September in New England
This fall, New Englanders will see record-breaking warmer temps, and likely moving forward, so it’s easy to fall behind when it comes to caring for your home before the temps drop. A good rule of thumb to help you remember when to jump into the winter house prep mindset is this: when we’ve just started getting cooler nights in a row, that is your reminder to pull out your checklist!
You’ve probably heard some of my tips below, but it never hurts to create great Fall habits that take care of your home like you do your family or your car, right? Some even consider their longtime relationship with their home as a love affair as you age together. Besides, your home is one of the biggest financial investments you’ve likely made in your life, so let’s make sure we’re taking care of it so it will take care of you!
5 things you should do during the Autumn months to prepare for a stress-free New England winter:
I know, I know. The name is appropriate. BUT! These babies can become a total headache if not taken care of and taken seriously, particularly if you have a lot of trees in your yard. Debris-clogged gutters can cause a leaky roof or water damage to the interior or exterior of your home. The basics: this is most likely a job you can take care of yourself over the course of a weekend or two, but this might be a time where you budget for a pro, as it can also be dangerous. Focus on clearing out debris, inspect your gutters and downspouts for cracks or compromised areas, and make sure to repair anything that looks damaged. Go out during or after a serious rainstorm and check to see that water is flowing away from your house and not pooling at the foundation. You might also consider investing in leaf guards or gutter covers. As the saying goes, investing pennies now prevents spending dollars later.
2. Safety Check:
It’s good practice to run through an annual checklist of your home’s safety features & to talk through your family’s safety plan in the event of a natural disaster, house fire or if the power goes out. Replace the batteries in your smoke & carbon monoxide detectors annually and test them to make sure they’re working. If you’re planning on selling your home in Massachusetts, here’s the law and low-down on “smokes.” Other things to add to your fall safety checklist: Fire extinguishers (available at home improvement stores) should be kept in every home and everyone in the home should know how to use it! Check the pressure gauge—this will tell you whether the extinguisher is charged and ready to go in the event of an emergency. Keep in mind, extinguishers should be free of dents and damage and in general, replaced every 6 years. Also, I’d recommend walking through a few fire escape plans for every room of the house. It’s better to have walked the path than to have just talked about it. This way, you’ll etch a memory in the minds of those most important to you in the event you have to use your evacuation plan.
3. Windows, Doors and air leaks, oh my!
Do you remember your parents (or probably you as well!) saying, “Close the door! I’m not trying to heat the outdoors!” Welp, a home with air leaks around windows and doors can be like a front door left open on the weekends. Gaps in caulk and weather-stripping can account for a 10% of your heating bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Weather-stripping is easily the most cost-effective way to rein in heating and cooling costs and can be picked up at your local home repair store (pro-tip: Ace hardwares in MA offer member-based discounts for free every couple months!). Weather stripping also reduces drafts and keeps your home more comfortable year-round. Because weather stripping can deteriorate over time, it is important to inspect it periodically. If you suspect a problem with weather stripping, one of the most effective ways of checking is to hold a candle flame near the suspected leak (be careful to not put candle near curtains or anything flammable—see #2). If the flame flickers, you have an air leak. While you're at it, also check for missing or damaged caulk around windows, doors, and entry points for electrical, cable, phone, gas, etc,. and be sure to seal any gaps with caulk. One more pro-tip: if keeping heat in is a struggle and you’re looking for immediate relief while addressing larger problems with leaks and insulation, investing in blackout curtains and drapes can help ease the financial stress while also offering that much-needed immediate stress relief.
Even if you use your fireplace only occasionally, you should check it annually for damage and hazards. Inspect Your Flue for Creosote: Creosote is a flammable by-product of burning wood. If it accumulates in a flue or chimney, the result can be a devastating fire. Have your chimney inspected annually for creosote buildup. Work the Damper: The damper is the metal plate that opens and closes the flu just above the firebox. Move it to the open and closed positions to ensure that it is working properly. Look for Flue Blockages: Birds love to nest at the top of an unprotected flue. A chimney cap can prevent this from happening. If you don't have a cap, look up the flu to ensure that there are no obstructions. For most people, the best option is to have your entire chimney system inspected by a professional chimney sweep. Once you know what to look for, you can perform the inspection by shining a bright flashlight up the flue, looking for any deposits approaching 1/8 inch thick. These deposits should be cleaned by an experienced chimney sweep. Check Your Chimney for Damage: Make certain that the flue cap (the screen or baffle covering the top of the chimney) is in place. Inspect brick chimneys for loose or broken joints. If access is a problem, use binoculars.
5. Last but not least to tackle while preparing your house for a New England winter: put your yard to bed.
By November, you may not be thinking much about your hydrangeas, but they still need you. Prune shrubs and hedges now. Cut foliage away from the house so that ice or snow on the branches won’t damage your siding or let water into your home. If you have trees on your property, the battle of the leaves may feel endless, but ignore the pile on your lawn and it could mold and suffocate your grass. But before you succumb to the mighty leaf blower and start blasting away, consider a more measured approach. Rake up most of the leaves and use them as mulch for your flower beds. Mow the rest in place with your lawn mower. By mowing over the leaves, you help break them down so they can decompose and feed the grass. If you have a patio, empty ceramic pots of soil and store them so they do not crack in freezing temperatures. Drain the hoses and store them, too. Shut down the sprinkler system and call the pool maintenance company to close up your pool, if you have one. But wait for a crisp sunny to day to cover patio furniture — you don’t want to trap any moisture under the tarp.
Have a great week and contact me if you need any referrals for any of the above!
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Check out these tips for decorating your Patio for Fall!