Give your trees and shrubs a little TLC.  Probably the most important thing to do for your trees and shrubs in the fall is trimming the dead branches out. Fall is the time they’re dormant, and the perfect time to do your pruning to get them back to the sizing you want, as well as removing any dead or decaying branches.  Consider hiring a landscaper to do your trimming for you if you’d rather be spending the last days of warm weather on the golf course.

Rake up all those leaves. Nothing looks better than leaves blanketing your lawn, but leaving too many leaves on the ground over winter is not ideal. To make the job easier on yourself, choose lightweight rake, wear sturdy gloves, and get the whole family together to help.  When you’re not jumping in the raked up piles, you’ll find the job goes by quickly when the whole family pitches in.

 Clean your gutters and downspouts. Once most of the leaves have fallen, clean out your gutters and downspouts – please hire someone to do it for you if you’re not comfortable getting up on that ladder. Clogged gutters in our wet weather will cause water to pool and can damage your roof or siding.

Make needed exterior repairs. Take a leisurely walk around your house and look for signs of damage on the roof, the siding and the foundation. Be sure to schedule repairs to any problems you find before the winter weather hits.

 Seal gaps where animals could enter.  At our house here in the country, we find that mice are our main source of critter headaches in the winter.  Just like us, they’re looking for warmth from the cold, and need only the teeniest, tiniest, gap to be able to sneak into our house. So get out there and fill whatever small holes you find.  Also, don’t forget to cover any larger gaps securely with heavy-duty tarps to keep the bigger wildlife outdoors too. The last thing you want sharing your house with you this winter is a family of raccoons!

Check walkways, railings, stairs and your driveway. When the landscape is covered in ice, just walking from the driveway to the front door can be a scary affair.  To make your home safer, check that all your exterior stairs are in good shape and have sturdy railings – and that the driveway is in good repair to make for easier shoveling just in case we get some snow this year.

Stock up on all the winter supplies you’ll need. We keep hearing that we might have a milder than normal winter this year, but that doesn’t mean we won’t get cold snaps, so don’t forget to check the condition of your snow shovels and ice scrapers – and replace them if need be. Also, pick up a bag or two of salt for those slippery sections outside your house – because there’s nothing worse than waiting for the last minute only to find that your local hardware store is sold out.

 Shut off your exterior faucets and store hoses. As plumbers we know how important this one is!  You must protect your pipes from freezing temperatures by shutting off water to exterior faucets before the weather dips below freezing. Whenever we have a frigid winter, we always get the frantic calls from homeowners who forgot to do this step, and now the pipe has burst inside their home and caused significant damage to their walls, floors and furniture. Also, don’t forget to drain your hoses and store them indoors as well.

Add some weather-stripping. You’ll be thankful that you took this step if a cold winter hits us, because weather-stripping applied around the frames of windows and doors helps boost winter warmth and cut energy costs. You can also add door sweeps to the base of drafty doors to keep the heat in and the cold air out.

Check all your safety devices.  Test smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors; and replace the batteries.  Check the expiration date on your fire extinguisher and replace or refill it if needed.

Remove the A/C units from your windows. If you use window air conditioning units in the summer, remove them before the weather turns cold. Remember, if you must leave the A/C units in; be sure to cover the entire exterior of the unit with an insulating wrap to keep the cold air out of your house for the winter.

Clean those plugged dryer vents. Lint buildup in dryer vents can make your dryer work less efficiently and even cause a fire, because cool and dry fall weather increases static electricity, which can ignite the lint that has built up in your vents. If you have access to your vents it’s easy to vacuum them out yourself and save some bucks, rather than hiring a duct cleaning service.

 Deep-clean your kitchen. Take a day, or in my case a coupe of days, to tackle some of the more intensive cleaning tasks.  There’s nothing like a sparkling clean kitchen to start off the winter, especially when it’s going to be closed up for a few months with no fresh air getting in from open windows.  So put on your rubber gloves and degrease that range hood and filter; Clean your oven; vacuum the refrigerator coils; scrub the tile and grout; clean the light fixtures; wash the walls and backsplashes; wash out the inside of garbage cans and recycling bins; clean your small appliances; and if you’re up for it move your range and refrigerator out from the wall and clean their sides and the floor underneath.  Once you’re done, you can take a step back, give yourself a pat on the back, and gaze out over your beautiful spotless kitchen!

Schedule your heating system maintenance. Making sure your furnace or boiler are cleaned, maintained and in perfect working order before you need to turn on the heat is a really important safety measure to keep your family safe all winter long. Just call us anytime and we’ll take care of it for you right away, so you can enjoy a worry-free fall and winter.

Schedule maintenance for your fireplaces. Keeping on top of maintenance for your gas fireplace is also essential, both for safety and efficiency. We can check these for you when we’re in your home completing your furnace or boiler tune-up.

Tidy up your often forgotten utility spaces. After the busy summer, it’s inevitable that your junk drawer, utility closet and garage are filled to overflowing. Regain some sanity by editing these spaces, tossing the junk and giving away those things you have too much of.

Don’t forget the batteries! Fall and winter here on the West Coast can mean severe wind storms – remember that scary one in September?  So now’s the time to invest in some new batteries for your flashlights and camping lanterns, so they’ll be ready to go even if your power isn’t.

Need a checklist? Here’s one you can download!