Kudzu's Fall To-Do List

It's time to start checking things off your fall to-do list.

Fall is here. It's time to make sure your home is ready from the inside out.

Exterior, Basement and Foundation

Inspect your exterior walls and outdoor electrical receptacles

  • Why: Your siding might need to be repaired, bricks may need replacing, or your stucco might need a patch. Any moisture over the upcoming months can ice up, creep into and expand in small spaces, and cause big damage. And you'll want to make sure your electrical receptacles are water tight, or you could be dealing with dangerous shorts and expensive electrical repairs.
  • Who can help: The inspection can be a do-it-yourself project, but if repairs need to be made that you're not comfortable doing, you can find a siding expert or hire an electrician.

Check for cracked or damaged windows

  • Why: Damaged window frames and broken glass can let in moisture, which can lead to mold or mildew buildup. And if your windows are cracked-or simply outdated single-pane designs-they can let in lots of unwanted cold air, causing your utility bills to spike much higher than needed.
  • Who can help: You can inspect the windows on your own, but you might hire a window expert to inspect window integrity in more detail or to replace your windows.

Clean your gutters and downspouts

  • Why: Buildup of leaves and twigs can cause blockages, leading to overflowing and leaks. Left unattended, that water can seep under shingles and freeze, which can cause major roof damage.
  • Who can help: If you don't feel comfortable getting up on the roof or climbing a ladder, find a gutter cleaning expert to do the job.

Check your crawlspace or basement for leaks and critters

  • Why: Leaky pipes can cause wood rot, foundation cracks, and high water bills. Plus, all that moisture breeds mold and mildew-terrible for health issues. And if you have uninvited pests nestling in for the oncoming colder weather, you need to have them evicted before they cause damage to your house and its systems or spread any disease.
  • Who can help: You can hire a plumber to fix leaks or find a pest control expert to take care of your critter conundrum.

Interior & Appliance

Clean your air ducts

  • Why: Dust, debris, and allergens can settle in your air ducts, so it's a good idea to clear them out before the heater blows it all out and into the air you breathe.
  • Who can help: Not many homeowners do this on their own, so it's best to hire an air duct cleaning pro.

Get your furnace inspected and serviced

  • Why: A furnace that is properly cleaned and serviced will run more efficiently and heat your home better over the colder months. (Translation: you get to breathe clean air and spend less on heating bills.)
  • Who can help: Cleaning or replacing your filter is a fairly simple task to do by yourself, but hire an HVAC pro to make sure your furnace is running right.

Clean your fireplace, flue, and chimney

  • Why: If you have and use a wood-burning fireplace, the flue and chimney can build up with ash and creosote, which restricts the flow of air and causes smoke to back up. Getting this buildup cleaned out will make sure your flue works properly and your chimney draws well.
  • Who can help: It's a dirty job, but you can do it yourself with some inexpensive tools, or you can find a chimney sweep to do it so you can stay clean.

Get your water heater serviced

  • Why: Over time, your water heater builds up with sediment like fine sands and minerals, which restrict the amount of water it can hold. In addition to a reduced capacity, this buildup also makes the water heater have to work harder to keep the water hot. Draining and flushing the water heater will refresh its capacity, and servicing the heating elements will make sure you have plenty of hot water for the coming colder months.
  • Who can help: Find a licensed plumber to get the right person for the job.

Clean your range hood, fan, and filter

  • Why: Your range hood can be the difference between relaxing comfortably inside and madly scurrying outside during mealtime-depending on the pungency of the meal and your ability to keep it from charring. If the fan and filter are caked with grease, airflow is restricted and it doesn't filter the air effectively, which means opening windows and escaping to the outside are your only means for fresh air. Plus, those smells can get imbedded in your fabrics like carpet, couches, and curtains. Cleaning the hood, fan, and filter will keep the air flowing well, so your home smells fall-fresh and you don't have to run out into the cold.
  • Who can help: It's a dirty job, but it's typically a do-it-yourselfer. If you don't want to get dirty, hire a hood-cleaning pro.

Backyard and Landscape

Trim up your trees

  • Why: Before the leaves have fallen, it's an easy time to spot branches that are dangerously close to power lines or dead branches that can fall if tested with a bit of wind or snow.
  • Who can help: You might be able to cut down some lower-level branches, but hire a tree service to handle the branches that higher up or if you're unsure how to best trim your trees.

Winterize your sprinkler system and lawn

  • Why: Your lawn is getting ready to hibernate, so you can turn off the sprinkler system and blow out the lines to prevent breaks due to freezing. However, your lawn still needs vital nutrients before winter, so it's a good idea to rake leaves often for good sun exposure, and lay down a fall fertilizer to get it ready for next spring.
  • Who can help: It doesn't take much to do this on your own, but you can find a lawn specialist to handle it for you, and who might be better versed in sprinkler system care.

Shut the pool down

  • Why: If you have a pool and don't want to spend a fortune to keep it warm all winter, now's a good time to drain it and cover it up before Mr. Frost shows up. It's also important to winterize the pump and heater system so you don't have lines freezing and breaking for a messy and expensive start to next summer's poolside fun.
  • Who can help: You can find a pool pro to take care of this lengthy project, unless you have a weekend free to do it yourself.

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