If Game of Thrones has taught us anything, it’s that winter can be a cruel beast. There are mild winters, winters full of snow and sun, and then icy, grey winters that last an eternity with nothing but board games and Netflix to get you through.

Prepping your house for the winter is a must. Sealing air leaks, making sure hoses are unhooked and stored, cleaning out your gutters, getting the roof in order, and a host of other things will ensure your home withstands the winter and emerges whistling come spring. In this post, we’ll provide a full checklist of the essential items to take into account when prepping your home for the winter, plus some handy tools to do so.

Fall Maintenance Checklist

Clean and Stow Your Mower

Be sure to clean and store your lawn mower before winter.

If you’re fortunate to live in a climate where you can mow year-round, good for you! The downside is you’re mowing year-round, but the upside is you’re likely never freezing enough not to leave your home. For most folks, however, late fall and winter are times when that mower will lay dormant. Having a mower sitting stagnant with fuel in the tank can inflict costly damage to internal engine parts. The solution is a fuel stabilizer; this concoction keeps gas in good condition and should be applied right before you store the mower.

Second, another handy tip is to run your mower completely dry before packing it in. Once the mower is cool, simply remove the spark plug and then pour engine oil (a cap full) into the hole. Yank on that starter to distribute the oil, and then turn it out on its side to get all the gunk and grass from the deck.

Put Away Garden Hoses

Make sure you put away your garden hoses before winter sets in.

This one doesn’t seem all that obvious for most, but don’t feel bad if it caught you off-guard as well. People don’t naturally assume that hoses attached to outdoor faucets in cold months can lead to the water backing up and even seeping back into the pipes in your exterior walls. Once freezing temperatures arrive, water naturally freezes and expands, inflicting some serious cracking on pipes or faucets.

The remedy to all this is removing hoses, storing them, and shutting off water supply line valves. Many of these lead to exterior faucets, so hindering the arrival of water is the goal here. If you’re feeling particularly frisky, you could also drain the garden hoses and store those too.

Drain Sprinkler System

Drain your sprinkler system as part of your fall home maintenance checklist.

This is a handy tip. You won’t be engaged in much irrigation during these colder months, so it would behoove you to drain the irrigation system and get any excess water out of there. Moreover, even irrigation lines that are buried can freeze and lead to cracking or busted pipes and busted sprinkler heads. If you’ve invested in some fancy sprinkler heads (there are some superb options out there), this would be a catastrophe.

Some folks don’t count on drain valves, so if this is your situation, you can contract an irrigation company to come in and blow out the pipes. This isn’t an overly costly process ($150 on the high end), and the benefit to hiring a pro is they use compressed air to blow everything clean the first time around.

Seal Any Air Leaks

Make sure to seal any air leaks before winter.

Every house has air leaks. We don’t care how well-built, compact, top-of-the-line materials etc. you used. It is virtually impossible to seal an entire home, which is why maintenance professionals include this in their “things to do before the winter sets in” tips. This might sound like a cumbersome process, but take a couple hours, throw on a podcast, and get to sealing!

What you’ll need is some exterior caulk, perhaps a ladder depending on the size of your home, some knee pads, and a couple of hours. You’ll essentially be traversing around your home, sealing up cracks that form between the siding and trim, around door and window frames, and where pipes enter your home.  

Clean Your Gutters

Cleaning your gutters is an important part of fall home maintenance.

This is an excellent job for a teenager because it’s hard to screw up. Having Jimmy paint the house could have some disastrous side-effects, but cleaning out the gunk from your gutters is ideal. All it entails is getting into the gutters, removing the gunk, and that’s that.

Now, Jimmy might stumble upon trapped water every now and again that could be causing the gutters to sag a bit. If this is the case, he’ll need to tighten the downspout brackets and the gutter hangers. Jimmy might balk at this “extra work,” so having a couple bucks to throw his way is helpful.

Inspect Your Roof

Make sure to inspect your roof to check for any loose shingles.

While the gutters might have been for Jimmy, inspecting your roof is no job for an amateur. If you have a two or even three-story home, this is going to be a half-day job. Some pro roofers will charge up to $100 per evaluation, and it might be worth it, to be honest. Shingles that are missing, buckled or cracked will need immediate replacement, and if you discover lichen or moss build-up, that could lead to hidden decay somewhere.

