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
- 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
- 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