Get Winter-Ready in 7 Easy Steps

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. Whoever wrote those lyrics obviously wasn’t a homeowner! Winter snows may be picturesque, but they can do a number on your roof, sprinklers, and heating bills—at least if you’re not prepared, that is! Luckily, you aren’t powerless in the face of nature. These seven steps will get you ready for the snowy days ahead—no matter how frightful the weather gets!

snowy house

Inspect Your Roof

Roof leaks are unfortunate in any kind of weather, but in winter ice and snow, homes are at a particularly high risk for water damage. That’s why it will pay now to inspect your roof for missing, cracked or warped shingles and rusted flashing. Or just hire one of the pros to have a look. Roofers can safely check over your roof—and know how to spot the telltale signs of a problem before it begins.

Prep Your Sprinkler System

Water sitting in your sprinklers is a recipe for disaster—dealing with a burst pipe is no one’s idea of a good time. To prepare your irrigation system for the weather ahead, disconnect your hoses from faucets to let the water there drain out. Then drain and wind the hoses for winter storage. Next, hit up the sprinklers. Shut off the water at the main valve and turn off the automatic controller. Remove the drain valves to get rid of an excess water. Then disconnect the sprinkler heads and shake out any remaining water. Put them back on and let the weather do its worst!

Clean and Repair Your Gutters

Late fall is the perfect time to get your gutters cleaned and working in tip-top order, for several reasons: they’re likely brimming with leaves and debris this time of year and you’re going to need your drainage system clear and working when winter precipitation heads your way. Inspect your system to ensure that all gutters and downspouts are connected, without any apparent damage. Then hop on a ladder and use one of these quick techniques to get rid of collected leaves and sludge fast.

Tune Up Your Heating System

Few things are worse than waking up on a cold day to find out your heater’s stopped working. Prevent this kind of chilly surprise by giving your heating system a tune up now, before the worst of the cold weather hits. First off, change your furnace filters—it can make a big difference on your unit performance. Next, hire an HVAC professional to check your system levels, electrical connections and generally ensure that no looming issues are right around the corner. Worry-free heating? How cozy does that sound!

Seal Around Windows and Doors

Even a very small crack in window and door seals can have a big impact on your home’s energy bills—and your overall comfort, too! If you find any gaps large enough to fit your fingernail in, you might just need to re-caulk and reseal. Luckily, this is easy to do. Scrape out the existing caulk and reseal it with a bead of smoothed-down silicone sealant. For extra comfort, apply foam tape around the moving parts of all windows and doors, and add a sweep to your door for maximum comfort. Voilà! Instant improvement!

Trim Trees and Bushes

Tree branches loaded with snow and ice are at risk of falling—and when your home is in their path, it can spell trouble for your roof. Take care to trim tree branches and bushes now, after the growing season has ended. Hire an arborist or tree trimming service to do the high-up work, or to handle anything around power lines. You just might skirt disaster!

Stock Up on Winter Supplies

Don’t siege the store with the rest of the pre-storm shoppers for winter supplies like shovels, salt, or wood for the stove. Get these items ahead of time and save yourself the headache when storm predictions hit your area. With your supply cabinet stocked up, you’ll be able to handle anything the winter dishes out. Let it snow, indeed!

6 Trees and Shrubs You Can Plant Now for a Beautiful Spring

Fall is the perfect time for so many things: hayrides, pumpkin pie and…planting shrubs? Yeah, we’re still working on that last one. But it is true that autumn’s crisp temperatures and frequent moisture make it the best incubation period for young tree roots. Growing trees and shrubs can get used to their new location and establish themselves, without the stress from heat. And the cooler weather encourages trees to focus on their roots, instead of leafing out above.

Of course, if you’re a horticulture newbie, planting your first tree or shrub can be intimidating. This guide from The University of Nebraska Extension should get you through the basics of digging and planting.

In general, it includes digging a hole twice as wide but slightly shallower than the root ball. Then fill the hole with soil and add mulch around the base to keep the surrounding soil nice and moist. Next, stake the tree to protect it while it gets a good root structure going. Nothing to it!