Regardless of whether you employ a professional, one other area to pay attention to is the plumbing vent stack. This contains a rubber collar (otherwise known as a boot), and it can become loose over time. It’s an easy fix, but you need to locate the problem first.

Inspect Drainage

Inspect your drainage systems as part of your fall home checklist.

Drainage is critical as it re-directs water safely and practically. Poor drainage will result in mold and condensation, and the structural integrity of your home will be compromised. This is another area that you could theoretically “eyeball” and see if there are any visible issues, but a professional is the best way to go.

Homes that experience significant drainage issues are those that typically sit on uneven lots. Water buildup near the foundation will invariably occur and begin to wreak havoc. On the opposite end, a faulty roof can also result in water build-up and eventual damage. In line with gutter cleaning, seeing how the water falls from the roof and routed through the gutters is a good place to start.

Check Furnace

Be sure to check your furnace and make sure it's working properly.

While ensuring the furnace is in good working condition, you’ll want to get someone in to check on the entire cooling and heating system before the colder months set in. Going through a winter day (or gasp, a week!) without heating would be disastrous. A cooling and heating professional will run a thorough check-up for anywhere between $50 and $100.

Regarding the furnace specifically, all furnaces have filters, and filters need regular replacement. This is not something to undertake at the beginning of the fall/winter. In fact, filters should be replaced every two months. If you can’t remember the last time you replaced your furnace’s filters, we guarantee it’s been over two months.

Prune Plants

Pruning your plants before winter is an important part of fall home maintenance.

In some parts of the world, pruning is an art form. Think of bonsai trees, for example. And while you might not have bonsai trees adorning your garden, that doesn’t mean you can’t get in the habit of regular pruning, especially before winter kicks in.

Pruning occurs at different times of the year, depending on the plant. Hedges are pruned throughout the year, except in places where snow is prevalent for much of the winter. But fruit trees, for example, should be pruned during the winter, as “pruning wounds” during the growing season could expose the trees to nasty bacterial diseases such as fireblight.

In general, a good rule of thumb is to prune during late fall or when the summer growth cycle has ended. The objective is to keep limbs or wayward branches away from your home so water or general moisture doesn’t drip onto the siding or roof. 

Check Fireplace

Check your fireplace to make sure it's working properly before winter comes.

Can you imagine anything better than curling up next to your fireplace on a cold winter day, tucking in with your Kindle, a glass of warm milk, and some chocolate covered almonds? Sounds spectacular, doesn’t it? You bet, but if your fireplace is operating at half capacity or worse, that scenario ends up with you being covered in blankets on your bed with nothing but thoughts of failed relationships and regrets.

The first thing to do when reviewing your fireplace is grabbing a flashlight and looking up the flue. The idea is to make sure the damper is opening and closing Ok, and ensuring the flue is free of leaves, branches, or even bird’s nests. Moreover, do this during the day, because you want to see daylight through the top. If you can’t clear any of the gunk out or see the light, then you’ll need a professional inspection.

Fall Home Maintenance Essentials

Gardzen 3-Pack 72 Gallons Garden Bag

72 gallon gardening bags three pack by Gardzen.

Raking leaves is not the worst thing in the world. It can be quite enjoyable, especially if you’re partnering with your kid and having fun throwing the leaves about. But if you’ve got a garbage bag that isn’t the sturdiest, then watch out.

The super hefty 72-gallon garden bag from Gardzen is ideal for this task. Made of Polypropylene woven fabric and water-repellent PE coating, based on online reviews, tearing is never an issue, and it’s also extraordinarily water-resistant. These are a must for any home.  

Ready to buy? Click here.

RKY Metal Telescopic Rake

Metal telescopic extendable rake by RKY for leaves.

Rakes come in all shapes and sizes. If you’ve traveled to or lived in a developing country, many times rakes are simply large branches with firmly attached leaves or palm leaves. So, while we know that many things can be used to rake leaves, to really rake leaves effectively, you need a rake like this one.

