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Home Improvement & Maintenance

6 Fall Home Projects to Prepare for Winter Cold


Ah, fall is here at last. The air is crisper, many of our kids have returned to school. We’re enjoying pumpkin spice everything. And, hopefully, we’ll find a little extra time to get to those fall home maintenance/winter prep projects we’ve been thinking about.  

Whether you rent or own your house, these projects here are some projects that are simple and geared around safety to help you prepare for the colder days ahead.

1. HVAC 

Having your air conditioner and heater units cleaned twice a year will help your family stay healthier and expand the life of your units. A professional cleaning is inexpensive and takes about 30 minutes. In the fall, technicians will inspect your furnace or heat pump to be sure the system is clean and in good repair and that it can achieve its manufacturer-rated efficiency. The inspection also measures carbon-monoxide leakage.

Approximate cost: $80 to $100/each inspection, although many companies will offer a money-saving annual contract.

2. Ceiling Fans 

If your ceiling fans can rotate in reverse, you’ll want to set it to run the blades in a clockwise direction for fall and winter. ENERGY STAR®, the government-backed symbol for energy efficiency, says this rotation will produce an updraft to push heated air down, which is especially helpful in large, high-ceiling areas. It’s also great to dust the blades while you’re thinking about them.

Approximate cost: Time needed to adjust blade direction.

3. Windows and Doors

Re-sealing windows and doors is one of the easiest ways to save on energy bills and keep your house warm. To check for cracks, leaks or air coming through the window sills or door frame, hold your hands an inch away from the window frame and feel for any cold drafts. You can also test with a candle by lighting it and holding it near the outline of your window. If the flame and smoke pull in one direction, you have a leak. If the gap is bigger than the width of a nickel, you’ll need to reapply exterior silicone caulk (silicone caulk is best for exterior use because it won’t shrink and it’s impervious to the elements). Check the window-glazing putty, too (which seals glass into the window frame) and add weatherstripping as needed around doors.

Approximate cost: $30 - $50 for caulk, putty, and weatherstripping.

4. Fireplaces and Chimneys

You should inspect wood-burning or gas fireplaces for cracks and loosening joints prior to use. In a masonry fireplace, also check for damage to bricks and mortar. For minor cracks, you can use refractory cement, which is designed to handle the extreme heat conditions. You’ll also want to open and inspect the damper. If there are cracks, severe pitting, or rusted-through sections you’ll need to hire a pro to replace it. Also, look up the flue to check for damage and make sure the chimney is unobstructed by bird nests or other debris. Metal flue liners should be clean and the joints well aligned. Tile or masonry flue liners should be solid and free of cracks. These repairs should be done by a certified professional.

Approximate cost: Your time, and hiring a pro if needed. Or you can hire a professional chimney sweep for $100-$200 to inspect and clean.

5. Roof and Rain Gutters

Make sure gutters are clear of leaves, sticks and debris and check for damaged, loose or missing shingles. If your roof is flat and surfaced with asphalt and pebbles, like many roofs in the Southwest, rake or blow off leaves and pine needles but be sure not to sweep away the pebbles since they protect the asphalt from damaging sunlight. Clear debris from your rain gutters so water flows away from your roof and house, preventing leaks and ice dams. Also look for missing or damaged gutters and fascia boards and have them repaired.

Approximate cost: Your time. If you need a handyman to repair a few shingles it will cost about $100. If you need a roofer to repair a 100-square-foot or so section, it will run up to $1,000. For a gutter cleaning on a single-story home, you’ll typically pay $70 to $225. Higher roofs/gutters and larger homes will cost more. 

6. Faucets, Hoses, and Downspouts

Depending on where you live, you may need to take a few extra steps to prevent water damage this winter. First, remove garden hoses from the spigots and keep them in the garage to prevent freezing and cracking. To divert water 3’ to 4’ away from your home and foundation, add extensions to downspouts. You can also turn off or cover exterior faucets to prevent the undrained water in pipes from freezing, which will cause pipes to burst as the ice expands. 

Approximate cost: Extensions cost about $10. Covers run about $30.

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