That just leaves what to plant. To help you make this crucial decision, we’ve picked out the hardiest, showiest and best plants money can buy—the kind of beauties that will vault your lawn to floral perfection once spring rolls around. Here are our top choices.

beautiful tree flowering

If You’re Looking for Convenience: Redbud

This low-maintenance showstopper is kind of like the Miss Congeniality of trees. It’s beautiful, but also easy-going. Redbuds do well in all but the most southern and northern US residences, letting loose a shower of snowy, pink blossoms in spring. As a smallish tree, they grow no larger than 20 to 30 feet, making them a good choice to plant near the home or in another close-knit spot. They liked to be mulched occasionally, and pruned once a year to trim away dead growth. Other than that, you can pretty much leave them on their own—and enjoy beautiful, delicate blossoms all spring for minimal effort!

For Something a Little Bit Different: American Fringe Tree

Looking for something a little less conventional? The fringe tree is a beautiful North American native with feathery white blooms and bright yellow fall foliage. Essentially, this one is a stunner all year long. Fringe tree likes slightly acidic soil and a moist, sunny location to flourish. Under ideal conditions, it can grow to 20 feet tall. It’s also a somewhat wider tree, so make sure to plant it somewhere with room to spread out. The female trees produce black berries that birds love, so it’s a great choice if you’re looking to get a visit from some local wildlife.

For Drought-prone Areas: Flowering Quince

Choosing trees and shrubs for dry, arid climates is tricky, sure, but certainly not impossible. Flowering quince has creamy pink blossoms and yellow crabapple-like fruit that belies its inherent drought-tolerance. This tough little shrub prefers moderate to light water, making it ideal for homes with watering restrictions or in dry, arid climates where water conservation is a concern. It can handle a variety of soil conditions as well and will tolerate moderate shade, so it’s both showy and tough—one of our favorite combinations!

For Tiny Yards and Apartments: Citrus Trees

A tree in a pot? You bet! Oranges, lemons and limes come in dwarf varieties that make lovely patio or balcony inhabitants—as long as you remember to bring them inside when the weather gets cold! To plant one, use a special citrus potting soil and place in a large, well-draining pot somewhere where it will get plenty of sunlight. Citrus needs at least eight hours of sunlight per day to flourish, so make sure to choose an especially sun-drenched spot in your yard. Water infrequently, keeping the soil moist but not drenched. Fertilize regularly with a commercial citrus mix.

For Shady Yards: Allegheny Serviceberries

Think of serviceberries as lilacs’ cooler, hipper cousin. Congenial and easy-to-grow with dense, snowy flowers, serviceberries also feature attractive fall foliage and decorative bark that makes them easy on the eyes all year long. True to their name, serviceberries produce small, edible fruits—a huge draw for local birds. And, of course, they can tolerate moderate shade, so they do well as a companion to densely-treed yards.

For a True Showstopper: Southern Magnolia

Long the star of southern lore, there’s ample reason for the magnolia’s long-standing reputation. Large showy flowers crown the magnolia in bloom, atop shiny deep-green foliage that offers a bit of shade on a hot day. The key to growing magnolia is to choose a cultivar that fits your yard’s conditions. There are cold-hardy varieties and compact varieties—essentially there’s one for any growing condition you need to meet. Plant young trees in moist, slightly-acidic, well-drained soil and supplement with at least one inch of water per week until the tree has had time to establish itself.

Whatever you plant, make sure to give it plenty of water the first months after planting. Young roots need lots of moisture since they may not be able to reach down to more remote water reserves. Water yours frequently and you can look forward to showy beautiful springs for years to come. Now you just have to make it through winter!

Your Ultimate Fall Maintenance Guide

Anne of Green Gables once said, “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” But I’m guessing she never had to clean out any gutters. While October’s mild temperatures and gentle sunshine does make a person glad to be alive, those winter storms are just around the corner, bringing plenty of ice, snow and wind.

That makes right now an ideal time to prep your home for the harsher temperatures ahead. After all, the weather is still pretty agreeable, and the days are long enough to take advantage of evening sunlight. Checking off these tasks now will set you up for a long, worry-free winter—and give you more time to enjoy the autumn as well. Here’s everything you need to know.

kid playing with leaves

Clean Your Gutters

You probably don’t need to be reminded about this task; it’s usually pretty evident by the pile of leaves on the ground. But just in case you need convincing, you should definitely give your gutters some attention this time of year. Clogged gutters can cause water to pool on your roof or cascade over the siding, which means your next stop is Leak Central. Luckily, cleaning the gutters doesn’t have to be a massive headache. In fact, you can even install gutter guards after you finish to make the job a whole lot easier next time.

