Don't Make These 7 Mistakes Prepping Your Home for Winter

Is autumn your favorite time of year? If you said yes, that's probably because you relish the beauty of boldly colored foliage and the invigorating energy of crisp fall days... or maybe you just like relaxing with friends and watching football on TV. It's almost definitely not because you look forward to the annual rite of fall home maintenance. Even so, as much as you may dread such tasks as raking leaves and cleaning gutters, you know that failing to prepare properly can leave your home vulnerable to any number of issues, both minor and major. If you're proactive, however, you can succeed not only in protecting your biggest investment from the worst of winter, but also in ensuring enhanced comfort, improved efficiency, and lower monthly energy bills. So, as you're dragging the heaviest coats out of storage and stocking up on all the cold-weather essentials, also be sure to set aside time for upkeep. As you proceed, bear in mind that even well-intentioned homeowners often misplace their efforts or forgo a critical step. Don't follow their lead! Click through now to find out which common fall home maintenance mistakes to avoid, and why.
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  1. 1. Don't disregard your gutters.

    1. Don't disregard your gutters.

    Homeowners tend not to appreciate that their gutters, by channeling storm water away from the home, perform a pivotal function. That said, if you expect your gutters to do their job, you must first do yours—that is, clear out any accumulated debris that could eventually clog and compromise the drainage system. If you don't want to risk life and limb on a ladder to get the job done, you can always hire help. But then, few homeowners relish the hassle and expense of engaging a pro twice every year. The best solution? Cross gutter-cleaning off your to-do list for good by installing LeafGuard. You never need to clean out the LeafGuard gutter system, because thanks to its innovative patented design, it never gets dirty to begin with. To learn more about LeafGuard, click now for more information and a free estimate.

  2. 2. Don't forget your furnace.

    2. Don't forget your furnace.

    You're not the only one who needs a checkup once each year—your furnace does too. In addition to ensuring problem-free performance at peak efficiency, regular service also helps the appliance fulfill its estimated useful life expectancy. The HVAC technician should inspect each furnace component individually, making repairs as necessary, while also cleaning or replacing the filter. As the furnace filter goes a long way toward supporting indoor air quality and protecting the internal workings of the furnace itself, the technician may suggest that you clean or replace the filter on your own, perhaps as often as every three months. Be sure to ask.

  3. 3. Don't omit outdoor faucets.

    3. Don't omit outdoor faucets.

    We've all heard the horror stories: A pipe freezes and ruptures, sending gallons upon gallons of water coursing through the home. But as much as homeowners fear the prospect of a frozen pipe, many forget all about the fixture most at risk—the outdoor hose faucet. Nowadays, it's easy to protect it. Simply purchase a low-cost cover to block cold air from reaching the faucet. Or better yet, install a brand-new outdoor faucet that's specially designed not to freeze. Of course, in a pinch, you can also do it the old-fashioned way: Locate and close the water shutoff valve along the line that supplies water to the outdoors. Then, to complete the process, open the faucet to clear out any remaining water.

  4. 4. Don't underestimate creosote.

    4. Don't underestimate creosote.

    For warmth and coziness, nothing quite matches the comfort of lounging beside a crackling fire. Before you touch match to kindling, though, take care to ready your fireplace for another season of safe enjoyment. In the firebox itself, look for signs of deteriorated brickwork. Check the damper too—it should open and close with ease. Last but not least, using a powerful flashlight, inspect the flue for creosote. If this gummy, foul-smelling by-product of combustion has built up beyond a paper-thin layer, schedule a cleaning with a reputable chimney service right away. Why? Creosote kills. In fact, the highly flammable substance contributes to as many as a quarter of all house fires in the United States.

  5. 5. Don't trifle with trees.

    5. Don't trifle with trees.

    If your home shares its lot with mature trees, you’re no stranger to pruning. But when fall rolls along, pruning becomes important not so much for the health or aesthetic appeal of your trees, but rather for the safety of your property and the community. After the summer growth cycle has ended—once trees have entered their dormant period—inspect them for overgrown limbs that may pose a potential danger. For instance, if you see branches scraping against your home's roof or exterior siding, cut them back to a distance of at least three feet. By the same token, if you encounter dead, broken, or dying branches, carefully remove them before they get the chance to fall on your home, your car, a power line, or worse yet, a pedestrian.

  6. 6. Don't put off plugging drafts.

    6. Don't put off plugging drafts.

    It costs a small fortune to keep your home comfortable over the winter, not only because energy prices keep rising, but also because, in the average home, all that heat can escape through countless cracks, gaps, and small holes. Fortunately, you can lower your bills significantly by finding and filling those costly openings. True, without a formal energy audit, it may not be possible to hunt down and correct each and every one. But begin by looking especially closely at the windows and doors. If you detect air leaks around their perimeters, seal them with weatherstripping, caulk, or a combination of the two. Meanwhile, use spray foam to plug any openings around cables, vents, or pipes that penetrate the exterior.

  7. 7. Don't get left out in the cold.

    7. Don't get left out in the cold.

    Grilling gear. Patio sets. Gardening tools. If you conscientiously care for your lawn and garden—or if you make the most of your deck, porch, or patio—chances are that, for the sake of convenience, you keep a lot of stuff outdoors during the warmer months. Now is the time to store away anything that you're not confident would survive the winter unscathed. What about heavy or bulky items you would like to move but can't? Or what if your garage, shed, or basement is already filled to the brim? Take heart: Heavy-duty plastic tarps are readily available to provide good protection for most furniture and equipment, so long as you remember to use tie-downs to keep the whipping winds at bay.

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