The Savvy Homeowners Fall Maintenance Checklist: Part 1- Winterize Outside
It is hard to imagine that in just a short time, these sunny afternoons will turn bleak and slushy. It is always a good idea to start winterizing outside now before the colder temperatures make the job more unpleasant. Take a walk around your property and look for signs of any damage. If you see anything that needs repair, schedule it before winter weather arrives. A careful check and some inexpensive maintenance will save you money in the long run.
Leaving the beautiful fall leaves to decorate your yard well past Halloween is a mistake. Not only will the rotting foliage spoil a good snowman but leaving those leaves can inhibit spring lawn growth. So don’t forget to rake. We know it can be a labor intensive job, especially if you have a lot of trees but we find wearing gloves and using a lightweight rake can make the job more tolerable. We also recommend using handheld Leaf Scoops for quick bagging.
During our hot Idaho summers the optimal height for grass is about 2-1/2 inches but for this last mow of the season, mow it short. Set your mower to cut 1-1/2 to 2-inches to minimize the chance of snow mold forming and prevent tall grass blades from smothering the new grass next spring.
Clean & Stow Your Mower
Don’t forget to grab some fuel stabilizer while out shopping for Halloween treats. Fuel stabilizer ($10 for a 10-ounce bottle) prevents gas from degrading and is a must if your mower sits for months with gas in its tank. Without it, the gas will slowly deteriorate and can damage internal engine parts.
Just add the stabilizer to your gasoline when your top off your mower tank and then run the mower for five minutes to make sure the stabilizer reaches the carburetor. Then store the mower as usual until it’s time to turn in the snow shovel for the lawn mower again. If you use a snow blower, have it serviced and purchase fuel.
If you want the best lawn in town, fertilize four times a year. But if you want to keep it simple AND still have a great lawn, fertilize once—in the fall about three weeks before the last mowing before winter. Fertilizing in the fall provides energy and nutrients for the grass roots as they multiply in cooler weather before the grass goes dormant. The roots store food for the winter as well, which gives the grass an initial growth spurt when it emerges from dormancy in the spring.
Water, water, water! We can’t say this enough. Fall watering helps your lawn recover from summer stress and get strength for the freezing temperatures ahead. Plus, if you fertilize in the fall (which we highly recommend), watering is necessary for the fertilizer to dissolve and soak into the ground where it’s needed. So don’t put your hoses or sprinklers away until the ground starts to freeze.
Drain Your Sprinkler System
As winter moves in, even your buried irrigation lines can be in danger of freezing, leading to busted pipes and broken sprinkler heads. To avoid this, just complete the steps below:
Turn off the water to the system at the main valve.
Shut off the automatic controller.
Open drain valves to remove water from the system.
Remove any above-ground sprinkler heads and shake the water out of them, then replace.
If you don’t have drain valves, hire an irrigation pro to blow out the systems pipes with compressed air. Hiring a professional is well worth paying the $75 to $150 to make sure the job is done right and your system is protected.
Shut Off Exterior Faucets & Store Hoses
Once all your Fall watering is complete, remove garden hoses from outdoor faucets, drain them and store them in a shed or garage. Leaving hoses attached can cause water to back up in the faucets and in the pipes just inside your exterior walls. If that water freezes it could expand and crack the faucet or pipes and cause expensive water damage. So do yourself a favor and disconnecting your hoses and shutting off water to exterior faucets before the outdoor temperature drops below freezing.
Aerate The Soil
It is important to aerate your lawn at least once a year, preferably in the fall. You can rent a lawn aerator at any equipment rental store. Get one that will remove plugs of soil rather than one that just pokes holes in the ground. Honestly, aerating is the single most important task you can perform to maintain a healthy, good-looking lawn. It relieves compaction caused by foot traffic and allows air, nutrients and water to enter. All of that helps roots to thrive.
Trim Your Trees & Shrubs
The best time to prune your trees and plants is when the summer growth cycle has ended. This means that autumn it the absolutely perfect time to get your landscaping ready for next year.
Make sure branches are at least three feet from your home. This will help keep moisture from dripping onto your roof and siding as well as protect your home from falling limbs in winter storms.
You may also consider hiring an arborist to check the health of your trees. They will have the knowledge and skill to make sure your trees are in good health to prevent tree loss and give your trees a proper trim.
Get Your Deck Ready For Snow
Clean your porches and decks and see to any needed repairs. You will also want to cover and store your outdoor furniture and barbecues in a well protected area. Make sure all soil is emptied from pots and planters. Dirt left in clay pots will freeze and cause the pots to crack if left outside.