Give Your Windows and Doors Some TLC

About a third of a home’s heat loss occurs through leaky windows and doors, which means getting yours in peak winter condition is key to maintaining a comfortable home and reasonable energy bills. If your windows are older or inefficient, install storm windows over them to keep out the drafts. Next, move inside, adding foam weather stripping to the edges of doors and windows. Scrape out cracked window caulking with a razor blade and apply fresh silicone sealant to prevent drafts and heat loss. Install a door sweep at the edge of all exterior doors, and get ready for your coziest winter yet!

Get Your Heating Systems Cold-Weather-Ready

If La Niña has anything to say about it, most of us have a pretty wet, nasty winter in store this year. And that means our heating systems are going to be working pretty hard. Give yours a head start by putting in some maintenance now. The first thing you should always do is change the filters on your furnace. Dirty filters can make your unit work less effectively, which means less heat for your home. Another smart move is to have a HVAC technician out to perform a maintenance visit. Have them check the electrical connections and air pressure, recharging your unit if necessary. If you plan to use your chimney to heat your home as well, have it inspected and cleaned. Creosote buildup in chimneys is a fire hazard that’s preventable with professional cleaning. An inspector will help locate cracks in the chimney and flashing, as well. After all, nothing is nicer than a crackling fire to stave off the winter chill!

Trim Trees and Rake Leaves

Fall leaves need raking—that’s a no-brainer. Leaves left on the ground over winter can seriously stunt grass growth in the spring. Plus, raked leaves make great fodder for compost or mulch later. But you’ll also need to take your focus a little higher up, too. Dead tree branches and limbs can snap under the weight of ice and snow, causing all kinds of havoc. Usually it’s best to have a professional arborist or tree trimming service out to take care of this work, since trimming can be dangerous for untrained homeowners. The pros also know how to spot problem areas, like a hollow trunk, that might cause problems down the line.

Check Your Roof and Siding

Fall is pretty much the ideal time to have your roof inspected. Roofing inspectors look for loose shingles and damaged flashing that can lead to leaks in wet weather. They’ll also be able to scope out hail damage and other issues that might have popped up from summer thunderstorms. A professional roofing inspection is recommended every three to five years, so if it’s been a while, you’ll want to take care of that now. Another issue to check for? Look for cracks where the masonry meets the siding, or signs of peeling paint or cracked vinyl siding along your home’s exterior walls. Both of these issues should be dealt with before cold wet weather begins.

Take Care of Your Porch and Lawn

Now it’s time to turn an eye on your porch and lawn. First, bring in any potted plants that won’t survive colder temperatures and then store delicate lawn furniture, like anything wicker, in a covered area, like the garage. You should also remove any cushions and fragile decorations that might not make it through the winter intact. Now is also a good time to check the stairs and railings of your porch as well, to ensure that they will be safe to use in slippery winter conditions. Next, move over to the side of your house and turn off the valves to the exterior hoses. These can freeze in the winter and cause pipes to burst. Allow any leftover water to drain out of the hoses, as well. Roll them up and place them somewhere safe where they won’t be bothered by winter winds.

Last of all, grab a blanket and a cup of your favorite hot beverage and scope out this list for your latest Netflix binge. Now you have everything you need to last you through until the end of winter!

Pain-free Gutter Cleaning with These Fall Maintenance Shortcuts

There are probably a million other things you’d rather be doing than cleaning the gutters. Picking lint off a sweater, downloading a movie over slow internet, watching paint dry—all of these are more palatable alternatives to the back-breaking tedium that is gutter cleaning.

Getting the gunk out of the gutters means climbing up on a ladder and digging your hands into a pile of leaves, dirt and who-knows-what-else. Then you have to climb down, move the ladder a foot or so down the line and start the whole thing over again. Not exactly the makings of a great Sunday afternoon.

But cleaning your gutters is one task you don’t want to overlook, either. Clogged gutters can cause water to spill down over the side of your home, eventually damaging your siding. Or they can result in backups and pooling water that creates roof leaks, slowly breaking down your roof shingles—meaning expensive, highly-preventable repairs.

Okay, so cleaning the gutters is important. You get it. But that doesn’t mean it has to be a big pain in the you-know-what. Clever gutter-hating homeowners like you have discovered several techniques to make the whole process a lot less painful. Want to find out more? Well, come on then! The sooner you read this, the sooner you can have those gutters done and over with for the next few months!

fall leaves

Tip #1: Use a Hose

Sometimes the best approach is the tried-and-true method. If the debris in your gutters isn’t too bad, a hose may be all you need to flush them clean. Just hold the hose on one end and watch as the junk washes away down the chute. If your gutters are pretty full, though, you’ll need a trowel and a trash bag to scoop out the bigger bits of debris by hand and into the bag—a.k.a. the traditional method.

