Don’t be tempted to put maintenance and winter preparation off until you’re out in the cold! Addressing potential issues in and around your home during fall’s comfy temps and inspirational, energizing color will save you time and money and headaches. Fixing a broken water heater or furnace during the most demanding winter months is not something anyone wants to deal with when the professionals are harder to schedule. Your fall home maintenance should address both the inside and outside, from prepping your furnace and firing up your fireplace to turning off outside water lines and tending to garden and patio accessories.
Here’s a checklist with some expert advice to prepare for winter, help maintain your home's value, and possibly save money on costly repairs down that inevitable winter road ahead. You’ll be giving yourself a stress-free winter without any duties…well — except shoveling!
1. Heating Systems
• Your furnace, boiler, and all ductwork should be thoroughly checked to ascertain that all are in tip-top shape.
• Make sure the chimney is clear of bird nests and the chimney cap is intact. If you don’t have a chimney cap, consider having one installed.
• Avoid risk of fire hazards and blowback due to last season’s build-up of creosote and debris by having the chimney swept. All heating materials create buildup, a potential safety issue. According to Flynn O’Connor, owner of Mad Hatter Chimney Sweep in Accord, “It’s important to have a thorough inspection done on any chimney that’s in use because of wear, blockages, rusted parts, or animal nests. All these can be seen with a scan from a special inspection camera.”
• Test thermostats during fall, and consider replacing regular thermostats with programmable ones. Check to see if a tax deduction or energy credit is available.
2. Windows and Doors
• Check all windows for drafts from cracked caulking and seals to prevent your money and heat from flying right out the windows.
• Double pane windows should also be checked for cracks that will diminish their efficiency.
• Seal cracks around your windows and doors, and walk around the exterior of your house, looking for any small cracks or holes. Remember, even the tiniest crack can be inviting to unwanted guests. Get your caulk gun out, and make sure all cracks are sealed tightly.
• To check for drafts, walk around your home with a lit candle. Drafts will pull the smoke toward any cracks—so seal these areas where cold air is seeping in.
• Check the weather stripping on your main entry door. See any daylight? Feel a draft coming in around the edge? If so, you need new weather stripping. Tony Mirto, owner of A & M Hardware in Accord says, “It’s not only a good idea to replace old weather stripping, but also consider plastic. We carry all different types of plastic a homeowner can put on windows to alleviate any window drafts. We carry a full supply to winterize on a do-it-yourself basis.”
• Avoid freezing pipes by wrapping water pipes with tape insulation from a local hardware or home improvement store.
• If you cannot winterize all pipes, cover the ones that are most exposed to the winter elements and most likely to freeze.
4. Uninvited Guests and Pests
• Fall commences the home invasion of mice, spiders, and other pests as they also prepare for winter and take up residence in your home. Look for obvious signs of residency, such as droppings, chewed food wrappers, holes in pantry boxes, and cobwebs.
• Make sure all food is in covered containers.
• If you must save grocery bags or reuse food wrap, make sure these don’t contain any food particles.
• Set traps both inside and out if necessary; there are many options on the market.
5. Mold and Mildew
• If you suspect mold and mildew buildup from a damp, humid summer, it’s best to have a really good cleaning done before your windows are closed for winter. Sue from Sanitall Green Cleaning in Olive Bridge says, “Off-gassing of mold spores and indoor air contaminants should be addressed prior to winter. Without chemicals, we can safely remove allergens, such as mold, dust mites, or pet dander on surfaces, as well as what is in the air inside your dwelling. Asthma triggers from these pollutants, as well as allergens, proliferate inside while the windows are closed and air conditioning is off. Sanitall can identify these unhealthy living microbes and reduce the potential negative impact without introducing more toxins in your space.”
• Fall is the perfect time to paint. The humidity is low; the windows can still be open for ventilation; and it’s a sweat-free time to spruce up the house for upcoming holidays. It’s also the optimum time to repaint entrance doors and window exteriors, as winter can create havoc on worn and chipped areas.
7. Roofs and Gutters
• Clear gutters of fallen leaves and other debris to eliminate the risk of leaks and costly roof repairs due to blockage from frozen accumulation. If your gutters are clogged, the only place for melting snow or rain to go is under the roof shingles.
• Put up heat tape along roof edges, thus preventing ice dams that provide a path for interior water damage.
• Make sure your roof has no cracks and that no shingles or flashing is sticking up.
• Check that soffits are open so the crawl space or attic has a good airflow.
• Keep tree limbs trimmed back and not hanging over the roof. Cut off any branches toward the house so they're not brushing against the roof or siding.
