Ready to hunker down for winter?
Not so fast.
Now’s the time to tackle a few chores that will help your house and yard ride out the cold season ahead. Here are a few to check off your to-do list.
Clean the gutters
Gutters and downspouts direct rainwater away from your house. That keeps water from pooling around the foundation and leaking into the basement, or freezing in the gutters at the roof line and causing damaging ice dams.
But those gutters and downspouts can’t do their job if they’re clogged with leaves and other debris.
After the trees have finished shedding their leaves, get up on a ladder and clean that stuff out. Plug the top of the downspout with a rag first to keep debris from going down the spout, and wear heavy gloves to protect your hands.
Reader’s Digest Association’s “1001 Do-It-Yourself Hints & Tips" recommends removing the debris with a plastic sand shovel or garden trowel, or you can fashion a scoop from a plastic milk jug. Dump the debris into a bucket instead of pushing it over the lip of the gutter to avoid dirtying the siding, the book suggests.
When the gutter is clean, run some water into it from a garden hose. Clear a clogged downspout with a plumber’s snake or a blast from the hose, working from the bottom up so you don’t compact the clog.
Clean up the garden
Even though plant growth winds down this time of year, diseases don’t necessarily go away. Many pests and pathogens spend the winter on diseased plant parts, lying in wait for the chance to launch a new attack in spring.
That’s why plant experts preach the importance of cleaning up diseased plant material. Prune out affected stems, remove diseased leaves and pick up any plant debris that’s lying around. Diseased annuals should be removed completely.
The affected plant material can be composted, but only if the pile gets hot enough to kill pathogens. Most home compost piles don’t get sufficiently hot, but municipal composting facilities do.
Store your mower
You may be in the habit of adding fuel stabilizer to your lawn mower before you store it for winter, but that’s not enough, said Mark Stiles, owner of Bath Tractor.
Gasoline often contains ethanol, which pulls moisture from the air. If you leave the gas in the tank for an extended time, that moisture can cause metal to corrode, he said. In addition, the ethanol and water can settle to the bottom of the tank over time, causing engine problems and damage.
Gasoline shouldn’t be left in a lawn mower or other gas-powered equipment for more than two months, Stiles said. Before you store that equipment, run the engine until it’s out of gas, he advised.
It’s a good idea to clean your mower, sharpen the blade, change the oil, lubricate the engine and clean or replace the air filter, too, mower maker Lawn-Boy recommends.
Store the mower in a cool, dry place, Lawn-Boy says. If you cover it, use cloth, because plastic can trap moisture.
Inspect the chimney
Some people are motivated by saving money. Some are motivated by saving lives.
Either one should be an incentive to get your chimney inspected.
Chimney inspections help prevent both hazards and expensive repairs by spotting problems early, said Melissa Heeke, a spokesperson for the Chimney Safety Institute of America. The inspector looks for creosote buildup, cracks and obstructions such as birds’ nests and debris — problems that can contribute to chimney fires or carbon monoxide.
The institute recommends an annual inspection, Heeke said. It also recommends having the chimney cleaned when creosote builds up to thickness of one-eighth inch.
The inspection guideline goes for all exhaust flues, including flues for furnaces, gas water heaters and other devices that involve combustion, Heeke said. A flue inspection may or may not be part of a furnace inspection, so be sure to ask.
Most people need a basic chimney inspection, which involves a visual examination and check of accessible parts of the fireplace and chimney. The inspector will also look for obstructions and identify the type and extent of combustible deposits on the inside of the chimney.
Choose an inspector who’s certified by the CSIA, Heeke said. You can find one near you on its website, www.csia.org. She noted that only the individuals listed on the site are certified, not their companies.