How To Avoid Claims and Save Money With a Fall Home Maintenance Checklist
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Completing a fall home maintenance checklist annually helps protect your property and keeps your home warm in the cooler months. A well-maintained fireplace discourages accidental fires and functioning security devices can deter vandalism and burglaries. Completing this checklist can also prevent insurance claim denials due to poor upkeep or neglect, which are not covered by homeowners insurance.
From cleaning your gutters to inspecting your fireplace, these fall home maintenance tips can keep your home well-maintained and prepared for the fall and winter weather.
1. Clean or Replace Gutters
The National Park Service recommends monthly inspections of your gutters and cleanings every late spring and late fall. Dirty gutters can cause clogs, causing water to overflow into the surrounding terrain. If those overflows occur next to your home’s structure, the moisture can seep into your home’s foundation or basements and cause damage.
If you’re climbing onto your roof to clean the gutters instead of hiring a professional, wear non-slip shoes and practice ladder safety. Also, bring gloves to protect your hands from sharp debris and harmful bacteria.
If your gutters have been around for a while, they may be due for replacement. In general, you’ll want to replace your gutters after 20 years — earlier if they were not maintained properly or if they show extensive wear and tear.
2. Replace or Repair Your Roof
You should inspect your roof’s integrity every one to two years, especially if it’s 10 years or older. A roof in poor condition can encourage fungal growth, may collapse under the weight of ice or snow and will not properly insulate your home from the weather.
Several tell-tale signs signal it’s time for a roof repair or replacement, including:
- Missing shingles
- Broken, curling or warped shingles
- Hail damage
- Discoloration or dark spots on your indoor walls or ceiling
Hiring a professional will get you the most accurate assessment of your roof’s condition. Alternatively, you can inspect for roof damage yourself by safely climbing a ladder or using binoculars to spot exterior damages.
Replacing your roof in the fall helps to insulate your home as the temperatures start dropping. Buying an energy-efficient roof can even lower your energy costs — those savings can add up when you’re running the heating system in colder weather.
3. Seal Window and Door Gaps
Cold air blowing through your home, even with all the windows and doors closed, suggest your home has some air leakages. A qualified technician can use a blower door test to depressurize your home and identify the leak locations. You can also find leaks yourself by inspecting your doors and windows for cracks and gaps. Generally, any windows or doors that rattle or if you can see daylight around a door or window frame is a potential leak source.
You can plug air leaks by sealing gaps with caulk or weather stripping or installing energy-efficient window and door replacements. Closing air leaks can keep the cold weather out and boost energy efficiency.
4. Inspect Your Fireplace
Strive to clean your fireplace at least once every year. Ideally, you will want to remove the ash in your fireplace at the end of winter. If you delayed this task for over a year, you’ll want to handle that now, especially if there is a one-eighth inch of soot buildup, as the risk of a chimney fire goes up.
Full Service Chimney recommends scheduling an annual inspection of your fireplace to check for structural integrity, signs of damage or wear and tear and soot buildup that could affect performance. Full Service Chimney encourages you calling a professional if you notice any of the following signs:
- Poor fire performance that could indicate a clogged flue
- Animal entry or nests that can obstruct airflow
- Odors related to creosote buildup
- Oil spots on chimney walls
- Cracked heat exchanger
Remember to keep all flammable materials at least three feet away from your fireplace. A fire screen should contain the embers, but this extra precaution prevents fires and subsequent insurance claims.
5. Drain Garden Hoses and Outdoor Faucets
Outdoor faucets, like those connected to a garden hose, should always be drained and shut off before the winter season arrives. Water expands when it freezes and water freezing inside your pipes can warp the shape and compromise its integrity.
Start by identifying the shut-off valve that controls the water flow to all your exterior faucets. There may be multiple valves. After turning off your water supply valve, turn on the outdoor faucet to flush out the remaining water. For extra protection, you can buy and apply an insulation cover to protect the faucet from freezing temperatures.
Remember to disconnect your hose, drain it of water and then properly store it for the winter. Similarly, water can freeze and expand inside your hose, causing tears.
6. Change Your Filters
After using your HVAC unit to cool your house in the hot summer, changing your filter can prime it for warming your home throughout the fall and winter. Changing your filter regularly is also essential for potential HVAC-related insurance claims since homeowners insurance won’t cover damages from lack of maintenance and neglect — that includes damages that happen from not changing the air filter regularly.
ARS Rescue Rooter, a company that offers HVAC services, recommends visually inspecting your filter monthly, especially if you have a pet that sheds a lot. You can do this by taking the used air filter and holding it up to the light. A clogged filter that needs replacing will block light from peering through the filter.
Consider purchasing air filters in bulk, so you can easily change clogged air filters as needed.
