Fall Home Maintenance

Prepare Your Home For The Cold Months

Fall is on its way and this is a great time to do some easy home maintenance. Here is what is on my to-do list for these next few weekends:



Change your air filter on your HVAC appliances every 3 months, especially if you have pets. This keeps everything running efficiently and will help keep your energy bills down. Rule of thumb: when that little sticker in the upper left corner of your car’s windshield tells you to change your oil, then change your air filters.

Remove your floor vents and vacuum in as far as you can go. With pets and kids, it is amazing (and disgusting) what can accumulate in these bad boys.

Vacuum your refrigerator coils and change out that water filter that has been beeping every time you get water from the fridge.

Check your fireplace during daylight hours. Using a flashlight, look up into the flue and make sure the damper opens and closes correctly. Keep your mouth closed! Bird’s nests, leaves and debris may be up there. You should see daylight at the top.

Test your sump pump. We sometimes forget about this after our inspection is complete and this is super important especially with all the thunderstorms we have had lately. In a heavy rain, excess water can build up along your foundation and the sump pump moves it away from your home. Grab a large pitcher of water and head to the pump. Most sump pumps will have two plugs: unplug both of them and then plug in just the one for the pump. If it does not turn on immediately, then your pump needs to be fixed or maybe replaced. Call a licensed plumber for this. If the pump works properly, then plug in the other plug. Now you need to run water through the sump pump. You only need enough water to raise the float until the pump kicks on. Watch and make sure the water actually gets pumped out of the hole. If it does not, then call your favorite licensed plumber because your pump is not functioning correctly.


-Walk around the outside of your home and look for any holes around vents and pipes. Mice only need a teeny tiny hole to be able to get in during those cold months. Use a spray foam insulation to close them up. I like Great Stuff Insulating Foam Sealant. When it dries, you can use a utility knife to cut off the excess.

Check the grade slope around your home. For grass and landscaping areas the grade should slope 6” for the first 10’-0” away from your house so that water drains away from your foundation (5% slope). For concrete driveways or sidewalks, the grade should slope 1/4” for the first 1’-0” away (2% slope).

Acceptable grade & drainage away from your home.
This diagram show acceptable grade leading to positive drainage away from the home.

No soil should touch your siding! I like 6” between the bottom of siding and grade.

Check the screen in your dryer vent and make sure it is intact. Vacuum it with a Shop Vac if there is a lot of lint build up.

Fall Home Maintenance
Note the distance between the trees & the home.

-If you have wood window frames, especially ones facing south, it is important to maintain them on the exterior. Peeling paint, dirt and dust can lead to rot down the road. Clean the exterior window frame using a soft bristled brush and warm water. Scrape off any peeling paint. If you find cracks in the wood window frame: seal them with a primer and matching paint that is specific for outdoor use. If the cracks are large, use a wood filler and sand it down before priming and painting it. Trim off any loose or cracked caulk. If you find gaps in the caulking around the outer edges of the window frame, seal them with new exterior caulk. If there are problem areas, sand the frame with a fine-grit sandpaper, then fill in cracks with the wood filler. Sand it again then use a primer to allow for maximum adhesion of the paint. Once the primer dries, use a latex or oil-based paint. It is good to use a UV protected paint or stain that blocks some sunlight. You do not want to block all of the sun as that could trap moisture and cause decay.

-When you notice condensation on the inside of your windows: do not panic! You do not have to replace the whole window. Beth Bezdicek recently informed me that her company can just replace the one pane that has lost its seal.

Make sure all tree limbs and branches are at least 3’ from your house. This will prevent damage to your house during high winds and might just help with leaves clogging up your gutters.


Article Courtesy of Blueprint Magazine

Written by Kate Arnest , AIA

Arnest Architecture

Urbandale, Iowa



Find a home building & remodeling professional Here!