A super cool feature with this telescopic rake is it can go from 45 to 60 inches in a flash. Made of adjustable steel, the smaller head allows you to rake between plants, but it’s also large enough to take care of the bigger projects. Light and easy to store, the RKY telescopic rake is fit for most yards, large or small. 

To learn more, click here.

Amerimax Getter Gutter Scoop

Gutter scooper and cleaner by Amerimax.

When you get Jimmy on the roof to hit those gutters, equipping him with a glove or worse, a bag around his hand, sets the poor kid up for failure. Every jammed gutter needs a proper gutter scoop to address it. This scoop features an extended tongue and a high handle which protects Jimmy’s delicate fingers from scratches and scrapes.

We all love products that can serve more than one use. Amerimax might not have sought out to manufacture a scooper that could double as a snow scooper or a salt or fertilizer dispenser, but we’ve got one here!

To see pricing, click here.

Lavo Home Telescopic Pole Pruner

Telescopic extendable pole pruner for plants.

If you’ve got a home, then it’s highly likely you have trees either in the front or backyard. Trees don’t come cheap; their beauty and potential for being a prime decorative piece to a home is considerable. But the downside (although not with all trees) is the upkeep. If they’re large and overly leafy, you’ll need a tool to keep them trim.

This telescopic pruner is ideal not only for trees, but bushes of all sizes. It’s a great addition to any home as its arm extension (up to 15 feet) makes cutting and trimming without a ladder a snap. The metal pole is sturdy, and the pruner comes equipped with two separate blades – a 1.5-inch pruner and a 12-inch saw.

To read reviews, click here.

MAGZO Foam Tape Weatherstrip

Thick foam tape weatherstrip for air leaks in home by Magzo.

As we discussed earlier, no home is crack-free nor sealed 100 percent. It simply doesn’t exist, not even in fairytales. Once the fall and eventually winter hit, getting those inevitable cracks sealed is going to be necessary, and foam tape from MAGZO is the brand to do it with.

This insanely thick seal tape is excellent at keeping in the heat and the cold at bay. Non-toxic and highly resilient, the tape is flame retardant, non-absorbent, can stick to anything, and comes in a neutral black color that blends seamlessly into your home’s visible areas.

To learn more, click here.

TOOLITIN Telescoping Ladder

Telescopic and extendable ladder by Toolitin.

We’ve touched on some products here that don’t require a ladder because of their ability to extend to impressive lengths. But going “ladderless” through life with a home is not likely. At some point you’re going to need to climb and reach higher than a tool can provide access, and for those moments this ladder has you covered.

While the ladder itself is sturdy, well-made, and reaches great heights, perhaps the best thing about this telescoping ladder is it’s easy to store. The ladder collapses into the size of a small suitcase and is easy to carry as well. Made from 6061 aluminum alloy, you might not purchase another ladder again after this one.

Like it? Click here to buy.

GE Sealants & Adhesives GE500 Advanced Silicone

GE sealant and adhesive for home use.

Having a reliable silicone sealant on-hand is about as necessary as a screwdriver, hammer and nails. These are items used year round, and silicone in the colder months especially is crucial. GE is a well known manufacturer in the silicone scene, and in just 30 minutes is ready for rain of any intensity. Additionally, this silicone is sun and freeze proof and resistant to cracking and shrinking.

The beauty with silicone is you can use it on just about anything. It can protect major cracks and seals outside your home but is also functional on the smaller things inside. This sealant is great on wood, ceramic, drywall, metal, vinyl or drywall. 

To Sum it Up

You’ve got some things to consider over the coming months, don’t you? Indeed, and while this list might appear overwhelming, take note of the priority areas around the home and garden we outlined and make a plan with the family to address them. If you have a family with kids, there are likely things everyone can take charge of; you might be able to accomplish all this in a weekend if all parties chip in.

While most folks can take on the outlined tasks, don’t hesitate to bring in a professional for more complex roofing or furnace-related issues. The nominal amount you pay to these experts will be worth it in the long term. And lastly, the seven products we reviewed are excellent tools to help ensure your home will withstand the coming winter and serve you year round moving forward.

Your home is likely your most valued investment. Treat it as such, and you’ll ride out this winter in style and stress free.