Fall Home Maintenance Checklist: What Ontarians Should Complete Before Winter

The Beauty Of Fall  

Whether you call it fall or autumn, this season has many beautiful things happening. The leaves change into various colours, birds fly in lovely formations as they start their migration patterns, and squirrels and other small critters collect food for hibernation. The temperature is cool, and you aren't exposed to harsh weather. However, you can't spend the whole season relaxing and watching nature take its course; there's work to be done.  

Fall doesn’t seem like a season where there are extremes. It’s not overly hot, or cold. However, there is still risk to your home, and to help keep your home insurance rates down, it is important that you follow a fall home maintenance checklist.   

The Importance of A Fall Home Maintenance Checklist  

For all its beauty, fall can be a chaotic season. You've been back from your summer vacation just long enough to get back into routines and help your kids get ready for school. There's so much to do and so little time to do it. However, if you sort out all your tasks, you'll see that it's not that bad. Keeping a fall home maintenance checklist ensures that not only will you stop yourself from being overwhelmed, but it will also allow you to keep track of what you've done and create a system that ensures you complete everything in time for when it's cold out.  

Maintaining Inside Your Home  

It's an understandable mistake to think that all your fall home maintenance checklist tasks would happen outdoors. After all, the outdoors is where the seasons are. However, even though most of the things you have to do on your fall home maintenance checklist are outdoors, there are a few things you have to do in your home. Ensure that what goes on outdoors doesn't draw all your attention because setting up everything inside is a massive part of what you need to do to keep your home well-maintained in the fall.  

Get Your Furnace Ready  

One of the more forward-thinking things on your fall home maintenance checklist is ensuring that your furnace is ready for the colder months, which is why it's our first fall maintenance tip. The furnace is your best protection against cold weather, and if you don't remember to ensure that it's well maintained, you risk having it break, exposing you to freezing weather. To keep yourself warm during the colder months, you'll have to ensure your furnace is well-maintained. While you can do this yourself, doing so without a high degree of training is complicated and dangerous, as it could expose you to deadly chemicals. Unless you know what you're doing when you check the furnace filter and clean it out, it's best to call a professional to keep your machine in peak condition.  

Change The Direction of Your Ceiling Fan  

Something that can add to your fall home maintenance checklist to warm up your place (or at least help save your furnace some work) and improve air quality is to have your ceiling fan spinning in the right direction. When you think of a fan, you probably think of a device designed to cool your home down, not warm it up. Usually, you'd be right. However, in the case of ceiling fans, they can either cool things down or warm them up, depending on the direction they spin.  

During the spring and summer, your ceiling fan should spin counterclockwise, creating a downdraft that will cool your home. However, in the cooler seasons, having them spin clockwise will create a warming updraft, increasing your home's temperature slightly. It will also lower your energy costs. This is one of the quickest and easiest things on your fall home maintenance checklist.  

Check Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors  

Your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors are essential pieces of home safety equipment. Due to their importance, a vital part of your fall home maintenance checklist is ensuring these little machines are still working. This is especially true with carbon monoxide detectors, as smoke can be seen and smelled, while carbon monoxide can't. Given the fact that smoke and carbon monoxide detectors usually last up to about a decade, there's a solid chance that unless you have relatively fresh ones, your current machines should be replaced. If either your carbon monoxide detector or smoke alarm is approaching or past its expiration date, not making enough noise when tested, or is filled with debris that could potentially clog it, you should replace them to make sure that you and your family know about a dangerous situation in time to save yourselves.  

Check Your Wood Burning Stove Or Fireplace  

Even though having working smoke alarms is necessary, it's an even better line of defence to prevent fire in the first place. Making sure that your fireplace or wood burning stove is safe to operate is an essential part of your fall home maintenance checklist. Since you use these more in the colder months, that makes fall the ideal time to run this maintenance.  

The first tip for safely maintaining anything that burns wood might seem laughably obvious, but you'd be surprised how many people outright miss it. Don't put highly flammable materials too close to the fireplace, except, of course, for the wood that you currently want to burn.  

