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Fall home maintenance checklist

A Fall home maintenance checklist is not synonymous with fun, but it’s essential to protecting your largest investment. You have house insurance in case something goes wrong, but it’s best to avoid a claim. The fall is an excellent time for home maintenance and ensures your property is in tip top shape avoiding spikes in premiums.

I’ll start with a quick personal story. After a series of intermittent cold snaps and warm temperatures, my basement flooded. My wife and I, dressed up to go to a wedding, got to work right away. She threw towels on the ground and was frantically mopping up the rest. I was trying to drill through the ice block in the floor drain just outside the basement door. The formation of ice inside the drain pipe caused the gathering water to rise enough it crossed the threshold into the basement itself. What a mess. It happened for two reasons – the massive amount of water created by the weather and the lack of gutters. The lesson here is to prepare ahead of time. Winter is coming.  

Check out this quick and easy list of to-do’s that not only prevents problems but could also save you from a home insurance premium hike.

Clean your gutters

Gutters, downspouts, and eavestroughs can get blocked with leaves, bird’s nests, and other debris. It’s not a good thing as indicated in my basement flood story. In the end, we replaced about 30 linear feet of baseboard in the basement and had to put up several sheets of new drywall. It cost me much more than my home insurance premiums. I don’t make this mistake anymore. If you don’t want to do it yourself, there are several service companies available.

Read more on our blog Cleaning Eavestroughs and downspouts

Trim the trees

Allow the beautiful fall colours to force you into taking a closer look at the trees and shrubs that surround your property. If there are no leaves on a branch where they should be, it could be a dead branch, and it’s best to cut it off (it’s great for the tree, too). You can hire a pruning service who know what’s best for the tree and can also reach higher, hard to get at branches. Also, if you can, trim branches away from gutters, so it’s less work to clean the eaves in the first place. If a branch breaks during the winter months, it can damage your eaves or even worse, it can crash through a window. That’s an expensive repair with no cheap and easy fix.  A custom window takes time to order and install so you’d put plywood in its place which is poor for warmth and security. 

Declutter The Outside

It’s best to sweep around your home, rake the yard, bring in the toys, umbrellas, and cushions from patio furniture. For any material possessions, it extends their life. Cleaning up the ground is good for plant regrowth come spring. Sweeping dust and dirt away from the house foundation make it easier to look for areas that may need concrete patching. If you don’t you could end up with thawing water in your house or rodents entering looking for warmth.

Check your railings’ stability

Do a walk around your property and shake fences, railings, and stomp on deck boards. Snow can quickly turn into slippery ice, and people need to know they can grab a railing for support. If not, you may be relying on your liability coverage in your house insurance policy to protect you. Should someone slip and fall, and there is no railing they can grab, they could sue. If you’re unsure of what your property insurance covers, it’s a good time to review your policy.

Inspect the caulking

Caulking goes around windows and doors, sinks, toilets, and bathtubs. It creates a weather and waterproof seal to keep water away from walls and cold air entering your house.  Caulking lasts anywhere from 5-20 years. Now is a great time to look for any holes in the caulking and call in a service to have it redone as required. There are professionals who exclusively caulk and understand the the best products and use the installation methods to make it last a long time. It can make a huge difference on your home heating bill, too.

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Check weather stripping

Do you ever feel a draft around your doors and windows? If so, the weather stripping may be old and need replacement. The weather stripping is an adhesive-backed foam that creates a tight seal between the door or window and its frame. Weather stripping typically lasts about 1-3 years. It saves you money by keeping the warm air in, and the cold air out. On a particular cool and windy day, you can run the palm of your hand about an inch away and around the perimeter to feel the wind coming in. Alternatively, at night, run a flashlight around the edge, if any light comes through, it’s time to replace your weather stripping. This is a job you can do on your own. 

Seal gaps from critters

I’ve had both rats and mice in my house. Trust me; you don’t want either. They’re nocturnal and can freak you out running in your walls while you’re trying to sleep. Mice can get through holes smaller than a dime. Look for these holes in the brick mortar or where the brick meets the concrete foundation. Yes, both mice and rats can climb walls. If the mortar between the bricks is flaking or is pitted consider getting it tuck-pointed for a secure seal. The critters can also chew through spray foam, so while it’s easy to use it, it may not be a long term solution. 

Book a chimney cleaning

A chemical buildup of creosote is terrible for a few reasons. It can cause a foul odour, and it also prevents your chimney from venting correctly, which can lead to health concerns. Hire a chimney company to clean the flue. Ask if they can inspect the brick and mortar for any defects and check the chimney cap so no water or snow can get inside otherwise you risk water damage inside your home.

Schedule a furnace check-up

You want to make sure, in the dead of winter, you have access to heat. Sure, you can cover up with sweaters and blankets, but what about the water running in your pipes? If they freeze, a pipe could burst, creating substantial water damage and costly emergency plumbers. Your insurance covers you for a burst pipe, but submitting a claim could cause your premiums to rise. Scheduling a furnace checkup will ensure it’s running efficiently and ready to keep you, and your pipes warm.

Replace your furnace filter

A furnace filter is one of the main reasons a furnace will overheat and fail. You should be swapping out your filter every quarter. It’s something you can easily do yourself. Pro tip: When you pull out the old filter, before you throw it out, take a picture of its orientation and size, because you’ll know the right size to buy, and when you install the new one, you’ll know which way it goes in. Walk into your home store of choice, or you can buy one online.

Shut off exterior water hoses and taps

I had an exterior drain freeze. This tip is for the water supply outside your home. It is the one you may use to water your garden. By shutting off the taps and clearing the hoses of any water, you can prevent the freeze from getting deep into the house which may cause water damage from burst pipes or thawing ice outside. If you can, shut off the supply to only that pipe. If not, it’s worth it to have a plumber install a shut off just to that supply line. You don’t want to shut off water to your whole house. 

Clean dryer vents

The fall is crisp and dry which creates static electricity. Static electricity can ignite lint that has built up inside the vent pipe of your dryer. Yes, I know you clean the lint trap of your dryer every time you use it. But, lint can still get through the filter. Remove the ducting from the back of the dryer and clean as much as you can by hand. You can use a vacuum to get even more out. Step outside and remove any lint build up from where it exits your home. Also, a good place for a critter to get it, so make sure it’s protected from their entry. 

Stock up and check on your winter tools and supplies

You know what sucks? The beautiful first snowfall juxtaposed against your efforts trying to climb around your lawnmower. You, balancing like a gymnast, to get at the snow shovel and bag of salt from underneath your kids’ picnic table. Be ready, so you don’t pay extra for the salt supply when everyone is buying it. Make sure your shovels and ice scrapers are in good condition and have them ready to take action. Put them in an easy accessible spot, and put the salt in a container for easy access. So, if you’re shovelling already, maybe even shovel your neighbours walk and driveway because they’re still in the shed stuck under a bag of fertilizer.  

Check safety devices

It doesn’t have to be during the fall but since you’re already in full maintenance mode. It’s worth it to check the status of your fire alarms, smoke, and carbon monoxide detectors. Look for an expiry date. There’s usually a “test” button to test the 9V battery, but there isn’t, buy a new 9V and put it in, because it’s always better to be safe, than sorry.

The Bottom line

Owning a home can be expensive. Fall maintenance is an essential part of home ownership and could reduce any potential costly risks down the road. Use this list and sit comfortably knowing you’re protected and safe. When it comes time to renew your insurance, having a well-maintained home could help you get cheaper home insurance quotes.