Tip #2: Use a Leaf Blower

Got a leaf blower at home? There’s no reason you can’t use it on the gutters as well as you can in the yard! Many leaf blower manufacturers sell attachment kits made specifically for gutter cleaning. In these kits, there will be several long and angled tubes that you can use to comfortably reach every nook and cranny of your gutters. It’s a million times faster than the hand-scooped method. In fact, it’s even kind of fun!

Tip #3: Use a Shop Vac

Shop vacs are handy little inventions to clean up a number of household messes—everything from a pile of sand to fireplace ashes. Little did you realize, however, that that same ingenuity can be used when you’re cleaning your gutters as well. A shop vac cleaning kit is a specialized attachment that lets you easily reach up and over the gutters and into the gunk. For best results, you’ll need a wet dry vacuum equipped with a blower port and a 2.5-inch diameter hose. From there, it’s simply a matter of turning it on and watching it go!

Tip #4: Use a Robotic Gutter Cleaner

Technology has the potential to solve all kinds of little household headaches—and now, it’s finally fixed the issue of cleaning your gutters, too. A robotic cleaner, like this iRobot Looj, is like a Roomba for your gutters. It comes with a remote control that you can use from the ground to maneuver the cleaner around corners. With multiple adjustable cleaning settings, it can handle just about any grit you can throw at it. (You can watch a demo of the cleaner at work here). Now, this is what we had in mind when we dreamed of the future!

Tip #5: Hire a Professional

Sometimes your best bet is to throw in the towel and call in the pros. Professional gutter cleaners will run you somewhere between $50 to $250, but it may be worth it if you’re afraid of heights—or just not keen on handling gunk and debris yourself. A three-story home, unruly bushes, or gutter covers may drive up the costs slightly, so make sure you get a detailed quote before you decide on a company. After that, all you have to do is kick back and watch the professionals work their magic—in other words, get busy enjoying your weekend!

7 Things You Might Not Know About Fall Lawn Care

Fall is definitely well under way, but that’s no excuse to abandon your lawn. Your turf needs your attention at all times of the year, but especially now, when late season seeding, watering, and fertilization can mean the difference between a vigorous, healthy lawn and one that’s sick and spindly come spring.

In particular, now is the time to get your grass prepped for the long winter ahead by feeding it plenty of nutrients—and ensuring that it can absorb them all. Of course, knowing how to do just that—and when to do it—can make or break your turf game. Here are a few pointers you may not have heard yet, and some things you can do to get your grass all set for the colder weather ahead.

grassy lawn

Continue Watering Well into Fall

Most people think they can turn off the sprinklers the minute the weather gets just the slightest bit cooler—after all, nature will take it from here, right? Not so. Lawns should be watered up to the first frost in order to keep them well-hydrated during the fall. That way, they’ll be healthy enough to survive any hot and dry spells that occur throughout this period. In fact, if you live in the north, your grass is busy establishing roots right now, which means it’s important it stays watered so as not to impinge on this growth. So keep those sprinklers going!

Your Fall Lawn Care Regimen Depends on the Type of Grass You Have

You probably see articles recommending you do this or that to your lawn, but actually it’s hard to give an exact prescription for the perfect lawn care regimen. That’s because the steps depend on the type of grass you have in your lawn. Cool season grasses like fescue, ryegrass or Kentucky bluegrass need plenty of fertilizer in the fall to sustain their root systems over the winter. Warm season grasses, however, like Bermuda, zoysia and St. Augustine go dormant much earlier in the season, and so may not need as much primping and tending to.

Falling Leaves Can Harm Your Turf

Ever left something out on your lawn for a couple of days, only to discover a patch of sickly, pale grass underneath it afterwards? A similar thing occurs when the trees drop their leaves. While a leaf or two here and there won’t really hurt anything, a heavy coat of fallen foliage can imperil your turf, robbing it of vital sun and moisture. To prevent that from happening, it’s best to rake leaves regularly and thoroughly.

