Ask the Expert: What Are the Most Crucial Fall Maintenance Tasks?

Sean Moss
October 9, 2015

Q: We bought an older house this spring and now that the season is turning, I don’t know where to begin with ensuring it’s in good shape for winter. Any tips?

A: As we transition into the fall season, it is necessary to tackle maintenance items to make your home tip-top, in preparation for the winter ahead. Many items involve the exterior, to help protect your home for the cold wet winter. If you didn’t have a chance to take care of some of these items in the spring, now is your last chance while the weather is still relatively mild.

  • Roof and gutters: Have the roof inspected for damage, holes, loose flashing materials, skylights and chimneys, especially if you did not have a chance to do so in the spring. Remove all debris and moss to prevent moisture issues. Have your gutters and drains cleaned. Add downspout extensions where needed. Repair all damaged, disconnected or leaking gutters and downspouts. (More on fixing up roofing and gutters here.)
  • Foundation wall: Take a look at the visible areas of the wall for any cracks. Be sure to seal them up before the winter. This will help prevent moisture ingress or mold growth.
  • Furnace/boiler: Now is the ideal time to have your furnace and or boiler maintained. Check the furnace filter and replace it if it is clogged. Get a clean bill of health from your heating contractor so you can stay warm in the winter.
  • Fireplaces: Have your gas fireplace(s) serviced and gas lines checked for leaks, especially if you rely on them for heat. A licensed gas fitter is the person to call for this. Wood burning fireplaces can be checked and cleaned out with the help of a chimney sweep. This is important to help prevent chimney fires.
  • Exterior caulking and vegetation: Trim all trees and vegetation away from the siding, roofline and especially the power lines. Consider calling an arborist, as this is can be dangerous work. Remove storage items away from the siding to prevent moisture issues or wood rot. If you didn’t have a chance to caulk and seal around windows, doors, and balconies in the spring, now is the time to do so before the winter sets in.
  • Plumbing: Drain all hoses. Locate and shut off exterior hose bib valves. Check the water pressure to ensure it is not too high. Insulate all pipes in unfinished areas such as crawlspaces & garages. Remove all debris from the drains, especially by the basement door and window wells to prevent flooding. All sump and sewage ejector pumps should be properly serviced at this time.
  • Decks and balconies: Remove debris and vegetation from the surface. Clear all drains to prevent pooling or clogging. Check the function of doors and screens. Test guardrails and stairs for stability.
  • Smoke/carbon monoxide detectors: If you have not done so over the past six months, test your smoke detectors and replace them if they are 10 years or older. Install carbon monoxide detectors in close proximity to any gas burning appliances and check them as well.
  • Pest proofing: Rodents like to move inside during the winter, so check your attic, garage, crawlspace or any other areas for small voids. If you notice evidence of pest intrusion, call a professional to check and properly seal all areas where necessary.
  • Energy efficiency: Check windows and doors for air leaks. Purchase Energy Star and Water Wise/Water Sense appliances, fixtures or faucets for those that need to be replaced. Government rebates are available for some items. You can check on your city website to see which items are listed and how to receive money back. Consider calling an energy advisor to conduct an audit of your home to determine your rating. Taking these measures will arm you with the information to save money.
  • Ventilation and insulation: Check, replace or repair all bathroom, kitchen and laundry vents. This is important to reduce the humidity in the home, especially in bathrooms and attics. If your bathroom fans are outdated, consider installing newer, moisture-sensing fans. Check or call a professional to inspect the attic for mold, loose ducts, missing ducts & insulation. As mentioned, have all repairs or upgrades competed prior to the winter.
  • Crawlspace: Inspect or have the crawlspace inspected for signs of moisture pests, insulation problems, mold, rusted ducts and leaks… of course. Repair all issue with the help of an attic contractor.

These tips should give you more than enough to do in preparation for the winter. So take advantage of the mild weather, and make your home well protected and ready for the wet, cold season ahead.

Sean Moss
Sean Moss is a home inspector focusing primarily on residential properties with specialized knowledge in mold and building envelope science. He has been featured in Vancouver Magazine, Richmond News and The Jewish Independent and he also shares his knowledge through articles and workshops. Call Sean on 604-729-4261, visit his website and see his rating on review website HomeStars.