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Fall Maintenance Checklist

Clean and Stow Your Mower

If your mower sits for months with

gas in its tank, the gas will slowly deteriorate,

which can damage internal engine parts. Fuel

stabilizer ($10 for a 10-ounce bottle) prevents

gas from degrading. Add stabilizer to your

gasoline can to keep spare gas in good

condition over the winter, and top off your

mower tank with stabilized gas before you put

it away for the winter. Run the mower for five

minutes to make sure the stabilizer reaches the


Remove Garden Hoses From Faucets

Remove garden hoses from outdoor faucets.

Leaving hoses attached can cause water to back

up in the faucets and in the plumbing pipes just

inside your exterior walls. If freezing temps hit, that

water could freeze, expand, and crack the faucet or

pipes. Make this an early fall priority so a sudden

cold snap doesn’t sneak up and cause damage.Turn

off any shutoff valves on water supply lines that lead

to exterior faucets. That way, you’ll guard against minor

leaks that may let water enter the faucet.

Drain Your Sprinkler System

Time to drain your irrigation system. Even buried irrigation lines can freeze, leading to busted pipes and broken sprinkler heads.

Turn off the water to the system at the main valve.

Shut off the automatic controller.

Open drain valves to remove water from the system.

Remove any above-ground sprinkler heads and shake the water out of them, then replace.

If you don’t have drain valves, then hire an irrigation pro to blow out the systems pipes with compressed air.

Seal Air Leaks

Grab a couple of tubes of color-matched exterior caulk and make a journey around your home’s exterior, sealing up cracks between trim and siding, around window and door frames, and where pipes and wires enter your house. Preventing moisture from getting inside your walls is one of the least expensive — and most important — of your fall maintenance jobs. You’ll also seal air leaks that waste energy.

De-Gunk Your Gutters

Clogged rain gutters can cause ice dams, which can lead to expensive repairs. After the leaves have fallen, clean your gutters to remove leaves, twigs, and gunk. Make sure gutters aren’t sagging and trapping water; tighten gutter hangers and downspout brackets. Replace any worn or damaged gutters and downspouts.

Your downspouts should extend at least 5 feet away from your house to prevent foundation problems.

Eyeball Your Roof

Look for warning signs: Shingles that are buckled, cracked, or missing; rust spots on flashing. Any loose, damaged, or missing shingles should be replaced immediately.

Black algae stains are just cosmetic, but masses of moss and lichen could signal roofing that’s decayed underneath.

A plumbing vent stack usually is flashed with a rubber collar — called a boot — that may crack or loosen over time. They’ll wear out before your roof does, so make sure they’re in good shape.

Direct Your Drainage

Take a close look at the soil around your foundation and make sure it slopes away from your house at least 6 vertical inches over 10 feet. That way, you’ll keep water from soaking the soils around your foundation, which could lead to cracks and leaks. Be sure soil doesn’t touch your siding.

Check Your Furnace

Schedule an appointment with a heating and cooling pro to get your heating system checked and tuned up for the coming heating season. Change your furnace filters, too. This is a job you should do every two months anyway, but if you haven’t, now’s the time. If your HVAC includes a built-in humidifier, make sure the contractor replaces that filter.

Prune Plants

Late fall is the best time to prune plants and trees — when the summer growth cycle is over. Your goal is to keep limbs and branches at least 3 feet from your house so moisture won’t drip onto roofing and siding, and to prevent damage to your house exterior during high winds.

Give Your Fireplace a Once-Over

To make sure your fireplace is safe, grab a flashlight and look up inside your fireplace flue to make sure the damper opens and closes properly. Open the damper and look up into the flue to make sure it’s free of birds’ nests, branches and leaves, or other obstructions. You should see daylight at the top of the chimney.

Check the firebox for cracked or missing bricks and mortar. Your fireplace flue should be cleaned of creosote buildup every other year.

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