Fall is a good time to take care of big home repair projects before shorter days (and in many areas, ice and snow) make outdoor work too difficult. And if you do live in an area with cold winters, take some time this fall to boost energy efficiency throughout your home, and prevent damage from winter storms with proper tree care (we spoke with an expert to find out what you need to do). Tick these 15 items off your list this season, and you can rest easy knowing that your home and yard are buttoned up and ready for winter.
1. Care for trees and shrubs. If you have trees on your property, consider hiring an arborist to care for them — these pros can spot signs of poor health early on to prevent tree loss, and know how to prune properly to avoid falling limbs in winter storms.
“The most important maintenance for a homeowner to do in the fall would be trimming [the] dead out of trees,” says Bryan Gilles, owner and arborist at Arbor Doctor in Calabasas, California. “Trees are going dormant at this time, and are less likely to get a disease.” Because trees are slowing growth in the fall, it’s not an ideal time to plant a new tree, as the roots may have trouble getting established. For treatments, Gilles recommends fungicide injections in the fall to prevent diseases such as diplodia, which can affect pine trees.
It’s also a good idea to observe your trees throughout the fall, keeping an eye out for signs that signal a need for intervention. “Early change in leaf color, pines looking thin and/or needles turning brown, and dead branches are all signs of diseases,” Gilles says. “Ash trees spotting yellow sporadically around this time of the year is a bad sign of a disease called ash yellows, since ash trees are one of the latest to turn.”
2. Rake leaves. Leaves look beautiful blanketing the ground, but leaving too many leaves on a lawn over winter in a snowy area can inhibit spring growth. To make the job easier, choose a lightweight rake, wear gloves to protect your hands and use handheld “leaf scoops” to bag leaves quickly.
3. Clean gutters and downspouts. Once most of the leaves have fallen, clean out gutters and downspouts (hire a helper if you are not comfortable on a ladder). Clogged gutters during rainstorms can cause water to pool and damage your roof or siding.
4. Make exterior repairs. Take a walk around your property, looking for signs of damage to the roof, siding and foundation. If you spot anything that needs repair, schedule it before winter weather hits.
5. Seal gaps where critters could enter. Mice need only a tiny gap to be able to sneak into your house and raid your pantry — and with colder weather coming, all of the little critters out there will be looking for warm places to make a home. Fill small holes and cover any larger gaps securely with heavy-duty hardware cloth to keep the wildlife outdoors.