Autumn Home Maintenance

How to spend your team’s bye week

A little time and money now to prepare your house can prevent a lot of money and heartache over the winter. Here are some key preventative home maintenance tips for fall from our professionals.

Have your heating system checked by a qualified professional—pilot lights, burners and filters. This is a good time to verify the filter size and stock up for the winter, since monthly replacement is optimal for efficiency and air quality. The chimney, flue, fireplace and wood-burning stove connections should be inspected by a qualified pro as well.

Use a vacuum to clean vents and cold-air returns throughout the house, and/or have a professional clean the ducts. This will improve heating efficiency and reduce indoor pollutants.

If you use ceiling fans, check their direction. You should be able to feel a direct breeze under the fan during cold-weather operation, since hot air rises and the fan should push it back down into the room for best effect. This is also a good time to have your whole-house air-conditioner serviced and winterized, and to remove or weatherproof portable units.

Many hot water heaters should be drained annually so that sediment can be removed. Also, check your water heater for evidence of leaks or other problems.

Water can do tremendous damage to your home, especially when it freezes. Check your roof and around vents, skylights and chimneys for leaks, or have a professional inspect it. Run a garden hose from the roof to make sure there are no leaks behind gutters and no clogs. Clean gutters and downspouts throughout the fall to remove and prevent clogs from leaves or debris. Drain outside faucets and turn them off. Know how to locate and turn off the water shut-off valves in case pipes freeze and burst.

In the attic, make sure that insulation doesn’t cover vents in the eaves, and check that vents are clear of debris and plants.

Remove window screens and replace with storm windows. Inspect and repair any loose or damaged frames, caulking and weather stripping.

Fertilize and reseed your lawn, since roots continue growing in fall. And prune tree limbs that are near your roof or power lines to prevent problems with ice or heavy snowfall.

Tom Mirabella is President of, a directory of prescreened home improvement contractors on Long Island that specializes in helping homeowners find the right contractors for any job.