Fall and Autumn bring a change in colors and the weather. There are a few odd warm days and some sunshine but the best of the summer weather is now over. It is time to look ahead and prepare for the dark wet wintery weather.
Preparing your home against the rigors of winter and the dark dank night’s to come is a necessity that everybody has to face when they own their own property.
Fall is the time to make sure that all the jobs that are necessary to keep your home safe and protected are completed, taking some time now will make your home safe before the really nasty weather sets in, will save you time and money.
Failing to do this can lead to expensive repairs, serious exterior, and interior damage, and more work that you don’t really need.
So taking just a little while now to survey, check, and prepare your property now will save you dividends in the long run.
The last thing you want to do is be fixing shingles or repairing roof tiles in the howling wind and rain or snow as it causes more damage than is necessary and if you fix it beforehand you can avoid these problems.
I recommend that you create your own detailed checklist of jobs you need to do around your property to make sure that it’s all safe and secure for the winter months.
I’ll give you lots of examples here but not all them will be relevant to your property and I recommend you print out a checklist of your own and tick it off as you go, that way you won’t miss anything and you can avoid costly mistakes
Check Heating Systems
The first thing you should check to make sure your property is ready for winter is the heating system, any problems that arise during the winter can be readily avoided by having your heating system regularly serviced and is inspected well before the cold Nights Draw in.
Check thermostats have fresh, new batteries to ensure a good reliable signal, old batteries will give poor signal transmission and lead to false temperature readings or even stop altogether, and this means you could wake up in the morning to a freezing cold house because the thermostat didn’t tell your boiler to come on and warm the house.
Modern Thermostats can be linked to mobile phones to allow active and remote operation of your heating system
I have a ‘Hive’ system linked to my boiler and I can remotely turn on or off my heating using the app on my mobile phone. This is great if I need additional heat when I leave work, I can turn the heating on and as I arrive home, the house is nice and warm.
Radiators used in water-based heating systems should be bled to release any trapped air and make sure there are no air pockets or airlocks.
The best way to bleed the radiators is to use a radiator key and an old rag. With the heat switched off, open up each radiator bleed valve one at a time, starting with the highest radiator.
Hold the rag over the bleed valve and use the rad key to open the vent slightly, listen for trapped air and look for water, as soon as water flows from the valve close it off and wipe it down with the rag then move onto the next radiator.
Whilst you are looking at the radiators check that the TRV or thermostatic radiator valves are working correctly, they are fitted at each end of the radiator where the heating pipes join the radiator, make sure they operate by opening and closing them.
Turn your heat system on and check the radiators are getting warm, if not and the TRV’s are open it may mean the wax inside them is dried out and they may need replacing.
If you replace them, consider a servo-operated system that can automatically open or close radiators, this way you can ensure your radiators will keep each room at the right temperature individually and not waste heat where it is not required.
Wood burners and Chimneys
If you are lucky enough to have a wood burner or open fireplace that can burn solid fuels, now is the time to have them cleaned and serviced ready for use during the cold months.
Have the chimney swept properly to remove any build-up of tar and soot, this should be done by someone with experience and will avoid the possibility of a chimney fire.
Collect and store wood ready to burn, keeping a wood store well-stocked that will keep wood dry and well ventilated ready to use throughout winter, check out our post on how to build a log store
If you order a precut batch or cut your own logs for burning remember to order or cut them to the right size, there is nothing more annoying than logs that don’t quite fit into the wood burner,
Boilers & Furnaces
Have your boiler serviced by a qualified professional, they will make sure that all the parts are working as they should be. A boiler service usually takes around an hour and will highlight any issues which you can repair now before you need the boiler and your heating.
Most manufacturers of domestic water heating systems will require a magnet trap be fitted to your heating system if not they may invalidate your warranty.
Having a magnet trap installed will extend the life of your water heating system and boiler as it catches and removes any metal particles from the heating circuit.
These particles can cause corrosion and blockages inside the radiators, pipes, and boiler especially the heat exchanger and this will significantly reduce the performance of your heat system and can mean your boiler will have a shorter working life.
Make sure that when the boiler is serviced the magnet trap is cleaned as well, to remove all the unwanted buildup of metal.
Check out our post on how to clean a magnet trap for more information.
For furnaces and air heat systems, have a professional service the system to ensure gas flow is correct and the burners are clear.
Air vents and filters need to be cleaned and replaced if worn or damaged, blocked vents or sticking shut off valves will mean poor performance and higher bills.
It is also a good idea to run your heating system mid-year to ensure valves and vents still operate and do not become seized.
Seal up Gaps and Draughts
Open gaps that create cold drafts are the enemy of the heating system and checking and closing them up will keep your home warm and save you money on wasted heating bills.
