Summer’s over, the kids are back in school, football games have started and the days and nights are starting to get cooler. There are quite a few things you can do to be sure your home is ready for the coming seasons. And none of them include raking leaves, although that’s a good idea too! Here are some ideas to get you started:
Outside Your House
- Once you’ve washed your car and watered your garden for the last time this year, drain your hose lines and turn off the water to outside valves. Remove the hose from the water valve and store it in a garage or shed. All of these actions will help prevent burst pipes over the winter.
- Winterize your garden. Be sure all of your plants and trees are trimmed back, and bring in or cover any furniture in your yard. Also cover your air-conditioning condenser unit and grill.
- Late in the fall, clean out your gutters. It’s essential that your gutters be leaf- and debris-free to allow water to flow during the fall, winter and spring. Once you’ve cleaned the gutters out, consider purchasing gutter guards at your home improvement store. They’re easy to install and will make the gutter cleaning much easier next year.
Prepping Your Garage For Winter
Rake & Shovel
Landscape designer Julie Moir Messervy, who created the app Home Outside, recommends not just cleaning the business ends but also sterilizing them—to remove diseased plant material before the tools touch new plantings next year. Plunge smaller tools into a container of sand and mineral oil to prevent rust.
Lubricating metal parts is especially important in winter. To keep out snow and add warmth (as well as another layer of protection for valuables), apply weather stripping around the door.
A shelter is only as good as its roof, and gutters are key to channeling off water and snow to prevent a winter cave-in. Scoop out any gutter gunk and flush the gutter with a hose.
“A good-quality garden hose can cost up to $80 and could last for up to 10 years with proper maintenance,” says Messervy. Stretch it out on a downward slope to drain water (which could freeze and expand), then coil it up.
Backpack Leaf Blower
Clean or replace the air filter and drain the fuel, advises Kris Kiser of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute. You can use 10 percent or zero-ethanol gas—but Kiser uses only zero concentration, so any fuel remaining in the tank won’t harm the blower. Replacing dirty spark plugs is also good practice (first, though, safely disconnect battery cables). Invest in a spark-plug tester for upkeep.
Keep spare fuel in a steel jerrican equipped with a flame arrestor and label it with the date of purchase; never store it for more than 30 days. Any gas with ethanol will need to be mixed with a stabilizer to prevent deterioration.
Clean grass from the undercarriage and sharpen the blades—then run the machine until the gas tank is empty, which prevents corrosion. Do this and “mowers can last up to 20 years,” says Kiser.
Get it ready for action: Change out last season’s dirty oil and add low- to zero-ethanol gas (you did drain last season’s fuel, right?). Replace shear pins and check the shave plate for wear.
Flush out the engine and let it drain. Shut off the fuel supply and treat the engine with fogging spray as it runs out of gas. To store, place it upright without any tilt. Store smaller engines the same way, and be sure to drain the built-in gas tank. A little TLC—changing the oil and lower-unit lube—won’t hurt either, according to Charles Fort, associate editor at BoatUS Magazine.
Keep The Cold Out And The Heat In
- Check the weather stripping around doors and replace any stripping that has become worn.
- Does your house always seem drafty in the wintertime? If you haven’t already done so, replace your old windows with new, energy efficient ones. If new windows just aren’t in your budget, you can buy window insulation kits at your home improvement store to seal leaks around your windows and sliding glass doors. Get started now sealing up those drafts! You can save the insulation film when you take it down in the spring; store it away and re-use it next year if you still haven’t replaced the windows. If you had to cut any of the film, mark on the box which window it fits to save time next year. Opt for a simple door draft block that insulates entryways from outside breezes.
And After You’ve Finished With Those Tasks…
- Depending on what kind of system you have and when it was last serviced it may be time to have your heating system checked out. You don’t want to wait until your heating system goes out on the coldest day of the winter to have it looked at! Consult your owner’s manual for servicing instructions.
- Change your furnace filter. You should actually do this every three months throughout the spring, summer and fall, but change the filter monthly during the winter.
- If you have an indoor wood-burning fireplace that you haven’t had cleaned in the last two to three years, it’s probably time to clean your fireplace or hire a chimney-sweep. Although wood-burning fireplaces require the most maintenance, electric and gas fireplaces also require some annual attention. Follow the instructions that came with your fireplace.
- Clean out any dust or dirt in your air registers with a vacuum hose attachment. While you have the hose attached, dust ceiling fan blades and bathroom fans, and clean out your dryer vent. For bonus points, check your refrigerator’s owner’s manual for instructions on vacuuming the refrigerator coils; clean those out, too.
- Wrap your water pipes in insulation to help keep them warm and make sure everyone in your household knows where the water shut-off is in case of an emergency.
After you’ve finished all of these tasks you’ll have earned the right to prop up your feet and take a rest on the couch. Maybe your favorite sports team will be playing!
While you’re helping protect your home from seasonal changes, make sure your homeowners insurance is up to snuff, too. Get a fast, free quote through the GEICO Insurance Agency and see how affordable quality home coverage can be.
By Kelly Beamon
Illustration by Joe McKendry