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Top ten tips for fall maintenance

The weather is getting colder and fall is upon us. Before the days get too short and wet, make sure to check out the top ten Home Matters tips for fall maintenance projects. Whether you’re a do-it-yourself-er or need to hire some help, Pete and Rob have perfect advice for your fall to-do list.

10. Buy a programmable thermostat

Programmable furnaces are Energy Star rated and can save homeowners a significant amount of money on heating bills over the years, while also extending the life of a furnace.

“For about $50 to $100 you can really save yourself about $180 a year. So even in the first year, you’re really coming out ahead of the deal,” says Pete.

To get the most out of it, experts say that for the first year, homeowners with new thermostats should set the program no higher than 72 degrees. Homeowners should then set the program to a cool 62 degrees at night or when they’re away.

9. Inspect your roof

If you don’t want to hire a professional roofer, get a good pair of binoculars and inspect any transition point in the roof to see if there’s peeling or sealant problems. Catching these issues early can mitigate water leakage and extend the life of a roof.

“You’re going to be looking at all the through penetrations,” says Rob, “so where the vents come through. Be looking at the edges to see if it’s starting to cup.”

Make sure to clear moss and debris off your roof, since moss will slowly tear asphalt tiles apart. Getting debris off your roof will also keep gutters cleaner.

Pete and Rob both say not to pressure wash your roof. Pressure washing reduces its lifespan, breaking down materials and sealants and letting water get into any gaps in sealant. Instead, use a stiff bristle brush to sweep away any debris.

If you’re hiring a roofing company, you can check for a range of maintenance prices. It’s important to check the Washington State Labor and Industries page to make sure any roofing company you hire is licensed and insured.

8. Clean your gutters

If you only check one part of your gutters, make sure to check the flashing. Gutters should overlap with the roof to prevent any water from getting behind your gutter and leaking into the crawl space. Bad flashing can cause water to seep into the space behind the gutter, and can cause rotting in crawl spaces or under parts of your roof.

“Where the roof ends and the gutters start there’s a lot of issues,” says Rob.

Cleaning out the gutter is also important. Water and debris get heavy when they build up, and it can cause gutters and flashing to bend and break.

7. Divert the water from your gutters

Make sure that downspouts are connecting to gutters, that water goes smoothly from the roof into gutters and down away from your house.

“Those downspouts should not be running water straight down into the earth,” says Pete, “because that’s going to get down into your footing, which gets down into your crawls space.”

You can get a Flexi Spout, which runs two to six feet down and streams water away from the foundation of your home. You can either let the water flow freely down your driveway and into a storm drain, or you can direct the water to flow into a drain basin, which allows runoff to safely filter into the ground away from your home.

6. Check your HVC heating system

Many people shut their heating system down during the summer and only turn it on late in the fall when the weather gets very cold outside. Now is the time to make sure that the system is working: change furnace filters, clean out drip pans, and check for general functionality.

“My recommendation is: hire a company to come in,” says Pete. “They’ll come in and do an inspection and check on your heating system and make sure that everything is okay. They also have instrumentation to check for carbon monoxide leakage.”

Just make sure to do your HVC tune-up before it gets cold to avoid the rush.

It’s also smart to buy extra furnace filters, especially if you have a pet because it’s recommended that pet owners change filters every month.

5. Turn off exterior faucets

Unhook the hose, turn the faucet off, and drain the faucets and hoses before weather gets too cold. Otherwise, extreme cold weather can cause water to freeze up behind outdoor faucets. This can make pipes inside your house. The cold water buildup can also ruin your hoses if they aren’t drained and disconnected.

4. Cut back your bushes

Walk around the home and cut back any bush that’s closer than one foot to your house.

“The vegetation is like a wick that’s drawing the water towards your siding,” says Rob, “and the whole idea is to get that air circulation behind there that’s going to dry out any water that missed the gutters.”

It can also prevent ventilation from crawl space or foundational vents. Make sure they’re clear and open so that moisture can seep out and no residual gasses build up.

3. Blow out your sprinkler system

Have a professional to drain your sprinkler system so that it doesn’t freeze and break during the winter. Sprinklers are especially vulnerable and, if they burst, you might not find out until the weather gets dry in the summer. By then you’ll have to dig up your lawn to identify what you need to fix.

2. Check your flue

A lot of the wood that’s sold now is a little green. The sap from that wood can stick to the flue in your chimney and catch fire if it builds up.

To prevent this, you can hire someone to clean out your chimney. Most chimney cleaners will check out the whole fireplace and chimney system to make sure you’re ready to go for the cold season.

“If you haven’t done it several years, it’s just like your HVC system. If you wait, you’re going to be waiting in line,” says Pete.

1. Cut back big trees around your home

Look at all the big trees around your home to make sure that no big branches are going to blow over and damage your house. Tree branches get heavy during wet winters in the Pacific Northwest, and even light winds can bring them down.

“Are these trees safe? If you’re not sure, it’s good to hire a professional,” says Pete.

Paying a fee for an assessment by a licensed arborist is better than having a tree fall into your bedroom when you’re sleeping.

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