As the weather gets colder, there are a few home maintenance items you don’t want to overlook.

Ah, Fall. The leaves falling off the trees, the crisp nighttime temperatures, the sun setting earlier – these signs of the approaching change in seasons are welcomed by some and met with melancholy by others. Then comes that first morning when things are so cold you wonder why in the world you choose to live here in Minnesota. At least that’s the view from our own personal lens here at the Homeownership Center.

Before those cold temperatures settle in for the long term, there are a few home maintenance items you want to be sure you have addressed in order to avoid potential costly repairs associated with freezing weather. Here’s a handy list of some top items to tackle:

  1. Disconnect Outdoor Water Hoses – This is probably the most important item on the winter weather prep to-do list. Water freezes, and you don’t want it to freeze inside your water pipes. Hoses can trap water inside the faucet mechanism, and if that water freezes it could burst the water pipe and cause major damage inside the walls of your house.
  2. Install Your Storm Windows – While today’s windows are efficient at maintaining interior temperatures year-round, many older homes have detachable or movable storm windows to facilitate heat retention during the cold winter months. If this is the case for you, you’ll want to pick a warmer day before the temperatures turn for good to get these storm windows up. Single pane windows are very poor at keeping the Minnesota cold out of your house!
  3. Get Your Furnace Serviced – As winter approaches, you want to be sure your furnace is in good working order – especially if it is older. Having your furnace tuned and cleaned every year (or two) can help ensure operational safety and efficiency, and give you insight into your furnace’s health and remaining life expectancy. Furnaces are expensive, and if a replacement is in your future you’re better off knowing its coming and having a chance to save rather than being surprised by a big expense just as the holidays approach. Pro Tip – If you also have central air conditioning and have this service done before it gets too cold (i.e. less than about 50 degrees F), you can often have you’re A/C tuned and inspected as well and save money by combining services.
  4. If You Use a Wood Fireplace, Have Your Chimney Inspected – Chimneys that accommodate wood smoke and heat need to be regularly cleaned and inspected to ensure fire safety. Chimney fires are a real thing, and the last thing you want to have happen to your home. A good Chimney Sweep can clean the potentially flammable creosote and soot that builds up over time and inspect the inside of your chimney for any dangerous cracks or other safety issues. Heavy fireplace users should have this service done every year, while lighter users can generally have the service performed every two or three years. Similar to furnace servicing, chimney servicing also gives you an idea of your chimney’s health and remaining life expectancy before major maintenance is required.
  5. Change the Batteries in Smoke and CO2 Detectors – Fall is a great time to change the batteries in any smoke or CO2 detectors in your home. Whether they still work or not, swapping them out is best practice and well worth it with these potentially life-saving devices.
  6. Prepare Your Yard Machines for Storage – This task is easy, but not as easy as it may seem on the surface. Gasoline is somewhat perishable. If you simply store your lawn mower over the winter with gasoline still in the tank, it can make the engine difficult or impossible to start and may require a full tune-up at a small engine shop to get it back in service. This can be easily avoided, however, by simply running the engine out of gas before storing the mower for the winter. Easy and worthwhile, right?
  7. Clean Your Gutters – Once you’ve raked or mulched (or just left) the leaves in your yard, make sure you clean any roof gutters that may have accumulated their own colorful leaf collections. When April showers come, you want to be sure the water coming off your roof flows through the gutter and downspouts and away from your house rather than overflowing out and potentially down into your basement.
  8. Protect Maintenance Products from Freezing – If you have a detachable garage or shed, make sure you bring indoors extra paint, rechargeable batteries and anything else you don’t want to be exposed to freezing and thawing during the winter months.

Once this list is taken care of, you can commence with the bundling up and hunkering down!