• Inspect interior ceilings for any water damage that could represent leaks.
• Go up into the attic and look for any dark spots or stains on the underside of the roof itself to check for roof leaks.
8. Patio Equipment
• To purge cleanup from your spring to-do list and maintain the look and longevity of your patio furniture, it’s best to protect it from the winter elements with furniture covers or tarps. If possible, store it in an outbuilding, barn, or basement.
• Do the same for your grill—either cover securely, or house in a protected area.
• Put away patio planters to prevent freezing and thawing of dirt, which may cause cracks.
9. Garden Tools
• Time to clean up and oil shovels, troughs, rakes, and other garden tools to protect them from winter.
10. Yard Prep
• Mike, owner of Mike’s Earthworks, says, “Fall’s a good time to remedy any water drainage issues you may have before the winter freeze, such as water getting into the basement, driveway puddles, or wet spots in the lawn. Taking care of this in the fall will eliminate that muddy, wet mess next spring.” It also prevents future mold and mildew buildup from basement dampness due to improper drainage.
• Mow your lawn one last time. The unevenness of the grass might just bother you all winter, and you’ll be happy you did it when your grass looks neat and tidy in the spring.
11. Outdoor Faucets
• Prevent frozen—or worse— burst pipes by shutting off the water to all outdoor faucets and allowing them to drain. Need to keep those faucets turned on over the winter? Then, install a frost free sillcock instead.
12. Winter Equipment
• Change the oil and gas in the snowblower, and test it to make sure it’ll start when you need it to. And if you don’t have a snowblower or cannot shovel, make sure you've lined up someone for snow removal.
• Drain the gas from the lawnmower before storing it for the winter. And don’t forget to stock your vehicle with necessities for any emergencies, such as a snow shovel, windshield brush/ice scraper, and salt.
• If you prefer to have experts prepare your power equipment for winter, Fran Caprotti, Power Equipment Department Manager at Herzog’s Home Center in Kingston Plaza explains, “We will come and pick up any of your equipment and get it winterized and safely working—plus we have a full supply of snow shovels, roof rakes, and many other winter preparation products.”
These local businesses can help you with expert advice and assistance:
A&G Custom Made Furniture – 4747 Route 209, Accord; 845-626-0063; agcustommade.webs.com
A&M Hardware – 5000 Route 209, Accord; 845-626-2788; amhardware.doitbest.com
Agway – 145 Route 32, New Paltz; 845-255-0050; Mac’s Agway in Red Hook; 68 Firehouse Lane, Red Hook; 845-876-1559; macsfarmandgardenworld.com
Bell's Topsoil – 622 Mettacahonts Road, Accord; 845-626-0055; visitvortex.com/Bell_Topsoil
Ben Sprenger and Son Landscaping – Tillson; 845-253-0034
Cabinet Designers – 747 Route 28, Kingston; 845-331-2200; cabinetdesigners.com
Combined Energy – 845-794-1210; combinedenergyservices.com
Fireside Warmth – 901 Route 28, Kingston; 845-331-5656; firesidewarmthonline.com
Four Seasons Sunrooms – Route 9W, Kingston; 845-339-1787; hvsk.fourseasonssunrooms.com
Greenman Garden Design – Accord; 845-687-9166; greenmangarden.com
H Houst & Son – 4 Mill Hill Rd Woodstock; 845-679-2115; hhoust.com
Herzog's Home Center – 151 Plaza Road, Kingston Plaza, Kingston; 845-338-6300; herzogs.com/homecenter
Ingrained Woodworking, Inc. – Lake Katrine; 845-246-3444; ingrainedwoodworking.com
Mad Hatter Chimney Sweep – Stone Ridge; 845-687-4745; madhatterchimney.com
Matthew Flamhaft – Stone Ridge; 845-687-9735; visitvortex.com/MATTHEW_FLAMHAFT
Mike's Earthworks – 143 Schoonmaker Lane, Stone Ridge; 845-687-9117; visitvortex.com/Mikes_Earthworks
Rice Plumbing & Heating – Accord; 845-626-5088; visitvortex.com/Rice_Plumbing
Rosendale Carpet Store – 1132 Route 32, Rosendale; 845-658- 8338; rosendalecarpetstore.com
S.A.P. Exteriors – 460 Cottekill Road, Stone Ridge; 845-901-9080; SAPmetalmasters.com
Sanitall Green Cleaning – Olivebridge; 845-657-7283; Sanitall.com
Williams Lumber and Home Center – 317 Kyserike Road, High Falls; 845-687-7676; 6760 Route 9, Rhinebeck; 845-876-7011; williamslumber.com