Fall doesn’t officially start until September 22, but it’s not too early to prepare your home for the new season and the winter to follow. Completing these tasks will better protect your home and family, minimize your expenses and help prevent bigger problems down the road. Here are several important ways to prepare your home for the colder months. 

Show your lawn some love

Raking leaves are a classic part of fall, but the season brings other yard work as well. In addition to clearing fallen foliage (which can also be done with lawn mowers, leaf blowers or lawn vacuums), you may want to consider aerating your lawn. This will prevent thatch buildup, conduct moisture and keep air and nutrients flowing to your lawn’s roots. Fall fertilizer for your yard and cool weather grass seed for any bald spots may also be beneficial.

Defend your deck

Decks need regular maintenance to guard against weather damage, and this is best done before cold weather arrives. Start by thoroughly cleaning your deck and inspecting it for any damage. Repair any cracks or rotted wood you find to prevent the problems from getting worse. The deck’s ledger board is particularly important as it connects your deck to your home, and its failure is the number one cause of deck collapse.

Prepare your pavement

Another surface that’s vulnerable to weather damage is your driveway. If your winters reach freezing temperatures, water can enter the cracks of your driveway and freeze, causing the cracks to grow and spread. Guard against this by sealing and filling any cracks and holes while the weather is still warm. This preventative maintenance will extend the time until your driveway requires an expensive resurfacing.

Flush out the faucets

Before the cold arrives, turn off your outside faucets and in-ground irrigation systems to prevent them from freezing and bursting when the temperature drops. Close any shut-off valves, and open outside faucets to drain the lines completely to prevent them from being harmed by harsh winter weather.

Wash your windows and fix your frames

Now’s the critical time to ensure your home’s windows are in top shape for winter. These tasks include cleaning your windows, installing storm windows (if used) and inspecting and repairing weather stripping and caulk. When you’re done, you should have no gaps or air leaks. As windows are often the biggest source of heat loss for homes, properly preparing them for the winter is an important part of maintaining indoor comfort and heating efficiency.

Guard your gutters

If you’ve neglected to clean your gutters over the summer, now is a wise time to get back in the habit. It’s important to keep debris from accumulating in your gutters and causing messy clogs or damaging leaks and ice dams. Clear out any visible debris and flush your gutters with a garden hose to test the flow. Gutters screens are worth considering if your gutters are especially prone to clogging.

Fiddle with the furnace

It’s smart to inspect your furnace now so you can address any problems that could interrupt your heat when you really need it. Check the pilot light, thermostat and vents to make sure everything is functioning as it should. An annual furnace inspection by a qualified technician is recommended.

Refresh your filters

Now’s a good time to make sure you’re regularly replacing your HVAC system’s air filter. As the weather cools and you spend more time indoors, the air quality inside your home becomes even more important. Keep your air cleaner, extend the life of your HVAC system and keep your energy costs down by swapping out your filters as often as their directions recommend.

Cover the air conditioner

Once the hot days are behind us for the year, it’s time to securely retire your air conditioner for the season. Clean the filter and remove any debris so the unit will be ready for spring. Inspect for any visible damage before wrapping it with an approved cover. If you have any window units, take them out and store them so you don’t let cold air leak in through the units.

Audit your alarms

Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are always important, but this is even truer during fall and winter. More time spent inside and the use of furnaces and fireplaces can mean a bigger risk from fires and carbon monoxide. Smoke detectors should be installed inside every sleeping room, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home. Carbon monoxide detectors should also be installed on each level of the home, especially on any level with fuel-burning appliances and outside of sleeping areas, and additional detectors are recommended near carbon monoxide sources such as furnaces, water heaters and fireplaces. It’s recommended to test these devices monthly and replace batteries every six months.

Fix up your fireplace

If you have a fireplace you plan to use in the coming months, make sure it’s in proper condition before you light up your first log. If you’ve gone more than a year without a professional cleaning and inspection, schedule a qualified chimney cleaner to do the job. If you don’t plan to use your fireplace, make sure the flue is kept closed.

With these seasonal chores out of the way, you can relax and enjoy the fall weather and the holidays knowing that your home is ready for the colder months.