Winter is Coming but Fall is Here
Autumn in New York is a sight to behold. The air is crisp, the leaves are a shimmering sea of orange and gold, and every sunset brings cooler temperatures and the promise of abundant outdoor activities. But before you can enjoy your Indian Summer, take some time to get your home ready for fall.
Up on the housetop
While you don’t have to worry about St. Nick sliding down the chimney just yet, you do need to pay special attention to your roof, gutters, and fireplace.
Clogged gutters can cause expensive exterior damage, including a flooded basement. According to HomeAdvisor, the average price to clean gutters and downspouts in New York, NY is $101 to 202 and only takes a few hours. Since gutter cleaning is dangerous work (and the average medical deductible is more than $2,000), it’s best to leave the ladder climbing to the professionals.
Your shingles need inspected, as well. Fortunately, this is something you can do on your own from the ground, assuming you have a clear shot of the roof. Look for cracked or wind damaged shingles and any warping around metal flashing. Check gutter downspouts for black and silver granules, which may indicate shingle degradation. You can inspect for signs of a leak indoors, too, by looking for water stains on the ceiling. Any suspected damage should be confirmed and rectified by a licensed local roofing company.
Even if you don’t plan use your fireplace this fall or winter, you should still have it examined for potential issues. The section of your chimney above the roofline is especially prone to damage from the elements. Cracks and crevices can hold moisture, which can turn into ice as temperatures decline. Water is one of the few liquids that actually expands as it freezes, meaning ice accumulation can quickly damage mortar and result in a leaky chimney. Bricks are additionally susceptible to spalling, which causes sharp pieces of hardened clay to pop out of place.
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire
Wood-burning stoves have regained popularity over the last decade and, similar to the fireplace, these antediluvian home accessories need regular maintenance. Check for cracks and signs of corrosion in the stovepipes. Fix loose joints and patch holes before lighting the first fire of the season. The EPA reports that wood smoke, although originating from organic matter, allows toxic chemicals and particles to waft through the air. Breathing in too much wood smoke may actually cause a number of health conditions including bronchitis, asthma, and other respiratory issues.
Speaking of fire, fall is the perfect time to check your fire extinguishers – every home should have at least one – to ensure it’s up-to-date and will work in case of an emergency. Replace the batteries in your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors and take measures to ensure that every room in your home has at least two points of egress. Non-ground floor bedrooms should be outfitted with an emergency rope ladder.
Baby, it’s cold outside
AccuWeather forecasts that New York’s average nighttime temperatures will drop to near or below thefreezing point well before the last day of fall. This frigid weather means the potential for slips and falls on hard outdoor areas. Check the walkway for cracks more than an eighth of an inch wide and stairs for loose railings. If sleet or snow are expected, coat these areas with rock salt to increase the water’s freezing temperature (More on the science behind that in this Huffington Post video and article).
Contact your heating and cooling service provider to schedule your winter HVAC tune-up by mid-September so your interior will stay nice and cozy on those long, cold nights.
The temperature in New York can turn on a dime, so it’s never too early to take measures to protect your home and yourself from the wrath of Mother Nature. For more fall and winter home preparation tips, check out Better Homes & Gardens fall checklist.