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Advanced and Early Fall Maintenance for Older Homes

By Brian Kline | September 11, 2018

Many people welcome relief from the hottest days of summer and look forward to the change in season. However, fall and spring are the seasons requiring the most home maintenance because these bring the most dramatic changes in weather. Procrastinators will wait until the rains are falling and the wind begins blowing before cleaning out the rain gutters. Homeowners that value keeping a roof over their heads will clean the gutters several times during the fall to keep them free from persistently falling leafs.

The basic fall maintenance checklist doesn’t change from year to year. You’ll find a must do list here: If your home is a little older or you want to be more thorough, the following list are tasks you should consider.

Gutter guards. If you don’t want to clean the gutters several times each year, consider installing gutter guards to make the job a lot easier. You should still check at least once a year to be sure these are doing the job but it’s much safer going up a ladder just once using both hands to verify the guards are doing the job. As our population ages, gutter guards are a good option before you can no longer safely climb a ladder.

Take care of large jobs. These few weeks of cooler weather without rain and before the days become shorter are good for larger jobs like painting the exterior. The low humidity, cooler (but not cold) temperatures, and sun dried siding make this the right time for exterior painting. Before applying new paint, inspect the siding for blistering, bubbling, or cracking paint. Pressure wash or scrape damaged areas before repainting to prevent rot and water intrusion. Before painting is also the time to inspect caulking around doors, windows, and utilities.

Weather stripping eventually dries out and shrinks on older homes. Yours may need to be replaced. Most older houses don’t have expansion foam between door frames and the house studs. Gently prying off the trim around the door and spraying foam into the gap will stop winter drafts. Also consider door sweeps if you don’t already have them.

Landscaping. Your lawn may be looking its best if you’ve been caring for it all summer or it may be dried brown and in need of serious care before winter. This is the time of year when grass roots are growing deeper, making it a good time to aerate before applying a slow release winter fertilizer. Older homes mean mature bushes and trees need trimming. Although it’s best to trim trees and bushes in the spring during the growth phase, do it this time of the year anyway if these are close to powerlines, rooflines, or windows. This is also the time to divide or move perennials. Pull out the dead annuals and add mulch to protect wintering plants. If you have a sprinkler system, make sure it’s drained so that you don’t have to replace pipes or valves next spring.

Attic insulation. 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, you may want to consider adding to or replacing old insulation. Also be sure attic insulation hasn’t shifted to cover vents in the eaves to prevent winter ice dams on the roof.

Keep critters out. As the weather cools, mice, squirrels, and other critters will be looking for a warm place to spend the winter. Check bird and rodent screens on attic vents to prevent unwelcome intruders.

Remove window A/C units. If you use window air conditioning units in the summer, remove them before the weather turns cold. If you must leave window A/C units in, cover the entire exterior of the unit with an insulating wrap to keep cold air out.

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

Install a programmable thermostat. This may not be high on your list but if you’re improving energy efficiency each year, this may be the year for a modern thermostat. You can be perfectly comfortable all of the time while saving energy. Set it to turn down to 55 or 60 degrees during the workday and back to your preferred temperature a half hour before you normally get home from work. Same thing during the night while you’re in bed under the blankets. Be sure to keep your pets comfort in mind when you decide how low to set the temperature.

Inspect and protect utility systems.  Don’t wait until a rainy Sunday afternoon is pouring an inch or more water on your property to learn your sump pump is malfunctioning. Most have a test process to assure these are working correctly. A few moving parts may also need some oil or grease. If you have a septic tank in a freezing climate, you are probably aware of the importance of having the tank blanket checked by septic tank services professional. In addition, make sure to have regular septic tank cleaning and maintenance with the help of a professional plumbing company. Also, if the system has leaks, the drain field can become soaked and freeze causing a sewage catastrophe. Although it doesn’t happen often, the wastewater can back up into the basement causing extensive damage. Another uncommon and often overlooked utility is a heating system that uses hot water. Take a little time to drain the expansion tank, check the water pressure, and bleed your radiators.

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

What fall maintenance do you recommend for older homes? Please leave a comment.

If you have a question that might interest other readers or a suggestion for a future article please submit ideas to [email protected].

Author bio: Brian Kline has been investing in real estate for more than 35 years and writing about real estate investing for seven years. He also draws upon 35 plus years of business experience including 12 years as a manager at Boeing Aircraft Company. Brian currently lives at Lake Cushman, Washington. A vacation destination, a few short miles from a national forest. In the Olympic Mountains with the Pacific Ocean a couple of miles in the opposite direction.

Brian Kline has been investing in real estate for more than 30 years and writing about real estate investing for seven years with articles listed on Yahoo Finance, Benzinga, and uRBN. Brian is a regular contributor at Realty Biz News
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