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    Home Maintenance Calendar

    October - Mid Fall

    October is the first full month of fall; by the end of this month, preparing your home for the winter should be completed. Falling leaves and dwindling daylight affords us a final opportunity to do some outdoor organizing before winter settles in.
    • Check batteries: in smoke, heat and gas detectors. Late October is when we switch from daylight saving to standard time. Get into the habit of checking smoke detector batteries when you "fall back" and "spring ahead." Also make sure household fire extinguishers are fully pressurized and in good working order.
    • Insulate outdoor pipes to avoid freeze damage (although in the Bay Area this is rare, the weather this 2004 calendar year has been a little unusual and I thought I would throw this in for good measure). This is the most important job of fall if you live in an area that freezes in the winter. Fact: water that expands upon freezing has caused countless homeowners innumerable headaches and costs. Ignore this job and flooding, water damage and thousands of dollars worth of plumbing bills will be your constant winter companion.
    • Clean gutters. If you didn’t get a chance the last two months to clean and inspect your gutters, now is the time. Leaves and other debris will impair drainage, promote rust and causes horrible water damage not only to the roof but your walls. This is very costly and can cause innumerable problems that over time if not taken care of will even promote termite damage, wood rot, foundation problems, etc. This is your last reminder - Lecture’s over—
    • Inspect and clean the fireplace and flue before lighting your first fire. If you have a wood-burning stove, remove the stovepipe between the stove and chimney and clean that section and the pipe venting outdoors. Hire a professional to clean your chimney. If you didn't clean your chimney at the end of the heating season, do it now—especially if you burn soft woods, which release more creosote. Build up in the chimney sets you up for a house fire. A chimney sweeper can clean and inspect and will help you avoid problems. Firewood: Stack firewood away from the house and off the ground. Why? Firewood can contain termites and other pests. One year, I brought wood in and the next day the largest, ugliest unrecognizable spider I had ever seen became my roommate over night – trust me, it’s not the roommate you want. Fire fluency: make sure your damper is in good working order by opening and shutting it prior to lighting the first fire of the season. The first indication that a chimney needs cleaning is a chimney fire, so preventive maintenance is important.
    • Detect deadly gas: if you heat your home with wood heat or a gas heater, a carbon monoxide detector is a must. Make sure yours is in working order, batteries have been changed.
    • Reminder on furnace filter: if you didn’t get to it last month, check, clean or replace the filter.
    • Repair roof shingles: Try to do this on a warm day if you have asphalt shingles on your roof, so the shingles will be flexible. Use roofing cement to seal cracked and torn shingles and to reattach curled shingles. Tack down the damage further with galvanized roofing nails, and cover the exposed nail heads with roofing cement. Split wood shingles can be patched with roofing cement as well.
    • Repair siding: Do a fall siding inspection and fix any problems you find. Look for damaged paint, warped or split wood, cracks or holes in stucco, and missing or slipped siding panels. Your repair tool kit will depend on what kind of siding you have. Wood siding may require wood putty, waterproof glue, nails and screws. Stucco may require wire mesh, stucco patching compound, a trowel and a chisel. Most types of siding require a coating of sealant or primer, and paint to finish the repair and ensure waterproofing.
    • Reinforce and check windows: If your screens are dirty or damaged, repair and clean before storing them to prevent further deterioration. Light scrubbing followed by a blast from a hose will eliminate bird droppings and other grime. Small tears can be sewn up with thin wire.
    • Close seasonal air conditioners: If you use your air conditioner seasonally instead of year-round, this is a good month to close them down. Switch off the power and make sure the condensate drain is clear. Clean condenser coils and filters (a vacuum will do). Either remove window units or cover them, to protect your home from drafts and the units from bad weather.
    • Heat Radiators: if you have a heat radiator, they can get air pockets in them when not in use—if air pockets stay, they will keep the unit from heating up to its full capacity. If your unit doesn't have automatic air valves, you need to bleed it prior to every heating season. To bleed air out, turn on the furnace and circulator and open the supply valve to the radiator. Find the bleeder valve (it's usually opposite the supply valve) and open it while holding a pan to it. Air should be released, followed by hot water (thus the pan). Close the valve as the water comes out. Lightly feel the radiator to make sure it is heated along its entire surface; if there are gaps, repeat the procedure.
    • In the garden: Cut brush back from the house. Before storing all of your gardening equipment for the winter, walk around your house with a weed whacker and a pair of pruners. Cut back any brush, weeds or branches that contact your house. This task will eliminate a common access point for insects, rodents and rot. It will also keep branches and shrubs from scraping away at your house during windstorms.
    • Watch your leaves: if you don't want the tannin in fall leaves to leave hard-to-clean imprints on your deck and concrete walkways, keep those surfaces leaf-free. If you do get some leaf prints, try a solution of half water and half bleach (test it first in an unobtrusive spot—it may lighten the wood on your deck) or trisodium phosphate (commonly known as TSP) and warm water. Or, just leave the prints and consider them an artistic addition to your exterior look. Empty and store large planters—clay or terra-cotta units will crack if left out to freeze and thaw. Clean and store your gardening tools, but don't put them completely out of reach—shovels are useful year-round.
    • Outdoor Pools: have outdoor pools drained and professionally serviced.
    • Drain and store garden hoses. Leave one hose and nozzle somewhere that's easily accessible; you'll need it for gutter cleaning and car washing.
    • Tip: Spray a little WD40 on your garden tools before you store them