Winterize Your Gas Grill
The first thing you want to do is give your grill a thorough cleaning to remove grease and left over bits of food. If you will be storing your grill outside, just keep the propane tank connected (but shut off) and put a protective cover over the entire grill. It should be good to go once the nice weather returns.
If you plan to store the grill indoors, shut off the gas at the LP tank, unfasten the burner, slip the gas tubes off the gas lines and lift out the unit. Then coat the burners and other metal parts with cooking oil to protect it from rusting. Once you have done that, wrap the burner unit in a plastic bag to keep spiders and insects from making a home for winter.
Don’t bring the tank inside, even into the garage or a storage shed. Even a small gas leak can cause an explosion if the tank is stored in an enclosed space. Just disconnect the tank and store it outside in an upright position away from dryer and furnace vents and out of the way of children.
Clean Gutters & Downspouts
Once most of the leaves have fallen, clean out gutters and downspouts to remove leaves, twigs, and gunk and flush them with water. A great tip I learned is to use an old plastic spatula. It can easily be cut to fit your gutter size and wont scratch. It will make the job go a lot quicker which is important because clogged gutters can cause water to pool and damage your roof or siding and even cause ice dams, which can lead to costly repairs.
While you are out there you want to make sure gutters aren’t sagging and trapping water. It is important to tighten gutter hangers and downspout brackets and inspect the joints. Your downspouts should reach at least 5 feet beyond your house. If they do not, you can add downspout extensions to prevent issues with your foundation. They run about $10 to $20 each and can be picked up at any local hardware store.
Inspect Your Roof!
This step is one that is near and dear to our hearts. If you find colored grit while you were up cleaning your gutters, take note. The loss of granules from your asphalt shingles does not automatically mean it will no longer shed water but balding does shorten the shingles service life. Look closely for other signs of roof damage. Check out our blog Is It Time To Replace Your Roof? 6 Essential Questions To Ask Before Winter Hits for more great tips on what to look for. If you would like a professional to come take a look, just call Eagle Eye, LLC or schedule your FREE FALL roof inspection online at https://www.eagleeyeroofers.com/projectmanager.
Direct Your Drainage
During your exterior inspection, you want to make sure that the soil around you home does not touch your siding and that it slopes away from the house at least 6 vertical inches over 10 feet. This will help keep water from saturating the dirt around your foundation, which can cause cracks and leaks.
Make Exterior Repairs
As you can imagine, checking your home’s exterior walls is an important aspect of the fall home maintenance checklist. Be on the lookout for blistering or peeling paint. This can be an indication that the paint layer is failing is no longer protecting your siding. When this happens the siding itself will start to deteriorate. It is considerably less expensive to do some touch up now than to have to repair the whole shebang all in the future.
If you have vinyl siding, it’s a good idea to clean it once a year to keep it looking great. Just use a stiff bristle brush and soapy water, then rinse with clear water.
Seal Air Leaks
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, air leaks from gaps in caulk and weather-stripping can account for a 10% of your heating bills. Caulking and weather-stripping are hands down the the most cost-effective way cut your heating bill this winter. On the next a nice day when temps are above 50 degrees (so caulk flows easily) head outside to inspect for gaps where the warm air can get out and unwanted pest can get in.
Sealing up any cracks between the trim and siding, around your windows and door frames, and anywhere pipes and wires enter your home. Inspect and replace existing weather stripping as needed, as it can deteriorate over time. Don’t overlook your garage door, as it is an often overlooked area.
Install Storm Windows & Doors
One job I never look forward to is cleaning windows. This time of year you will want to clean and repair your screens as well. Once you have them removed and your storm windows installed, make sure to spray the screens with a protective coating before placing them in a dry area of the basement or garage to store for winter.
Even more importantly, clean those window wells. Leaves and debris can build up and act like a liner to a pool. This will prevent proper drainage and could possibly lead to a flooded basement.
Check The Driveway, Walkways, Stairs & Railings
Check that all steps and stairs are in good repair with sturdy railings. There is nothing more frightening than slipping on ice and having the railing give way. You will also want to make sure your walkways and driveway are in good condition, not just for safety but for easier shoveling. Fixing problems now before the winter freeze is crucial in preventing little issues from becoming big expensive problems.
Fill Bird Feeders
Sometimes the best entertainment on a quiet grey morning is watching the critters play. The best way to invite them over is to make sure your feeders are clean, stocked and in good repair. It is a good idea to place the feeders near other resources, like shrubby cover, to protect your friends from predators and severe weather. Make sure to provide the right types of foods for winter. For birds that is seeds and suet and a variety of fruit, veggies and nuts for squirrels. Keep in mind that once animals learn they can hustle for food, they can become a nuisance—or even a safety risk. Remember once you start feeding the local wildlife, you should continue on a regular basis throughout the winter months.