You must also get them cleaned up so that there is no longer any hazardous or other dangerous material there. Although it is possible to do this yourself with the right materials, it takes a lot of care, and can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. As a result, it is recommended that you get a professional to do so unless you have in-depth knowledge of what you’re doing.  

Another essential part of your fall home maintenance checklist is burning the correct type of wood. Hardwoods, such as oak, ash and maple, burn much better in fireplaces and wood stoves than softer woods, like pine, poplar and cedar.  

Use Caulking On Windows And Doors  

Caulk is a material used to seal small cracks and leaks less than a quarter of an inch wide, although they can be longer. It often comes in a tube that you squeeze and can be moulded. Common places where caulking is effectively used include window seals, doors, cabinets, plumbing devices such as faucets, tubs and pipes, and ceiling fixtures. This is an inexpensive way to seal small drafts and improve insulation before problems get out of hand, meaning that including this on your fall home maintenance checklist can save you multiple headaches later.  

Before you caulk an area, it should first be cleaned. You should have the sealant come in from a 45-degree angle. It is often recommended, but needed, to buy a caulking gun to assist you with the process.  

Maintaining Outside Your Home  

As was mentioned earlier in this article, the majority of work you will do on your fall home maintenance checklist is outdoors. This is partially because all of the leaves fall and cause more chaos than you would think. This is also partially because you must prepare for snow and ice since they’re on their way.  

Clean Out And Maintain Your Gutters  

Although it's always a good idea to clean out your gutters, and it should be done semi-regularly, autumn is the best time to do it. This is why it's a mandatory part of your fall home maintenance checklist. Don't be surprised if you have to do this multiple times throughout the year. This is because leaves can quickly build up when they fall off their trees, clogging your gutters. Take care of your clogs before the next rainfall to prevent water damage to your home. This becomes especially true if you don't have clean gutters when the snow first hits. Melting snow can lead to more water damage to clogged gutters.  

Fertilize, Aerate And Clean Up Your Lawn  

Keeping your lawn healthy is a major part of any fall home maintenance checklist, and often consists of fertilizing, aerating and cleaning your lawn.  

It's very common for people to fertilize their lawns in the fall because it's the last chance to give it the nutrients it needs before it snows. It's best to do this a few months before the first frost to ensure the grass has time to absorb all the nutrients required to help maintain a healthy lawn when it's cold. When fertilizing your lawn, it's vital to give it the correct fertilizer depending on its needs. The three numbers shown on the packaging are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, in that order. For example, a fertilizer with 5-10-15 will have 5 percent nitrogen, 10 percent phosphorus and 15 percent potassium, with the rest a blend of other nutrients making up the other 70 percent. Nitrogen helps the grass grow, phosphorus makes it more resilient to things like drought, and potassium improves its root systems. Your lawn should also be clean when you fertilize it, and you should fertilize it slowly and evenly.  

Aerating your lawn is a process where you create small holes in the soil your lawn is on, often with either aerator shoes, manual devices, or a dedicated machine. Aerating helps a grass' root system grow better by making the soil less compact, meaning it's a vital part of maintaining lawn health as part of your fall home maintenance checklist. Doing this activity once per year can assist with helping your lawn to properly 'breathe' and thicken up its root system before it freezes.  

Cleaning your lawn might seem obvious as part of a fall home maintenance checklist, but it's vital to list it as people often forget why it's so critical. Another problem caused by those beautiful leaves falling everywhere is that they end up all over your lawn. Although this will lead to your yard being the most colourful it's ever been, it also causes health problems for your lawn. This is because having too many leaves could stop sunlight from reaching the grass, stunting the growth of your grass and its roots. While having your grass grow slower might seem like a good thing due to you not needing to mow it as often, a weakened root system can leave your lawn more vulnerable to harsh conditions, meaning that you might be in for a nasty surprise when spring hits. Also, a yard with the leaves cleaned off is less susceptible to diseases and fungal infections. All you need to do is rake leaves, and you'll check this off your fall home maintenance checklist. Furthermore, you don't have to rake every leaf; getting most of them will do the trick. Similarly, if you plan on cutting your lawn, a lawn mower will take care of any straggling leaves. These smaller, cut-up leaves can also provide nutrients to your lawn.  