A typical place to look is near doors and windows, also areas around chimneys can be a problem.
To spot a draft, wet the back of your hand with a damp cloth and hold it near to a door or window, this will highlight a cooler area.
You can then close off the gaps using draft excluders, expanding foam, or closing units for example letterbox covers can be fitted to doors to reduce the draft when the mail arrives
Keyholes are often missed and even Euro-Locks can allow cold air in, fitting a simple cover can prevent this and won’t cost much to fit.
Check and clean Ventilation
On the other side of the heating is ventilation, whilst avoiding cold drafts will keep your home warm and save money on energy bills, closing every gap will cause other issues
Ensuring your ventilation system is free of blockage and air is flowing will prevent a buildup of moisture that can cause damp and black mold.
Check and clean air bricks, remove any blockages or debris that may be piled against them, open window trickle vents to allow fresh air in.
Roof spaces need to have good ventilation to avoid cold bridging and a buildup of condensation.
Fitting a dry ridge tile system is a good way to ensure airflow but can be expensive and needs a head for heights.
A cheaper and easier alternative is to fit felt lap vents that fit underneath the tiles of the roof, where the roofing felt overlaps.
These can be easily fitted with access to the loft space of your roof, they simply sit between the layers of felt allowing air to flow under the tiles and into the roof space.
Check out our post on the fitting roof vents for more detailed information
Another job that can be done during Autumn inside your roof space is to check the level of insulation, adding additional insulation will improve your home’s ability to retain warmth.
Remove any damaged or worn insulation and fit new Rockwool insulation, ensuring that ventilation gaps are maintained.
Always take care when working in your loft, as joist and boards may not be easy to walk on, it may be useful to use a lifting kit to raise the level of any loft flooring above the insulation.
Cavity walls can be filled with special insulating materials, there are a couple of different opinions on this, some experts suggest not using a secondary or aftermarket insulation layer as using the wrong material can cause cold bridging and condensation between building layers.
However, using a reputable company and the correct insulation will vastly improve your home thermal performance and reduce your heating bills.
Any pipes that are sited in the loft space should be checked too. Cover exposed pipes with insulation to avoid damage during really cold spells.
Uncovered pipes can be subjected to very cold temperatures and may freeze, which can cause burst pipes and lead to expensive repairs
Roofs and gutters
Checking the condition of the roof and any gutters during the fall will help avoid any expensive issues.
By identifying broken or loose shingles, tiles, or slates you will be able to repair or replace them now before any real damage occurs.
I try not to climb ladders whenever possible and use other methods to review the condition of high areas of my home, like the roof.
My favorite method to survey the condition of my roof is by using a drone, not only does this allow you quick and easy access to high and difficult to reach spots, it is much safer than climbing a ladder and you don’t need a friend to hold the ladder steady.
Flying a drone is also great fun. Check out our recommended gadgets for more information on drones.
Another way to view high places is to use a pair of good quality binoculars, you can easily inspect high areas like gutters, soffits, and fascias without the need to climb ladders.
Good binoculars are quick and simple to use and although they can’t access as many areas as perhaps a drone, they can also be used for other hobbies and make a useful addition to any household tool kit.
Look for a pair that have large lenses for good low light use and that allows short-range focus, we have recommendations on robust outdoor use binoculars. Check our recommended gadgets for more information on Binoculars
Whilst reviewing the roof and high areas, pay special attention to the gutters and look for a build-up of moss or leaves which will block downpipes and troughs.
Gutters and downpipes blocked by leaves and moss will cause rainwater to overflow especially in bad weather and heavy rainfall. Water running down brickwork or exterior walls can cause issues with damp and gutters need to be cleaned regularly in order to avoid this.
I use a formed scraper to clean my gutters. This is basically a simple tool that uses a piece of scrap plywood attached to a broom handle.
The Plywood is cut and shaped to match the profile of the gutter, in my case a simple semi-circle, but you can trim this to any shape or profile.
The plywood is then screwed securely to the end of a wooden broom handle, I can then use it to pull any moss or leaves towards me whilst on a ladder. Then put the moss into a bucket using a trowel.
Having this extension means I can easily reach further along the guttering and means less moving and climbing ladders, which makes the job much quicker and safer.
Drains and covers
With moss cleared from the gutters at the top of the house, clearing the bottom of the downpipe and the drains of any debris including fallen leaves and moss is next.
It’s a nasty job if left too long and best done with a pair of thick rubber gloves and a hand trowel to left and clear the drains
To help prevent additional blockages due to leaves, cover the drain opening with a plastic cover, and use a leaf guard at the top of the downpipe to prevent anything falling down.
Using a gutter brush or gutter guards can help to prevent the build-up of leaves and debris which can block gutters.
