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Home maintenance tips to keep in mind this fall

September 17, 2015

Almost every homeowner has a few maintenance items they've fallen behind on. You may have put these tasks off through the spring and summer, but now that the nights are starting to turn cold and daylight runs shorter you're suddenly very aware of all those household chores you need to do before winter settles in.

Fall can serve as nature's gentle reminder that cold days are just around the corner. Though the temperatures may have started to dip in the evenings, the days are still warm enough that you can knock a few items off your to-do list without freezing in the process.

Use the warm days of autumn to prepare your home for cold months.

There's a lot to think about before the cold arrives. Snow and ice can put a strain on your home's infrastructure and combustion heating increases the risk of fire. If you fail to prepare your home, it can lead to damage and increased home insurance claims. Luckily, a few simple maintenance items can prevent that. Here's a few things you can take care of this autumn that will keep your family warmer and safer through the winter.

Get the roof in shape

"If you wait until clogs freeze, you may have to hire a professional to clear your gutters.”

The brightly colored leaves that signify fall has arrived also mean it's time to check your gutters. Falling leaves and other debris lead to clogs that can result in water damage to your roof, walls or ceilings. You can take care of this now with a leaf blower or simple gutter scoop, but if you wait until temperatures drop and the clogs freeze, you may have to hire a professional to clear your gutters.

While you're on the roof, look for other signs of damage or aging that can lead to leaks. Replace any shingles that are cracked or buckling. Take a look at the seals around the chimney and replace them if needed.

Remember, it's the homeowner's responsibility to care for the roof. Roof leaks and clogged gutters can result in tens of thousands of dollars in water damage, especially if that water seeps into your home's foundation. Furthermore, your insurance company will likely deny a claim for this kind of preventable damage, so don't put this maintenance off.

Get your heating system ready

"More than 20,000 chimney fires occur every year, and virtually all could have been prevented.”

It won't be long before you'll be reaching to turn up the thermostat, but make sure you've had your heating system inspected before you do. Annual inspections of home furnaces are recommended by manufacturers not only to insure warranties, but also to promote safety. According to the National Fire Data Center, furnaces are responsible for 35 percent of residential heating fires.

During an inspection, a technician will look for blockage that could lead to fire as well as potentially lethal carbon monoxide leaks. She'll also service the electrical components and system controls and replace the filters. Proper maintenance like this will prolong the life of the furnace and keep you from being stuck with a broken unit and a freezing house in the winter.

If you plan to build any cozy fires in the next few months, make sure you get your chimney looked at as well. Debris, animal nests and structural problems can result in fires that quickly spread from the shoot to the roof of the house. The Chimney Safety Institute of America estimates there are more than 20,000 chimney fires every year, resulting in millions of dollars in property damage, and virtually all of them could have been prevented by regular cleaning and inspection.

A few simple tasks can also make your heating system more efficient. Take this time to replace any aging seals around your windows and doors, hang heavier drapery that will trap in heat and replace single-pane windows with energy-conserving, double-paned varieties. As a final task, make sure to install smoke and CO detectors if you haven't already, or check the batteries in existing devices.