Fix the Flow
While fall foliage can be beautiful, it can also be a hindrance to your gutters. Leaves and other debris can quickly accumulate, preventing proper drainage, and possibly leading to even bigger headaches when winter finally arrives. Remove any visible buildup, then flush the gutter with a garden hose or bucket of water and check the flow. Clearing your gutters now will prevent overflow later, giving you one less potential problem to worry about during the cold months.
Pack Up the Patio
You may be tempted to leave your patio furniture out all year, but if you properly pack and store your set during the winter, it will last much longer. Before you put your outdoor tables and chairs away, clean off any dirt and debris, let them dry completely, and store them in an enclosed space like the garage. Cover the pieces with blankets to prevent damage.
Related: 8 DIY Pick-Me-Ups for a Plain Patio
Drain the Faucets
You don’t want to overlook this task! Avoid winter water mishaps by turning off outside faucets and in-ground irrigation systems to prevent them from freezing and bursting when the temperature plummets. You'll also want to close any shut-off valves and open outside faucets to drain the lines completely. Finish by draining any lingering water and putting away garden hoses and sprinklers to prevent them from being harmed by the harsh winter weather.
Find the Fire Extinguishers
'Tis the season for candles, cooking, and gathering around the fireplace—and all these seasonal flames can quickly lead to accidents. While they may not be the prettiest items in your home, fire extinguishers are certainly some of the most important. Whether you just have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen or one on every floor of the house, early fall is a great time to inspect your fire extinguishers, make sure they're accessible and in working order, and review their proper use.
Keep the Plants Warm
After you’ve finished deadheading your perennials, pulling up annuals, and trimming ornamental shrubs, consider adding a layer of mulch to your flower beds. This extra blanket of warmth helps protect tender plants during the winter, increasing the chances that they'll survive until spring. While you can use a premade product like cedar mulch, consider creating your own by shredding and mulching the leaves from your lawn.
Measure the Slope
The fall season is the perfect time to check that the property surrounding your foundation is properly graded to direct the flow of water away from your home during the spring thaw. Aim for a five-degree slope to prevent water from pooling and seeping into your basement.
Fiddle with the Furnace
These crisp days of early fall are delightful, but less delightful frigid temperatures are on their way. Inspect your furnace now so that you can take care of any problems before you really need that heat. Many experts recommend changing the furnace filter every few months, but a regular maintenance program should also include checking the pilot light and thermostat, and opening heating vents to make sure everything is working safely and efficiently.
Trim the Trees
After you rake up your first batch of fallen leaves, spend some time trimming branches to keep your trees healthy. If you prune while the tree still has leaves, you’ll be able to easily determine which branches are dead or dying and need to be removed, and which should be left alone. Your trees will probably appreciate the trim, especially if damaged branches are harboring insects or disease.
Check the Batteries
You may think it's OK to wait until you hear that helpful low-battery chirp before checking your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, but think again. It’s recommended that you test smoke detectors once a month and replace batteries every six months for best performance. Add this task to your fall—and spring—checklist to ensure your home and family's safety. A good rule of thumb: Check your detectors when you change the clocks in fall and spring.
Related: 11 Home Hazards to Know and Avoid
Give the Garage Some TLC
If you intend to do any DIY projects during the winter, take the time to clean and organize your garage to ensure that your indoor work space is usable. While you're at it, give the lawn mower and string trimmer a thorough cleaning and tune-up so they'll be ready for action as soon as spring hits. The same goes for any garden tools that you won’t be using during the winter.
Inspect the Fireplace
Relaxing by the fire is a favorite cold-weather pastime, but before your first gathering of the season, have your chimney and fireplace evaluated by a licensed inspector. If you have the structure serviced properly, it will function more efficiently, and you should be able to avoid any accidents caused by creosote buildup, dirty flues, or other hidden dangers. Make sure you have dry wood easily accessible to fuel your wood-burning fireplace during those cold winter nights.
Cover the AC
Before you cover up your air conditioner, clean the filter and remove any debris so the unit will be in tip-top shape come spring. Inspect the air conditioner for any visible damage before wrapping it with an approved cover. If you have any window units, take them out and store them, otherwise you could be letting cold air in through the holes.
Fall Projects To-Dos
Keep up with all the small maintenance talks in fall to avoid big maintenance headaches in winter.
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