7. Check Your Safety Devices
Your home’s safety devices are essential to protecting your home in the presence of fire, smoke and carbon monoxide. Schedule some time to test these detectors and alarms. You may discover that your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors need a new battery or a replacement altogether. Be sure to also replace expired fire extinguishers, especially if you use your fireplace.
Don’t forget about your security devices, either. If you have security cameras, double-check that they’re operating and the live feed is syncing properly. Consider installing an outdoor camera if you do not already have one, especially in the days leading up to Halloween. If your property suffers damages or a burglary, you can submit the footage to the police and your insurance company to prove your claim.
TIP: Installing smart home security devices or signing up for professional monitoring services may qualify you for a discount on your home insurance premium. Ask your insurance agent for more information.
8. Store Your Lawn Mower and Other Equipment
Store your lawnmower, garden hoses and other outdoor equipment in a garage, shed or some other enclosed space. Your outdoor equipment will likely see less use when the outdoor temperatures drop and you spend more time indoors. Equipment left outside becomes vulnerable to the elements and theft.
If you don’t have a garage or some other structure that is enclosed to store your lawn equipment, consider purchasing a specialized cover. For example, a lawn mower cover can be a cost-effective solution for protecting your lawn mower from moisture and rust.
9. Care for Trees and Shrubs
Trees and shrubbery add welcome shade and aesthetics to your yard but untrimmed or dead branches can pose dangers to your home and other people. A strong gust can break off a heavy, dead branch and damage your roof. If it falls on a person, you may be held liable for their injuries because you did not maintain your tree. Stray branches can also fall on your roof and clog your gutters.
Proper tree care via trimming your trees and shrubs encourages safety and can even improve the harvest quality for fruit trees.
10. Trim and Maintain Your Lawn
A well-maintained lawn can boost your curb appeal and encourage healthier plant growth. Start by raking your leaves because these dead leaves can pose a fire risk in drier areas, even in the fall.
As an alternative, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation suggests using your lawn mower to chop the leaves and use it as mulch to protect your grass’s root systems and preserve the soil’s moisture.
Other ways to maintain your lawn include:
- Reseeding dead or thin patches
- Patching turf with sod
- Draining your irrigation system
- Applying fertilizer
11. Mind Your Outdoor Extension Cords
If you’re planning to display Halloween decor outside, be sure to use an electrical outlet intended for outdoor use. An outdoor outlet’s water-resistant properties make it more durable against outdoor elements and safer to handle.
If you find cracks, broken sockets or frayed wires on your electrical extension cords, discard and replace them. Be careful about plugging too many outlets, too. Overloaded or worn-out extension cords can lead to electrical fires, which can trigger an insurance claim to recoup your losses.
12. Adjust Your Thermostat
As temperatures drop in the fall, your HVAC may be running more often to help keep your home warm. To reduce how frequently it runs and to save on your heating bills, find a temperature that is low but still comfortable for you. In addition, while you’re outside of your home, you can set your thermostat even lower and then adjust it to normal when you return.
13. Touch Up Exterior Paint
Summer's intense sunlight, high humidity, and fluctuating temperatures can wear away exterior paint, leading to issues like fading, discoloration, blistering and even moisture damage. Conducting a thorough visual inspection, checking for rotten wood, re-caulking gaps, and touching up faded or chipped paint areas at the start of fall can prevent further deterioration, which might result in more extensive and costly repairs down the line.
14. Cover Outdoor Furniture or Put It Away
Prolonged exposure to the cold weater, especially during the fall and winter months, can significantly reduce the lifespan of your patio sets, loungers, and other outdoor pieces. Moisture from rain, snow, or dew can lead to mold, mildew, and rust, while the cold can make certain materials brittle or cause them to warp.
To avoid these issues and extend the life of your outdoor furniture, consider investing in high-quality, waterproof covers that fit snugly around each item. These covers will shield your furniture from moisture and UV rays, preventing damage and fading. If you have the storage space, another effective method is to store your furniture indoors, be it in a garage, shed, or basement.
15. Deep Clean Your Home
As the seasons transition and we prepare to spend more time indoors, fall presents the perfect opportunity to give your home a thorough deep cleaning. Start by decluttering each room, getting rid of items you no longer need and organizing your spaces. While you’re at it, you should update your home inventory if you’ve made any significant purchases over the year.
Tackle areas like baseboards, ceiling fans, and behind large appliances, where dust and grime tend to accumulate over time. Wash your curtains, deep clean carpets and rugs, and consider getting your upholstery professionally cleaned. Don't forget about your kitchen — empty and clean the insides of your refrigerator, oven, and microwave. In bathrooms, address tile grout, showerheads, and those hard-to-reach corners.