Comprehensive Fall Task Checklist
Organize and get a jump on winter
The following list of chores includes tasks that need to be done every year,
though some can be every two years or so. We've tried to include everything
we could think of, but depending on your home and location, you may have other
chores that are equally important.
In and around the house
- Buy and store a supply of wood. Less seasoned wood may be cheaper; let it dry this year and use it next year. Just don't burn it until it's dry! Read more information about wood stoves.
- Have your backup heat source serviced. Wood stoves and pellet stove should be checked to make sure they are in good condition and ready for another year of service.
- Have your chimney cleaned, especially if you use a woodstove or fireplace a lot during the cold season. Find out more about chimney maintenance.
- Clean the gutters.
- Check downspouts and splash blocks. Water should flow freely away from the house.
- Examine the roof and gutters. Make repairs yourself, or hire someone, but do it now.
- Check ridge vents and make sure they are clear of any obstructions.
- Schedule heating system service if you haven’t done it in a while.
- Check the smoke alarm and carbon-monoxide detector. Replace batteries.
- Weatherize your home. Use caulk, weatherstripping, and check for new, inexpensive ways to reduce heat loss. We have a few energy tips that might be helpful.
- Check your foundation before winter sets in. It may be too late to do anything if you find cracks or damage, but you can take a picture and document any problems you find. It will give you a point of reference next spring when you make your post-winter inspection and give you an idea of how quickly problems are progressing.
- Wander through your home and make sure that all heat vents are clear. Stuff gets moved during the summer and often vents get blocked, especially in homes without central air conditioning.
- Replace that air filter before you turn on the heat. Pick memorable date (like the first Saturday of every month) and make replacing the filter a monthly chore. Buy a season’s supply of filters. Many come in packs of three or more and you can save money as well as time.
- Add insulation. If your home needs more, start at the top and work down to get the most for your money. Most warm air leaves through the roof so concentrate your insulation there, adding extra to the walls and under floors as time and money permit.
- Remove screens, clean, and repair before putting them away. Replace with storm windows if you don't have dual-pane, low-e windows.
- If you have a crawl space under your home, make sure that entries are blocked to prevent critters from taking up habitation and nesting.
- If you have a sump pump, check it now to make sure it’s in good working order for the months ahead.
- Check siding. Caulk or repair as needed.
- Wrap pipes with heat tape in cold climates.
- Install a programmable thermostat if you don’t already have one. This can save you a ton of money, especially if you program it so temperatures are lower at night. Buy a new sweater and resist the temptation to turn the heat up.
In the yard and garden
- Trim trees and bushes so nothing touches your house.
- Hire an arborist to remove dead and diseased branches on your trees so your
home doesn't get crunched during high winds or ice storms. They can also remove
branches that might take out power lines too. (Make sure the tree service
you hire is licensed and insured. If they drop a big branch on your car, you’ll
want them to pay for the damage.)
- Clean, then put patio furniture and the barbeque away. There’s nothing
quite like finding a cruddy, gross barbecue next spring on that first warm
- Seal decks. Inspect wood decks for damage or rot. Get more detail on deck care.
- Check railings and steps to make sure they are clean, safe, and secure.
- Prepare garden beds for next spring. Clean out current beds, add compost, and plant a cover crop like fava beans or red clover to fix nitrogen in the soil. (You can dig it in next spring.)
- Mulch plants well, especially those that are tender for your zone. Good mulching can save them when temperatures dip.
- Lift tubers from dahlias and store in cool, dry location.
- Blow out, then drain faucets, hoses, and sprinkling systems.
- Clean, sharpen, oil, and store tools and equipment in a dry location.
- If you have sheds or detached garages, check roofing, siding, and gutters to make sure they are clean and dry, especially if you are storing valuable patio furniture, gardening tools, or sports equipment.
- Planters, especially terra cotta, need to be cleaned and stored. Left to the winter elements those lovely large terra cotta planters will expand and contract with the changes in temperature and by spring you’ll have nothing but broken terra cotta for next year’s potted plants.
- Check exterior lighting and replace bulbs and reset timers if necessary.
- Make sure winter tools like snow shovels and blowers are in good condition and ready to use.
- Clean ponds and remove non-hardy plants.
- Order seed catalogs for winter reading.
Emergency and car care
- Establish a 72-hour stock of emergency provisions. Allocate a space; keep everything you’ll need in case the power goes off there. Train your family.
- If you don’t already know where it is, find the main water shutoff for your home as well as gas shutoffs in case of emergency.
- Check your insurance coverage. Make sure that you are covered for the full value of your home and contents, especially if you live in an area where housing prices have skyrocketed.
- Check your car and make sure that it’s been serviced and all small problems are taken care of. Check each tire’s tread and pressure, the battery, and all fluid levels. Replace windshield wipers, especially if you didn’t do it last year. Create a winter emergency kit and keep it in the trunk along with your chains and flares. Include water, high energy snacks, blankets, a flashlight and spare batteries, jumper cables, and a first aid kit.
You may have other tasks that you do seasonally, but this list should give you a leg up on the myriad tasks that need to be accomplished before Old Man Winter starts breathing down your neck. Once these chores are done, you can enjoy a well-deserved
rest with a good cup of coffee and enjoy the wonders of your seed catalogs and plot landscape and exterior improvements for next spring. Or you can get busy tackling those indoor projects you've been too busy to get to.
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