We’ve talked a little bit before about cleaning and repairing your gutters, which is very beneficial during the rains of summer, but also as the seasons change into fall and winter.

And yes, we get it. Nobody wants to think about fall, or especially winter right now. But, the only thing worse than doing fall home improvements now is doing them when the cold weather sets in…or when the lack of preventative maintenance leads to costly repairs in the dead of winter.

We’ve put together a checklist for you to start knocking these things out now, so when your neighbors are all outside grumbling in the cold weather, you’ll be inside sipping hot chocolate and planning next year’s summer vacation.

Call a good home inspector

It’s not free, but having a home inspector go over your home with a fine-tooth comb will help you catch things that the untrained eye may look over. Even the smallest problem can lead to annoying repairs if not caught early, particularly in areas you don’t often check, like your roof. Snow and ice leaking through a few loose tiles could lead to some major roof damage. Best to catch and repair that sort of thing now while it’s still a little warm.

Make sure your furnace is in good running order

This should go without saying, but it’s easy to neglect this part of your fall maintenance to do list to avoid having to run your heater on a hot summer’s day. But hey, while the maintenance guy is performing the checkup, this gives you a great excuse to get outside and enjoy the nice weather!

There are some simple things you can do yourself too. Be sure to clean or replace the filter and make sure the blower doors are replaced properly. Check the blower belt for any frays or cracks and replace if needed, and add two or three drops of oil in the motor to keep it running smoothly. Be sure to check your owner’s manual, however, because sealed blower motors don’t require lubrication.

Make sure the vents in the house are unobstructed so the air in your home can freely circulate through the vents. Also check the exhaust flue to the outside and ensure that it’s clear of obstructions and in good working condition.

Clear out the chimney and make sure the cap is still in place

Do it right and get a chimney sweep to make sure your cap is in place and there are no obstructions. During the warmer months, birds and other animals can make their nests in your chimney, creating a significant fire hazard. Just beware of scams trying to offer too-good-to-be-true prices. The average chimney sweep and inspection runs $150 to $200.

Check your windows

Another step that should go without saying. Set aside a few hours and inspect each window. Replace any broken or chipped window board or trim and add caulking to any seals that need it. Remove any old caulking to ensure the new caulking will adhere properly and give a good seal…and don’t forget about that caulk on the outside of the window frame.

Check for drafts by holding a lit candle close to the window seams. If the flame bends, it could be a sign of a draft.

Check/Install programmable thermostat

Changing from a regular thermostat to a programmable one saves energy to begin with, but can make you eligible for a tax deduction or energy credit as well. Make sure your thermostat works correctly. A new programmable thermostat should run you about $70 on average.

Winterize your pipes

This can be expensive to have done, but fortunately it’s a pretty easy do-it-yourself task. Walk through your house and determine which pipes are more likely to freeze; focus on those pipes in your attic, basement or crawlspaces. Hardware stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s carry pre-fitted insulation that wraps around your pipes. Taking care of this now is far better than dealing with a frozen pipe later.

Take measures to prevent any unwanted guests

No, we’re not talking about the in-laws. When it’s cold outside, a nice warm house can be inviting for mice and other little pests. Set traps both inside and out and make sure all food is stored in covered containers. Keep an eye out for any signs of visitors (holes, droppings), and always remember you can call a professional pest control company if you don’t feel like doing the dirty work. 

This list should be more than enough to get you started and keep you ahead of the game as we move into the colder months. There’s still plenty of time to enjoy the grill outside, but you’ll be patting yourself on the back in the middle of December when you’re enjoying a dry, warm, comfortable house.