Advanced and early autumn maintenance for older homes

Many people will soon be looking forward to the warmest days of summer and are starting to look forward to the change of season. However, autumn and spring are the seasons that require the most home maintenance because they are the most dramatic changes in the weather. Procrastinators will wait until the rain stops and the wind starts blowing before cleaning the gutters. Homeowners who really value keeping a roof over their heads will clean the gutters a few times to keep them leaf-free during the fall months.

The basic fall maintenance checklist doesn’t change much from year to year. You will find a must-do list here: Fall Basic Home Maintenance Checklist. However, if your home is a bit older or you want to be more thorough, the following is a list of tasks to consider.

Gutters. If you don’t want to clean the gutters several times a year, consider installing gutters to make the job much easier. You should still check at least once a year to make sure they are doing the job, but it is much safer to climb a ladder with both hands just once to confirm that the guards are doing the job. As our population ages, this is a good option before you can no longer safely climb a ladder.

Take care of large tasks. The coming weeks with cooler weather without rain and before the days get shorter are good for bigger jobs like exterior painting. The low humidity, cooler (but not cold) temperatures and dry siding is the best time of year for exterior painting. Before applying new paint, inspect the siding for blisters, bubbling, or cracks. Pressure wash or scrape these areas before repainting to prevent rot and water ingress. This is also the best time to inspect caulking around doors, windows and utilities.

The weather strip eventually dries out and shrinks on older homes. Most older houses do not have expansion foam between the door frame and house frame. If you carefully pry off the covering around the door and inject foam into the hole, the winter draft will stop. Also consider door sweepers if you don’t already have them.

Landscaping. Your lawn may look its best if you’ve tended it all summer, or it may be brown, dry and in need of serious care before winter. This is the time of year when grass roots grow deeper and is an appropriate time to aerate before applying a slow-release winter fertilizer. Older homes mean more mature and well-established shrubs and trees that need to be trimmed. Although it is best to trim trees and shrubs in the spring during the growth phase, do it anyway at this time of year if they are close to power lines, rooflines or windows. This is also the time to divide or move perennials. Pull out the dead annuals and add mulch to protect overwintering plants. If you have a sprinkler system, make sure it’s drained so you don’t have to replace pipes or valves next spring.

Attic insulation in older homes settles, clumps and contracts to leave gaps and uneven coverage. Recommended types and R-values ​​for insulation have changed over the years. If you have an older house, consider adding or replacing old insulation. Also, ensure that attic insulation does not cover vents in the eaves to prevent winter ice dams on the roof.

Keep critters out. When the weather cools down, mice, squirrels and other critters will look for a warm place to spend the winter. Check bird and rodent screens on ceiling vents to prevent unwanted guests. Do the same with foundation ventilation.

Remove the window air conditioner. If you use window air conditioners in the summer, remove them before the weather turns cold. If you must leave window air conditioners in, cover the entire exterior of the unit with insulating wrap to keep cold air out.

Do an energy audit. A trained professional will evaluate your home’s current energy efficiency and provide you with a list of recommended improvements you can make. These may include upgrading to Energy Star appliances, adding insulation to the attic, or reinforcing weatherstripping. You can also find DIY energy audit instructions at

Install a programmable thermostat. This might not be high on your list, but if you’re improving energy efficiency every year, this could be the year for a modern thermostat. You can be perfectly comfortable all the time while saving energy. Set it to turn down to 55 or 60 degrees during the work day and back to your preferred level half an hour before you normally get home from work. The same at night while you are in bed and under the covers. Be sure to keep your pet’s comfort in mind when deciding how low to set the temperature.

Inspect and protect supply systems. Don’t wait until a rainy Sunday afternoon pours an inch or more of water on your property to find out your sump pump isn’t working. Most have a testing process to ensure these work properly. A few moving parts may also need a little oil or grease. If you have a septic tank in a freezing climate, you probably know that you should check the septic tank cover. If the system leaks, the drain field can also become soaked and freeze, causing a sewer disaster. Although it doesn’t happen often, sewage can back up in the basement and cause extensive damage. Another uncommon and often overlooked aid is a heating system that uses hot water. Take some time to empty the expansion tank, check the water pressure and bleed your radiators.

Although it still feels like summer out there, colder winter temperatures will be here before you know it. Now is the best time to take action so that your home is in good condition this winter. Your best offense is a good defense.

What fall maintenance do you recommend for older homes? Please leave a comment. Our weekly Ask Brian column welcomes questions from readers of all experience levels with residential real estate. Please email your questions, queries or article ideas to [email protected].

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