Winters in Massachusetts can get colder than Massachusetts people realize with their iced coffees in hand. The average low in January goes down to 22 degrees, and as we know, it gets a lot colder than that.
Well, fall is your last chance to start preparing your home for the harsh elements, and time is of the essence. Let’s talk about some great fall home maintenance tips to prepare your home for the fall.
Dangers of the Fall
Let’s be clear. The fall foliage isn’t what you need to worry about, especially since that’s wrapping up as we speak. It’s what comes next that you need to worry about.
While most of us are used to winters in Massachusetts, it’s important to know that there are real dangers that come with these cold winters, especially to your property. If you’ve lived in MA for a while, you can see this just by looking at the roads in the spring (or the rest of the year).
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Well, that damage is caused by water. Water damage is bad enough in the south, but when you have existing water that collects into an existing object, and it freezes over, it expands with far more force than you may realize. That’s how you get potholes, how brick walls deteriorate, and how parts of your home can get destroyed.
Keep in mind that as we near November, the first freezing nights are coming, likely within the next week or two. Getting your home ready for freezing temperatures now could save you a fortune down the road.
It’s also best to understand the risks of not having homeowner’s insurance during winter, which could save you a fortune if something goes wrong.
Best Fall Home Improvement Tips
Okay, now is the time to take a weekend and start getting things done. You will likely miss the first snowfall if you get it done by mid-November. The sooner you spend a Saturday, the sooner you will have peace of mind going into winter.
While it is a primary concern, ice isn’t the only thing that can cause damage to your home in the winter, so it’s best to be prepared. Luckily, you can take some small steps now that can keep your home safe for the season and beyond. Let’s talk maintenance tips.
Clean Your Gutters
We know that New England weather is far less than predictable, and when the fall rains come in or when the snow melts in the early spring, it’s very important that you have your gutters cleaned.
There are plenty of reasons to add this to your fall checklist. When you don’t give water anywhere to run, it can rot away your roof, allow more water to damage your siding, cause leaks, and more. Leaving your gutters clogged can also make a home for rodents and other pests to move in and likely invade your home as the weather gets colder.
Fall is the time of year when gutters get the most clogged, so it’s essential that this gets done before the snow comes. This is an easy task that can save you thousands of dollars on expensive repairs later on.
Inspect Your Roof
Inspecting your roof is a good idea in the fall because we know that the first snowfall is coming soon in Massachusetts. If you don’t get your roof inspected now, it’s unlikely that you will know by the end of the year, which can lead to disaster.
Especially if your roof is more than ten years old, you should get it inspected before the winter weather comes. It also wouldn’t hurt to invest in a roof rake if you don’t already have one to help keep the weight off of your roof this winter. Get one before they’re all gone!
This could save you thousands of dollars in structural or water damage just by getting it inspected. If you refuse to pay for an inspection, at least take a look for any abnormalities while you are cleaning your gutters, and call a professional if you see anything concerning.
On a national level, the average cost of a replacement roof is $8,500, and we know that MA tends to be a little more expensive. Not only that, but that’s only factoring in the damage of the roof itself. If it collapses or allows water in, this could create significantly more damage to your belongings, walls, floors, and the structure of your home in the event that the roof collapses.
Check Your Heating System
It’s very important to determine that your heaters are working at optimal levels before you need them. If you need to, open the windows, turn the thermostat up, and check each heater.
Now wouldn’t be a bad time to check on your furnace and see how it’s working. Change the filter on your furnace before you forget, and if something isn’t working right, call and get it inspected. It may just need a simple cleaning, and that cleaning could save you big in the future.
If it’s time to upgrade your system, Massachusetts offers high rebates on clean energy products like heat pumps, which can also help cool your home when the warmer months come. It will also help save you money on your utility bills.
Close Air Leaks
Now is the time to check your windows and doors for air leaks because some of them certainly have them. These leaks around your doors and windows account for around 20% of heat loss in an average home.
Prepare your home for the winter by closing up these leaks. You can have this professionally done or grab some insulation caulk, pull out your window frame, and seal it up to keep the cold air out.
Alternatively, if you want to provide some extra insulation to your home, put a thin layer of clear plastic over your windows. You want them to be clear so that you can still enjoy the sunlight and allow warm air to come into your home, but this thin layer will go a long way toward keeping that warm air in.
This is an easy way to reduce your utility bills, keep your house warm, and still allow natural light into your home. This works by creating a small vacuum between your window and the plastic, acting as insulation between your home and the outside elements. Just make sure never to keep plastic above any heating elements or candles!
Save Your Garden Hoses
Don’t destroy your garden hoses by leaving them attached to their faucets all winter. The second your gutters are clean, retire your hoses for the year. It’s time to empty them out by running them with water, hanging them up to dry out, and bringing them into your basement, garage, or shed. Don’t leave it out just to run it over with a snowblower or plow.
If you allow larger amounts of water to stay in your hose and freeze, the ice will expand during the winter months and destroy your hose. It’s okay if it’s a little damp inside, but do your best to empty it before storing it.
The same thing goes for your irrigation systems. Put everything away that runs water in order to prevent it from freezing over and destroying your belongings.
