The Everyday Home: Homeowners should gear up for fall maintenance projects

Sonya McDaniel, Extension Educator, FCS/CED

Many Oklahomans have a big list of to-dos for spring cleaning, but the fall season is a great time for some home maintenance projects.

“Now that the triple-digit heat is on the back burner, these home maintenance projects will help protect your home during the cold, winter months,” said Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Extension housing and consumer specialist and interim associate dean. “Tasks such as checking the roof for leaks, having the chimney professionally cleaned and changing air filters will help protect the integrity of your home.”

Check roofs for loose or missing shingles. This is especially important with the high winds that accompany many of Oklahoma’s severe thunderstorms. Also check around vents, skylights and chimneys for leaks and make necessary repairs. Look for loose or missing mortar around the fireplace.

“It’s a good idea to have your fireplace professionally inspected and cleaned to remove soot, blockages and built-up creosote from the chimney liner, firebox, smoke chamber and damper,” she said. “Even if you don’t use your fireplace regularly, birds, squirrels and other critters may be calling your chimney home, which can make it unsafe to use without clearing out the accumulated debris from nesting activity.”

The fall season also means leaves are falling. While most do end up on the ground, it’s a sure bet a home’s rain gutters and downspouts get clogged with leaves. This results in rainwater spilling over the edge or remaining in the gutters because they can’t drain. When the temperature falls below freezing, this water will freeze and can cause an ice dam, which could damage shingles and possibly cause roof leaks.

“It doesn’t take much time to clean the leaves out of your gutters,” Peek said. “If the leaves are dry, homeowners can use a leaf blower to speed up the removal process. Otherwise, take the time to remove leaves by hand.”

Ensure all smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers are in good working order. Replace batteries as needed. An easy tip to remember to check those batteries is to do so when Daylight Saving Time begins and ends. It ends Nov. 7 this year, so set clocks back one hour and change batteries in all safety equipment.

A few other quick and easy fall maintenance tips include:

Remove window air conditioners or put weatherproof covers on them.

Check for leaky faucets and replace washers as necessary.

Make sure refrigerator door seals are airtight. Test them by closing the door over a sheet of paper. If you can easily pull the paper out, the door may need to be adjusted or the seals replaced.

Seal drafty doors and windows. Heat can easily escape even small cracks of space, which ultimately will cost more in heating bills.

Have the heating unit serviced and change the filters.

Inspect home siding for holes and cracks and replace caulk if necessary.

If a home has storm windows and screens, take down the screens and replace with the storm windows.

“These routine chores will help ensure your home is ready for the cold weather a little later in the year,” Peek said. “They’ll also help conserve energy, which is money in your pocket.”

OSU Extension offers additional home care and safety information online.

Red, yellow, purple, and green leaves on the ground.