If plastic guttering is left alone for long periods it can become dirty and discolored and using a stiff brush and damp cloth can remove most of this and make the gutter look as good as new.
Fitting water butts to collect rainwater during wet and rainy seasons throughout Autumn and winter can save money and effort in Spring and summer when water becomes a needed commodity.
With your gutters and downpipe clear, installing a water butt with a rain collector is easy, and will pay dividends, as rainwater can be used to keep your garden and plants hydrated during the dry summer months.
You can use the water all sorts of jobs all year round such to clean cars and patios
Water butts are available in many different shapes, sizes, and styles, choose the largest water butt that you can practically fit in the spaces you have.
Several water butts can be linked together to form larger reservoirs and kits are available that make this simple.
Clean Patios, Decking, Paths, Walkways, and Garden Furniture
Fall is the season to clean away the summer dirt, clearing patios, paths and walkways now will help prevent the build-up of dirt and debris.
Keeping paths and walkways clean will reduce moss growth and make using them during winter easier.
For best results give the areas you want to clear a good sweep with a hard bristle yard brush, they come in several sizes to make this a quick job even on large patios.
Collect and dispose of the waste with a dustpan, make sure to clear corners or tight spots.
Use a pressure washer to blast away the tough dirt, taking care to treat joints in concrete or paving so as not to blast away the grout, and ensure this is replaced properly once the area has fully dried if you do.
Wooden decking can also be cleaned by sweeping and a pressure washer, work along the decking rather than across it so as to clear between the grooves.
Allow the cleaned areas to dry out and then consider treating with a paving sealer or decking preserver, there are lots of good products on the market.
I usually look for products with at least a 5-year protection that includes antifungal treatment to keep your paving or decking clear of moss or algae which can build up through the winter.
Whilst you are cleaning things and the tools are being used, take a little time to clean down garden furniture.
I store most of mine in a small shed over winter but before covering and locking it away I clean it down, first with a soft brush and then with a damp cloth.
For stubborn dirt and large pieces, I use the pressure washer where I can just make sure that the furniture can withstand the water and won’t be damaged by it.
For cleaning more delicate garden furniture I use a hose and a cloth.
During fall, I also clean and store away garden toys and games, children love to play outside all summer and I find their toys are usually filthy by the time I start the Autumn DIY jobs.
Most of ours are plastic and can be blasted clean with the pressure washer but some need to be treated more gently.
If you do use water to clean things make sure they are completely dry before you store them away, any moisture left in confined spaces will lead to mold growth.
Another good DIY job to do in Autumn is to clean and protect your gardening tools,
Sharpening shears and cutters to remove knicks and put the cutting edge back on the blades.
I use a combination of smooth flat files to remove the worst damage then hone the edge with sharpening stones.
Once the tools are clean and sharp I carefully wipe over any metal surfaces with an old oily rag, this helps to protect them and prevent rust or corrosion
Towards the end of the Fall season once the last cut has been done I service and prepare my lawnmower for the winter.
Cleaning away the summer seasons dirt and grass cuttings, using a stiff brush and scraper, and making sure the collection box is clean.
It’s a good idea to empty the fuel tank on petrol lawnmowers, this prevents the fuel from going bad and leaving a sticky residue in the fuel lines which will prevent the mower from starting next spring.
I also fully service my mower before I store it away. You can read our post on servicing lawnmower to find out more.
During the Autumn months and before the really cold weather sets in make sure you complete any building projects you have started.
If you are working with bricks and mortar for building walls, adding rendering, or repointing it’s a good idea to push to complete these jobs before the end of the Fall and before any really icy conditions.
Avoiding really cold weather will prevent the building work from frost damage and give the mortar time to harden and blocks to settle.
Finish any exterior painting jobs during Autumn, as paint and cold wet weather do not mix.
Giving woodwork a fresh coat of paint not only makes things look refreshed and new, but it also helps to protect against the harsh winter weather. Use a good exterior paint and apply several coats to form a good barrier.
Paint tends to need to be applied at temperatures above 41 degrees Fahrenheit or 5 degrees celsius, any colder and it won’t dry fully and will not bond to the surfaces you have painted.
For more great information about DIY project and jobs to maintain your property, check out our post on gardening jobs to do in Autumn and fall
This article was written by: Richard Quinton – The DIY Help Desk Owner, Engineer & technical specialist.
Richard is one of the key partners in The DIY Help Desk team. He is a qualified Engineer, writer, and publisher, educated to Master’s level. He is a keen advocate of DIY and home improvements.
Richard enjoys helping others to learn new skills and reach their goals and believes that passing his knowledge and experience on through his writing is an effective way to positively impact the lifestyles and well-being of others on a larger scale.