Now’s the Perfect Time to Aerate Your Soil

Turf-covered soil can become compacted over time, especially if you have a lot of clay or silt in your soil composition. When compaction happens, it’s more difficult for the roots to take in nutrients, which means a less lush, healthy lawn in the spring. You may not need to aerate your soil every year, but you should at least address it ocassionally with a core aerator to keep growth steady and dependable.

Always Overseed Your Lawn

Seeding your lawn is one of those few times where “too much of a good thing” doesn’t apply. Overseeding for a thicker, fuller lawn is a pretty good battle plan against weeds, since your best defense against dandelions and other invaders is a healthy, vibrant lawn. So go ahead, spread that seed with a liberal hand. It will also help to fill in any bald patches that resulted from summer dry spells. Win-win!

Wait for Colder Weather to Fertilize

In life, timing is everything. The same adage holds true for your lawn. If you fertilize cool season grasses too early, the turf will get confused and start sending up new growth: tender, young blades that will die off the next time there’s a frost—and use up your grass’s winter food supply in the process. Always wait until late fall to apply fertilizer, and use a slow-release granular product that will tide your grass over until spring.

Kill Weeds Naturally with Vinegar

Fall’s a great time to attack common weeds like dandelions and plantains. The reason? Just like your grass, weeds are about to go into conservation mode for the winter, meaning they’re more likely to be in a weakened state right now, and thus, easier to remove. Instead of spreading a bunch of pesticides, however, try hitting them with a mixture of 5 parts vinegar, 2 parts water and 1 part everyday dish soap. The solution, when applied with a spray bottle, stops dandelions in their tracks—without harming beneficial micro-organisms in your soil. A healthier, all-natural lawn? Where do I sign up?

10 Easy Tips to Winterize Pools, Spas and Hot Tubs

Sure, the official beginning of fall is still a few weeks off, but it’s still autumn in all the ways that count. And if you’re anything like these fall lovers, you’re too busy contemplating your next pumpkin-spiced bev to be sad about bidding your pool farewell for another season.

That said, closing a pool is no enviable task. Cleaning and balancing the chemicals, protecting against algae and freezing, managing the equipment and blowing out the plumbing lines—it’s a lot to fit into your fall schedule! That’s why we created this list of tips to help you get it right, right from the start. After all, the sooner you say sayonara to your pool, the sooner the real fall fun can begin.

beach ball in a pool

Make Sure the Weather Is Right

An unexpected Indian summer can encourage algae growth, creating a big headache when you open back up in spring. Instead, wait until the water temperature measures about 65 degrees Fahrenheit. You’ll save yourself a lot of work next year!

Give Your Pool Extra Algaecide in the Late Fall

Today’s weather is pretty unpredictable (thanks, global warming!), so you may get some unseasonably warm temperatures even if you wait. That’s why it makes sense to apply an extra dose of algaecide and chlorine in the late fall—or even the early winter—to outthwart warm-weather algae.

Closing is a Process, So Take Some Time to Prep

Much as you’d like to have your pool closing over and done with, you should really break it up into a couple steps throughout the span of a week. Specifically, take some time to vacuum your pool and give it one last thorough cleaning. Then, about a week before you’re planning to close your pool, add a phosphate remover, which helps limit the growth of algae in the coming months.

But Before You Do That, Balance the pH

Balancing your pool’s pH levels are an integral part of your closing process, even if you’re hiring a pool service to close it down for you. In fact, all chemicals should be balanced the day you begin closing, so use water treatments to manage the levels, if necessary. For the record, “balanced” means a pH between 7.2 and 7.6, alkalinity of between 80 and 120 parts per million (ppm), and calcium levels between 180 and 200 ppm. Do this first and your pool will survive the winter with ease!

Don’t Shock and Add Algaecide at the Same Time

Most people consider shock to be an absolutely necessary step in the closing process, but you shouldn’t do it when you’re hitting the water with a dose of algaecide. All that extra chlorine will break up the polymer chains in the algaecide, which basically means you poured it all in for nothing. Instead, shock the pool about four to seven days before you close, then add algaecide right before you cover it.

Never Drain Your Pool All the Way

You probably already know that freezes present a very real danger to your pool. What you might not know is that draining your pool can accelerate those problems. In fact, experts say you should always leave some water in there, particularly if you live in a warmer climate or have an above-ground pool. The pressure from freezing can pop the pool out of place or damage the lining, so it’s best not to drain it to protect pool surfaces.

