Home improvement projects may not be the first things on your to-do list this fall, but you may want to add a few items to that list (maybe after “book holiday travel” but before “buy new soccer cleats for the kids”) to help prepare your home for the chillier months approaching.
Steve Wadlington, president of WIN Home Inspection, shared five home improvement chores homeowners should tackle this fall to help make their homes more efficient and more capable of withstanding whatever the winter throws at them. Bonus: Taking care of these tasks now can help save you money on winter energy bills!
If you’re relatively handy, you can handle many these check-ups yourself; if not, have a trusted home repair pro (ask neighbors for their recommendations) come out and take a look. The process should be quick and easy, and if any repairs are needed, you can start coordinating those ASAP.
Autumn to-do list
Check your roof
The summer’s sun exposure — plus general wear and tear since the last time you had your roof checked — can cause roof and siding materials to warp, chip and more. Look for any cracks or other damage; it will be much easier to fix these issues now than in the midst of winter if it starts to leak or is otherwise damaged.
Sweep the chimney
If you plan to use the fireplace this fall and winter, make sure the chimney is clean and in good shape. (And make sure no squirrels or other critters have taken up residence inside!) A blockage in the chimney can cause a fire or other hazards and be an inconvenient mess. Get ahead of any smoke- or ash-related issues by giving the whole set-up a good cleaning.
Clean the gutters
Yes, fall will drop a ton of freshly fallen leaves into your gutters no matter what you do, but getting ahead of that can prevent water damage and other high-cost repairs. Take some time (or, better yet, have a handyman come by) to check your home’s gutters for dead leaves and other potential blockages. If there are any, have them cleared them out so water can properly drain.
Look at the weatherproofing
Doors and windows should be sealed against the elements with weather stripping and/or caulking. These protective materials keep nasty weather out and the heat in — cracked, chipping or otherwise damaged seals can cause much higher energy bills as you lose heat to the outdoors. Also check that doors and windows are properly attached to their frames, with no gaps or cracks.
Examine your floors
Summer’s heat and moisture (thanks, humidity) can cause signs of wear and tear in floors, especially if you have real hardwood flooring. Scratched, dull or damaged floors can be sanded down and refinished; more substantial damage, such as loose floorboards or deep scratches, may call for replacement boards.
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10 items in your garage you can toss right now
Broken or duplicate tools
You probably don’t need five hammers, and that broken drill is just collecting dust on a shelf. Take stock of your tool collection, and consolidate so you don’t have an overflowing toolbox (or too many bulky bins filled with tools).
Chances are you have no use for that old clunky computer printer and fax machine from the early ’90s. “If it’s in the garage, there’s a 90% chance that your old CPU is not worth the time it would take you to bring it back up to speed for day-to-day use,” says organizing and storing expert Emma Gordon of Clutter.com. “It’s better to find a recycling program that can take it off your hands.”
Old newspapers, magazines and catalogs
“You’re not going to read these again,” says Gordon. “If they’ve been banished from the house to the garage, they need to go.” If you can’t part with all of them, allow yourself to keep a few special editions or issues. Donate or recycle the rest.
Plastic planter trays
“It’s tempting to keep the trays after popping our spring blooms,” says Gordon. “Unless you’re a regular gardener, there’s no reason to keep these trays after transplanting. Clear them out so you don’t have to deal with spiders or other garage critters that will make a home in them.”
Old paint cans
Face it: You’re not going to use that hideous color of paint anywhere in your house. If you think you might need to touch up any of the rooms in your house, figure out which can of paint goes with which room, and label it with the room (dining room) and color (linen white). Remember that you can’t throw away full (or partially full) paint cans, so you’ll either need to find a hazardous-waste collection site or pour clean kitty litter in the can to dry up any remaining paint before disposing of the kitty litter and paint, and recycling the can.
Unused DIY project materials
While you’re clearing cans from old home-improvement projects, toss out old materials from DIY projects. “Almost every garage in America has a flimsy aluminum paint tray coated in house paint, with a matching roller in a crumpled grocery bag,” Gordon says. “As homeowners, we like to think we’re going to get more than one use out of our paint brushes, trays and other DIY tools, but it’s more likely we’ll forget and buy these items again anyway. The only reason to save otherwise disposable DIY tools would be if you have a project in mind that you plan to tackle soon.”
Old sports equipment
“Toss out balls if they don’t hold air anymore,” says Gordon. Same goes for broken tennis rackets, skis, helmets and more. If one of your kids no longer plays a sport, donate the used gear to a thrift store that accepts sports equipment.
Old shoes and clothes
“I promise you won’t miss the clothes and shoes you’re storing in the garage,” says Gordon. “These are the items that you don’t even have in your weekly outfit rotation, and if they haven’t been kept in an airtight container, they will require a lot of laundering to nix the garage fumes and dust.”
Sadly, your beloved tape collection is now obsolete. “Remember the static or flipping over to the ‘B-side’? Compared to streaming services, these outdated forms of entertainment require a lot of fussing,” says Gordon. “Make a quick list of the albums and movies you consider staples for your household, and plan to purchase in digital format.”
Bring that old chair you’ve been meaning to reupholster for years, or those old and outdated holiday decorations, to the thrift store or a donation center. If you can’t imagine placing them back inside your house anytime soon, you should say goodbye to those pieces.