it freezes, so part of the pipe to your exterior faucet could burst, deluging your basement. To avoid that, drain your exterior faucet and make sure the water supply is turned off from the inside. Here’s how to do it correctly.

4. Gleaming glass

Now is the time to remove the summer’s accumulation of dust and grime from your windows. Don’t waste your money on commercial glass cleaners when vinegar, dish detergent and hot water work just as well (and don’t require buying a plastic bottle).

Cleaning windows is an easy DIY task when you know how, including not washing windows that are in direct sunlight because it leaves streaks.

5. Garage door TLC

Now, before it gets too cold, is the time to give some TLC to your garage door. That includes lubricating moving parts, checking safety features like the auto reverse feature, tightening bolts and other parts, and ensuring the weatherstripping will keep the ravages of winter outside where they belong.

6. Cuppa Joe

You may not believe this, but it’s true: Coffee makers are among the 10 germiest places in a home. Learn why that’s so and how to clean your coffee maker so it’s not only germ-free but gives you a better brew.

7. Staying toasty warm

If you haven’t already done so, get your furnace inspected, clean your furnace humidifier, and change the filters in your heating system. If you don’t do this basic heating system maintenance, you are likely wasting money with an inefficient heating system and risking a failure during the coldest months of the year.

While you’re at it, check your door and window caulking and weatherstripping so you are keeping all that heat inside, where it belongs.

8. Conditioning your air conditioner

A little TLC now means you’ll have plenty of cool air when next summer’s first heat wave rolls in. Your owner’s manual will tell you exactly what you need to do to get your A/C ready for the winter, but generally it involves shutting off power to the unit at the breaker, cleaning off debris and changing the filter now so it’s ready for the next cooling season. Depending on what your manual says (if you can’t find it, search for it online using your model and serial number), you may also need to cover the unit for the winter.

9. Testing for radon

Radon is produced by the natural breakdown of uranium in the soil and enters homes through cracks in the foundation, sump pump holes and the like. It’s odourless, colourless and tasteless and is linked to lung cancer. Because it is so site-specific (your home could have a high level of radon but your neighbour’s could have a low concentration), all homes should be tested. Fall and winter, when the inflow of outside air is less, is a good time to check your home for radon.

Testing is easy and mitigation methods are available. For information, check the Government of Canada website.

10. GFCIs

Ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets are used in the bathroom, outside and other areas where water could cause a severe, even fatal, electric shock. They should be checked once a month. Just press the “test” button, which will be followed by an audible click. Plug a lamp or radio into each half of the outlet. If the device doesn’t turn on, the GFCI is in good working order, and you can press the “reset” button to return it to operating status. If the device does turn on after you’ve pressed the “test” button, get the switch replaced immediately and do not use the outlet until you’ve done so.

Got a maintenance task you’re not sure how to do?
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