Paul Bianchina: Time to check off some fall chores
As the old saying goes, there’s frost on the pumpkin, so it must be fall. That means it’s time for my annual checklist of some suggested things to do before the season changes to winter.
• Check insulation levels: Increased insulation can make a huge difference in both your comfort and your heating bills, so don’t put off having your insulation levels inspected. Call your utility company or building department to learn what levels are optimum for your area. Check the attic, underfloor, kneewalls, skylight shafts and ductwork. Upgrade under-insulated areas as needed, either as a DIY project — home centers and hardware stores have all the supplies you need — or with the help of a licensed insulation contractor.
• Check for drafts: Even the tiniest of cracks around doors and windows can create drafts that cool your toes and rob your wallet. With your exterior doors closed, have another person stand outside and shine a bright light all around the door. If you see light from inside, it’s time to repair or replace your weatherstripping. Around windows, use a candle, preferably on a breezy day, to check for air leaks, then repair the weatherstripping as needed.
• Check smoke detectors: Change your smoke detector batteries, and check for proper operation. Also, check the date on the bottom of the smoke detector. Smoke detectors have a life span, and if yours is more than 10 years old, it may not work properly in a fire, so replace it with a new one. Also, make sure you have a smoke detector at each sleeping room, and one centrally located on each level of the home.
• Install a carbon monoxide detector: If you have a furnace, fireplace, water heater or other appliance that’s fueled by propane or natural gas, or if you have an attached garage, install a carbon monoxide detector. They just plug in, and you can get them inexpensively from most home centers and other retailers. If your carbon monoxide detector is more than 5 years old, replace it with a new one.
• Check gas appliances: Consider having your utility company or heating contractor inspect flues, fittings, and other components of your natural gas or propane appliance and heating systems for potential problems.
• Change furnace filters: Always put in new furnace filters in the fall. It’s a simple and inexpensive way to add to your home’s efficiency and your family’s comfort.
• Check and seal heating ducts: Check the ducts in your attic, basement and crawlspace for gaps between ducts and fittings, and seal them with a good-quality metallic tape — not regular duct tape, which doesn’t last. Also, check to be sure that all of the ducts are off the ground and adequately supported.
• Check the fireplace: Clean the fireplace chimney or wood stove flue using brushes approved for the size and type of flue you have, or leave it to an experienced chimney sweep company; they'll also inspect the fireplace from top to bottom, and talk to you about any needed repairs. Clean out the firebox, making sure you place the ashes in a fireproof container with a tight lid for proper disposal. If you have an airtight wood stove or fireplace insert, check the door-seal gasket, and clean the glass on the door.
• Check the roof: A roof that leaks not only has the potential to cause significant structural damage, it also wets insulation, which causes a drop in the insulation’s ability to resist heat loss. Examine roofing shingles and flashings, and repair or replace them as needed. It’s much easier and safer to take care of these problems now than during winter’s ice and rain.
• Check the gutters: Fall is the ideal time to check your gutter and downspout systems. Clear the gutters of leaf and pine needle debris, and check that the opening between the gutter and the downspout is unobstructed. Look for loose joints or other structural problems with the system, and repair them as needed using pop rivets. Use a gutter sealant to seal any connections
• Repair walkways and driveways: If you have any cracks in your driveway or walkways, rain and snow will enter, freeze and expand, continually making the cracks worse. Now's the time to close up those gaps with the proper sealant.
• Change light timers: If you have exterior lights that are controlled by timers, including low voltage ones, check the timer settings. Change the “on” times to an earlier hour to reflect the earlier winter darkness, so that you always have adequate outside light available.
• Move freeze-prone liquids: If you have paint, car care products, lawn and garden products, or other liquids that are prone to freezing, move them into an area where they’ll be protected. This advice applies to batteries in equipment that won’t be used during the winter, such as riding lawn mowers. Exercise caution before moving batteries or potentially hazardous materials into the house for storage; check and follow all the manufacturer’s storage instructions printed on the label.
• Seal masonry surfaces: Apply a sealer to concrete driveways and walkways, brick patios, and other exterior masonry. Masonry sealers prevent water from penetrating into cracks and crevices where it can freeze and cause serious damage. You can find sealers at home centers, paint stores and masonry supply retailers. Apply with a brush, roller or sprayer.
Have a home repair or remodeling question for Paul? He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.