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!