Store And/Or Protect Valuable Belongings  

Part of living in Canada is dealing with snow, as that's just part of living in a place with a cold climate. If you don't prepare for freezing weather as part of your fall home maintenance checklist, your equipment can take some real damage when it gets cold. Sometimes, storing particular objects in a garage or shed is best. Other items can be protected simply by throwing a tarp or protective cover over them. It would be best if you put away or covered up your barbecue, outdoor furniture — including patio furniture — gardening tools that you usually leave out for convenience, your pool, your sprinkler system and garden hose, and your clothesline, among others.  

Inspect And Clean Your Roof  

Yes, another problem caused by falling leaves is what they can do to your roof. While the idea of having leaves on your roof doesn't seem that bad on the surface, there are many subtle ways that it can cause severe damage to your home. Having leaves on your roof makes a wet roof just hit by rainfall extremely susceptible to various fungi, such as moss, to build up. Leaves aren't the only culprit, as fallen twigs and sticks can cause the same effect.  

While moss may not seem to do much other than create an unaesthetic appearance on your roof, it can do severe damage. A leaky roof can lead to expensive repairs. This can cause water to seep between your shingles, damaging them and your ceiling. Once the damage has been done, it's tough to repair, so checking your roof for leaks and other signs of damage is an integral part of your fall home maintenance checklist.  

Clean Your Chimney  

Cleaning out your chimney is another annual step in your fall home maintenance checklist that ensures that your fireplace will be safe to use when you need it. It also reduces the risk of potential disasters like carbon monoxide poisoning. You can DIY this if you are skilled enough, but it is often recommended that you call a professional chimney sweep to get the job done for you. When you do so, it is recommended that you do so early in the fall, as they tend to get busier later in the season, meaning you might not be able to get it cleaned when you were hoping to.  

Weather Strip Your Doors And Windows  

There are many reasons why weather stripping should be included on your fall home maintenance checklist. The first is since it's one of the easiest things on the list. It mainly consists of using weather strips to seal gaps in your door and window frames, which often takes less than an hour and can be done yourself. The second reason for weather stripping is that doing so has many benefits.  

Firstly, it protects you from the freezing winds that will soon be blowing and will stop cold air from entering your home. It also prevents the constant noise caused by wind blowing through the small holes in your door frames and will keep your home warm since the wind will also be held outside, allowing you to avoid heat loss.  

Not all benefits are saved for later, though. One immediate advantage of including weather stripping in your fall home maintenance checklist is that it prevents pests such as bugs and rodents from entering your home. The colder time of year is significantly improved by simply subtracting things like mice, ants, flies, bed bugs, and other annoying pests that make themselves at home, sneak around to eat your food, and leave prints and droppings everywhere.  

Ensure Your Equipment Is Working  

If you've been through even one snowstorm, you know how crucial certain equipment can be. Having this equipment ready in advance can give you peace of mind that you're prepared for significant snowfalls. Devices such as snow blowers are almost indispensable when the snow arrives. However, like a plunger, it's best to have one that works before needing one. Make sure you test it in the fall to ensure it works and you're not stuck shovelling snow over a meter high.  

Similar tests should also be done with emergency equipment like a generator, as the power is likely to go out in a snowstorm and being stuck without it even for a few hours can be a real nuisance, and having a temporary solution will certainly help. That's why including equipment tests is an important part of your fall home maintenance checklist.  

Enjoy The Fall Weather  

For all the work that fulfilling your fall home maintenance checklist can entail, you should remember to enjoy what the season brings. The scenery is beautiful in its own way, the temperature is just right, and it's often your last chance to play most outdoor sports and games before the colder weather. 

This content is written by our Morison Insurance team. All information posted is merely for educational and informational purposes. It is not intended as a substitute for professional advice. Should you decide to act upon any information in this article, you do so at your own risk. While the information on this website has been verified to the best of our abilities, we cannot guarantee that there are no mistakes or errors.

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