Change the batteries in your smoke detectors, even if you did it this year. First of all, you need your sleep more in the winter months than in the summer, so don’t let that annoying beep wake you up in the middle of the night.
This is especially important during the winter because, whether you’re using a fireplace or a different heater, you’re putting your home at risk. While that risk is controlled, there are an estimated 48,000 fires caused every year by heating elements. Accidents happen, so it’s best to make sure that you are protected in the worst-case scenario.
Also, it’s a good time to check on your carbon monoxide detectors. If you thought, “I don’t have one of those,” this still applies to you. You need one.
If you’re lighting fires or candles, using gas or propane heat, or essentially anything else, you’re running the risk of excess carbon monoxide getting into your living space, which is a silent killer if you don’t have the right detectors. You can buy these for $20 at just about any hardware, grocery, or department store, and it could save your life.
Sweep the Chimney
It’s time for an old-fashioned chimney sweep. If you’ve heard of chimney sweeps but never knew why they are done, it’s simple. When you have fires in your fireplace, a lot of dust, debris, and material from inside gets shot up into your chimney.
Sweeping the chimney once every year is a great way to prevent this buildup from becoming too big. If it gets too big, it could cause a chimney fire. If it clogs your chimney, the smoke in your fireplace will have no route to escape, which means it will go into your home.
Wrap Your Pipes
Frozen pipes can cost you thousands of dollars in repairs, and it will only cost you $10 to $50 to prevent it from ever happening. If your basement doesn’t have a heating system, or if a blackout comes and you can’t keep your pipes warm enough, you risk them freezing over.
If they freeze, the water will expand with enough force to break through most metal pipes. To prevent this, simply go to the hardware store and get pipe wraps to put around them. These look just like pool noodles (which also work in a pinch).
You don’t have to do this throughout your entire piping system. The most important points are within a few feet of your foundation or outside walls, as they are exposed to the harshest elements. Wrapping the pipes for 5 to 10 feet from these points could easily save you thousands of dollars in repairs.
Prep your lawn for winter by raking regularly. If you don’t rake often enough, leaving dead leaves on your lawn will eventually kill your grass, so getting that done periodically will make sure your lawn blooms beautifully in the spring.
Now is also a good time to cut down any dead branches that you see to prevent them from crashing into your car or your home upon freezing off. This can all be done in one day if you spend the day outside raking, cleaning the gutters, detaching the hoses, and more.
Top 10 Frequently Asked Questions about Fall Home Maintenance
Why is fall maintenance essential for homeowners?
Fall maintenance prepares your home for the colder months, ensuring safety and energy efficiency and preventing costly damage that winter conditions might cause.
What are the key areas to focus on during fall maintenance?
Focus on your home’s roofing, gutters, heating system, windows, doors, plumbing, and foundation. Also, consider tasks like weather-stripping, chimney cleaning, and lawn care.
How often should I clean my gutters in the fall, and why is it so important?
Clean gutters at least once in the fall, ideally after most leaves have fallen. Clean gutters prevent water buildup, ice dams, and potential roof and foundation damage.
Do I need to get my heating system professionally inspected every fall?
Yes, an annual professional inspection ensures your heating system runs efficiently and safely, potentially catching issues before they become major problems.
How can I winterize my windows and doors effectively?
Check for drafts, seal gaps, replace weather stripping if necessary, and consider using storm windows or plastic insulating kits for added insulation.
Is there a specific checklist or order I should follow for fall maintenance tasks?
While there’s no strict order, it’s practical to start with exterior tasks before the weather turns too cold. Then, move to interior tasks like checking your heating system and sealing drafts.
How can I prevent my pipes from freezing in the winter months?
Insulate exposed pipes, drain outdoor faucets, and keep your home’s temperature consistent. In very cold spells, let faucets drip slightly to prevent water from freezing.
What steps can I take to ensure my home’s energy efficiency during the colder months?
Add insulation if needed, seal gaps and drafts, replace furnace filters, use programmable thermostats, and ensure windows and doors are properly sealed.
Are there any safety precautions I should be aware of when performing fall maintenance?
Always use a sturdy ladder when checking roofs or gutters. Turn off any power when working around electrical systems. If you’re unsure about a task, especially with the heating system or electricals, consult a professional.
How early in the fall should I start my home maintenance tasks to ensure I’m winter-ready?
Begin in early fall. This gives you ample time to identify potential issues, hire professionals if needed, and ensure your home is ready before the harshest winter conditions set in.
Get The Right Insurance
One of the best things you can do to save yourself from major expenses is to have an insurance plan that covers your needs for the weather around you. It’s best to have a Massachusetts-based insurance policy that understands the dangers that winter poses to your home.
Look into the right homeowner’s insurance policy for your needs today to see how much you could save in the event that something goes wrong.
Enjoy This Winter!
Not all of us love winters in New England, but they are a central part of the region that certainly can be enjoyed, given the right circumstances. Well, not that you know the right home improvement and maintenance tips to get your home ready; you’re already on your way there. Start your winter with peace of mind, stay up to date with our latest news for your home, and feel free to contact us with any questions!
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