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How to Prepare Your Home for Autumn

Sept. 21, 2020
4 mins
Couple in modern living room at home

Let’s face it – it’s been a peculiar year. Due to the pandemic, so many activities have been cancelled, and it almost feels like summer barely got started. But don’t be fooled, fall is here, and winter is just around the corner. Though it is tempting to hide under a blanket until next year, autumn is about more than pumpkin spice and sweater weather; it’s a time to get some chores done.

Here are the top things you need to address before it gets much colder out there:

Water is your home’s worst enemy

Indoor floods are no fun. Take it from me - I have found this out the hard way. Not only are they traumatic and can cause immediate damage to property and possessions, but the long-term effects on the structure of your home (such as mould and rot) can be devastating and expensive.

Also, did you know that your home insurance may not cover flood damage if the cause turns out to be something that could have been prevented through regular home maintenance? Fortunately, many of these floods can be avoided if you know what to do:

  • Shut off and drain outside faucets. The faucets you use outside in the summer for your hose are susceptible to freezing. If proper care is not taken to shut off and drain these lines before winter, it can lead to pipes and faucets bursting or cracking and can create a potentially expensive flooding disaster inside your home.
  • Clean your eavestroughs. As leaves begin to fall, they will likely fill your gutters and downspouts, blocking water from making it off your roof and away from your house. Cleaning them out regularly is a good idea to help stop water from finding a way inside. If you’re not comfortable cleaning them yourself, many contractors offer services to do this for you.
  • Inspect your roof and chimney. The best time to do this is before any leaks occur. From the outside look for signs of worn, loose, or missing shingles and shingles with mould or rot on them. Check any skylights or vents for damaged or worn sealant. From inside your attic check the underside of your roof for water damage, holes and nests. Again, if you are not comfortable going onto your roof or into your attic, hire a professional.
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What about weather-related water damage? Are you covered?

Sometimes a flood occurs despite preventative measures to protect your home. That’s where insurance can protect you. But it’s not automatically covered. You have to add that coverage.

A 2018 Insurance Bureau of Canada survey found that almost 45% of Canadian house owners believed they had flood insurance as part of their home insurance policy. Flooding is the costliest disaster in Canada year-over-year. There are two types of weather-related water coverages available (overland flooding and sewer backup), and they’re both optional. You would need to add the coverage for those perils to your policy.

Banish cold drafts before they arrive

No one likes a chilly, drafty home. Having a good seal around all the openings around your house will not only make your home toastier but can also save you a whole lot on your hydro bill. Check and update things like:

  • Caulking around windows and doors. Caulking will prevent cold air from getting inside your home. Even if you did this in the spring, it’s a good idea to check to see if you need to add more caulking in spots. You should inspect around heat vents for missing caulking and broken seals.
  • Weatherstripping. Weatherstripping loses its effectiveness with age and needs to be replaced every few years. Do a visual check of the stripping around exterior doors and windows (including your garage door and attic openings) and replace if it appears worn or cracked. Also, check to see if you can feel air moving when your doors and windows are closed. To check if you have a draft issue, close a door or window on a strip of paper. If the paper slides easily, you need to update your weatherstripping.

Out with the old, in with the new

It seems like every single year, my shovels get stuck in my shed, held prisoner inside by a pile of snow blocking the doors. Imagine a moment in the future where there is a sudden big storm outside and your snowblower is still buried behind a big pile of camping equipment (or worse, it won't start), or you can’t find your shovels and your car is trapped. Now is a great time to find and test your equipment. It wouldn’t hurt to also stock up on ice-melt sidewalk salt (it always sells out after the first big storm.) You should also:

  • Bring your patio furniture in, or cover it
  • Empty and store rain barrels, flower pots, etc.
  • Put away rakes, leaf blowers, lawnmowers, and winterize them if needed
  • Remove and put away air conditioner window units

Clean, heated air is your friend

Make sure your home is fire safe, allergy-free and comfortable. It may go without saying, but your furnace is going to be very important to you very soon. The first thing you should do before kicking on the heat is to clean or replace your furnace filter. Not only does this help improve the quality of your inside air, but also keeps your furnace running more efficiently. Cleaning the furnace and testing it (or hiring someone to do this) is essential to do in the fall, especially as the furnace gets older.

If your home is heated with baseboard or radiator heating, they should be cleaned and inspected for potential hazards as well.

Finally, this is also a great time to:

  • Clean and inspect your fireplace (if you have one)
  • Clean and inspect your dryer vent
  • Change the batteries in your smoke detectors
  • Check that carbon monoxide detectors are working properly
  • Inspect fire extinguishers
  • Inspect and test sump pumps, and
  • Test your generator (if you have one)

Also, check your home insurance policy to ensure you have the coverages you need to pay for any unexpected mishaps. In addition, there may be discounts on your home policy available to you to take advantage of to save a few dollars.

Once you do all that, you will finally be ready for that blanket and pumpkin-spiced latte. You’ve earned it!

Gail Balfour

Gail Balfour is a writer, editor, and senior content designer with more than 20 years’ experience covering areas of business, finance, technology and healthcare. A former editor of ComputerWorld Canada, she has also contributed to many other publications and corporate websites including Backbone, PwC Canada, RBC Canada, Women's College Hospital, Canadian Healthcare Technology and The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.

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