Fall home maintenance checklist

By Allstate

Last updated: January 1

Fall is in the air. The days are getting shorter and the temperature is feeling a little cooler. While you may be ready to enjoy hot apple cider and pumpkin carving, it's also time to prepare your home for cold weather.

Here's a checklist of 15 important fall home maintenance tasks to consider doing ever year.

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1. Seal any air leaks

It's a good idea to seal leaky windows and doors to help keep the chilly air out and the warm air inside. This do-it-yourself project typically involves rolling self-adhesive weatherstripping (often made of felt, vinyl, rubber or silicone) down the side of a window or door, says This Old House. You may also want to install a door sweep to help prevent drafts coming in between the bottom of the door and the threshold.

2. Check your roof

You should periodically inspect your roof or hire a professional to do at least every three to four years, says Forbes. An inspection may uncover signs of potential problems, such as damage or missing shingles, loose seams or shingle pieces that are accumulating in downspouts. This will give you a chance to have any issues repaired before winter and hopefully prevent leaking or any further damage.

You may also want to have your roof inspected after severe weather, such as hail or strong winds, according to Angi.

3. Clean your gutters and downspouts

Regular cleaning and maintenance of gutters and downspouts removes clogs that prevent water from flowing away from your house, which may help prevent potential water damage. Leaves, twigs and other debris can also weigh gutters down, pulling them away from the house and potentially damaging siding and trim, says Bob Vila. Clogged gutters can also lead to ice dams during the winter, and they are also inviting to insects.

Have your gutters cleaned at least twice a year, says Bob Vila. If you're not comfortable tackling this task on a ladder, call a professional.

4. Check smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors

The beginning of fall can be a good reminder to check that all your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working properly. Smoke detectors should be tested once a month, and the batteries should be replaced at least once a year, says the U.S. Fire Administration. You should also replace smoke detectors that are more than 10 years old.

5. Adjust your thermostat

When temperatures fall, adjust your programmable thermostat (or consider installing one if you don't already have one) to help save energy and money. Setting your thermostat to a cooler temperature when you're out of the house or sleeping, and to a warmer temperature when you're home and awake, may help you save money on your heating bills, according to the Department of Energy (DOE).

7. Have your furnace inspected

Having your furnace inspected and cleaned once a year, as recommended by Energy Star, may help ensure that your heating equipment runs safely and efficiently. Routine maintenance may also help prevent a breakdown during the winter so schedule a professional inspection and tune-up, if needed.

8. Check your air and water filters

Dirty filters can cause furnaces, vacuums, air purifiers and other appliances to not run efficiently, says Consumer Reports. Some filters need changing more often than others, but you'll definitely want to check any appliances that filter air or water ever fall. Here are some common appliances that may need a replacement filter:

  • Furnace filters
  • Vacuum cleaners
  • Refrigerator water filters
  • Dishwasher filters
  • Air purifiers and humidifiers
  • Clothing dryers (filter and duct)
  • Range hoods and over-the-range microwaves

9. Drain your water heater

Many people don't think about their water heaters until there's a problem. It's a good idea to drain your water heater once a year, according to Bob Vila. Doing so can help remove sediment that can cause clogs and prevents the water heater from running efficiently. Check your manufacturer's directions on how to drain your water heater or contact a professional for help.

10. Prep your lawn and trees

A little yard work in the fall can help prevent damage to grass during the cold winter temperatures and help build a healthy lawn next spring. You can help encourage root growth and get your grass green up quickly in the spring by fertilizing in the autumn, says This Old House.

You may also want to consider mulching leaves with your lawn mower, says Bob Vila. This can help provide your lawn with nutrients that will help keep it healthy. If you don't have a mower with a mulch setting or prefer to have a cleaner looking lawn, be sure to rake the leaves so they don't smother the grass.

Trees and shrubs sometimes need extra love to get through the winter — especially trees that drop their leaves each year. Start by watering the trees thoroughly from the trunk to the length of the longest branch, says the Colorado State Forest Service. For trees with thin bark, such as maple and linden trees, use tree wrap to help protect them against the harsh winter temperatures. They also recommend putting 2 to 4 inches of mulch around the base of the tree. You can use any organic mulch that is appropriate for the area where you live, such as wood chips, bark or even fallen leaves.

11. Clean and store lawn equipment

Before storing lawn equipment for the winter, rinse shovels, rakes and other hand tools, and brush off any dirt with a brush, says HGTV. Remove any remaining fuel from your lawn mower. The DIY Network also recommends removing spark plugs from the mower before you put it away for the winter.

12. Turn off exterior faucets

In colder climates, water left in exterior pipes can freeze and may cause pipes to burst. Before the weather turns cold, drain and disconnect garden hoses. Then, if your faucet has a shutoff valve, The Family Handyman says you should turn it off (these valves are usually inside the house). Next, open and close the outside tap to release any water that is still inside the pipe. Family Handyman also recommends covering exterior faucets with an insulated cover to help prevent freezing during the winter.

13. Inspect and clean your fireplace chimney

Before you start dreaming of a warm fire, have a professional chimney sweep clean and inspect your fireplace and chimney, recommends the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Even if you have a gas fireplace, the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommends the chimney and flue are inspected for any blockages that could cause a chimney fire. Also, a professional should check the gas lines and vents for leaks and repair them, if needed.

14. Keep firewood dry

Whether you enjoy evenings by the fireplace or weekends around your fire pit, there are a few tips to keep in mind about firewood. Start fires with clean newspaper or dry kindling, and add only seasoned wood (which means it has been dried properly) to the fire, says the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Firewood should be stacked under a cover until you are ready to burn it, says Cornell Cooperative Extension of Rensselaer County. Also, insects and rodents like to make themselves at home near woodpiles, so it's a good idea to store your firewood at least 30 feet from your home.

15. Flip your mattress

To help prevent your mattress from sagging or leaving permanent body impressions, you may want to rotate it from head to foot every 6 to 12 months, recommends The Sleep Doctor. This is something that can be added to your fall checklist. If your mattresses have a cushioned top, they typically shouldn't be flipped.

While fall weather may still be warm enough to enjoy some time outdoors, it's a good time to get your home ready for winter, too. Tackling these fall home maintenance tasks may give you some peace of mind that your home is in good shape and ready for the cold winter months.