But Do Completely Drain Plumbing Lines

However, your plumbing will suffer enormously if there’s any water left in the lines. Use a pool blower or industrial-grade shop vac to blow out the water, then add a swimming pool antifreeze to protect your plumbing during freezing temperatures.

Consider Adding a “Winter Pill”

Some professionals advise using a “winter pill,” a floating ball of enzymes and treatments that work to break down oils and prevent scum from forming, all winter long. The only caveat to this is that you’ll have to skip your final shock treatment—or use a non-chlorinated alternative—because the high chlorine levels can disrupt the enzymes’ functioning.

And an Air Pillow

Another floating fix, an air pillow takes some of the pressure off your pool—by that, we mean it literally absorbs some of the pressure from the ice forming in your pool, protecting the surfaces. Place the air pillow under the cover before you close up and let it do its thing all winter long.

If All Else Fails, Hire a Pro

Of course, the easiest way to get something done is to hand it over to the pros! Professional contractors will drain your pool and connected plumbing lines to prevent freezing and algae growth. They can also take special measures to prevent freezing, such as adding antifreeze to the plumbing, or using a winterizing air pillow and enzyme treatments. After all, there’s nothing like having a pro on hand to handle any problems that arise. And that means more time sipping cider and relaxing under a cuddly blanket—a definite fall win!

Your Back-to-School Home Maintenance Checklist

Let’s be honest: every parent feels a slight twinge of relief knowing that the kids will be back in school soon. These “thank god it’s back to school time” tweets don’t write themselves, after all. But regardless of how you feel about the upcoming school year, your kid’s first day back serves as an important reminder that you have some home upkeep to do. In between school shopping and packing lunches, make sure to schedule some time for the following maintenance tasks—to keep your home running smoothly all the way until summer vacation!

school bus on a shelf

Inspect Your Roof

Summer storms often spell disaster for your roof, which has the job of standing up to rain, wind and hail. Make sure yours is in tiptop shape by getting it inspected by a professional roofer. The pros know how to safely navigate your rooftop and to seek out telltale signs of shingle damage, leaks and rot. These indicators can be sneaky, so it’s important to have yours checked frequently; experts say every six months to a year is ideal. It could mean the difference between a leaking roof and one that’s solid for years to come!

Trim Back Overgrowth

Summer is prime growing season for trees and shrubs, so yours can probably use a little trim. And cutting back overgrown foliage gets you ready for the winter storms ahead, when falling branches can cause all kinds of havoc. Prune away any dead or weak branches or foliage that hangs over your roof or sidewalks. If you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself, call in a professional tree service for some backup. Whatever you do, though, don’t trim any branches near utility wires—this is a job for city or county employees only.

Clean Your Kitchen Appliances

Now that the summer heat is finally waning, using the oven seems a lot more appealing. To prepare for the home-cooked meals ahead, consider giving your fridge, oven and dishwasher a deep, thorough clean. Need a quick refresher on how to do just that? This post from Martha Stewart has pretty much everything you need to know. Of course Martha would know how to do kitchen cleaning right!

Get Your Water Heater Up-to-Snuff

No one likes a cold shower—least of all when it’s freezing outside! With colder weather on the horizon, it’s the perfect time to give your water heater a little TLC. More specifically, you’ll want to flush your water heater’s tank with a garden hose. This frequently overlooked home maintenance task rids your tank of sediments that build up over time. Left to their own devices, these mineral deposits not only reduce your water heater’s performance, but can also cause leaks and other expensive, irksome problems. Save yourself a new hot water heater and clean yours out following the instructions in this video from Rheem.

Deep Clean Your Floors

With the kids spending more time inside, messes are sure to follow. Meanwhile, the rainy and snowy days ahead mean they’ll be tracking mud and dirt inside at epic levels. To keep your home presentable, it’s not a bad idea to give your floors and carpets a deep cleaning now before the weather takes a nasty turn. Regardless of the type of flooring you have in your home, Real Simple offers tips to get it sparkling clean—at least until the kids get to it, that is.

Check Your Furnace

Speaking of nasty weather, if your home gets its first frost sooner rather than later, you’re going to want to give your furnace some attention now. A little routine maintenance, such as changing the air filter, cleaning the vents and testing the thermostat will go a long way when the temperatures plummet. In fact, you may even think about calling in an HVAC specialist for a professional tune-up. A pro can check your electrical connections and give your system a more thorough cleaning—and inspect all the parts to make sure they’re working properly. After all, parenting is hard enough without a broken furnace to worry about!