Ah, October. Temperatures are dropping, the days are growing shorter, and the pumpkin spice latte is, in a word, inescapable. But before you go hog wild with the Halloween decorations and settle in for that horror movie binge session, take some time to prep your home for winter’s onslaught (buzzkill, we know!).
Luckily, we’re here to make it a breeze with our handy checklist of home maintenance chores to tackle this month. Some of these are so quick and easy that you won’t even miss a beat of that “Friday the 13th” marathon (although we’d recommend skipping “Jason X.” He’s in space—do we need to say more?) Read on for details about where to start, and who to call if you need reinforcements.
1. Clean your dryer vents
This one’s a lot more serious than it sounds. Excess lint can dramatically increase the risk of fire. “A key indicator of a dryer vent needing to be cleaned is if clothes aren’t drying as fast as they usually do, or if it takes multiple cycles to get them completely dry,” says Maria Vizzi of Indoor Environmental Solutions.
DIY: Prevent buildup from the get-go by emptying your lint trap every single time you use your dryer. If possible, move your dryer closer to an exterior wall; if your vent pipe is particularly long or has to snake around corners, you’re at a greater risk of a clog.
Call in a pro: If you want peace of mind that all your vents are squeaky clean, call in a professional. You’ll spend anywhere from $90 to $180. Look for a dryer technician specially trained by the Chimney Safety Institute of America.
2. Seal your outdoor surfaces
Cold temperatures and snow can cause your paint to peel, leading to moisture intrusion and wood rot, says Brian Osterried, a product manager at paint company PPG. Protect your exterior surfaces by applying a stain and sealant.
DIY: Clean the surface first—taking care to remove any built-up ickiness between planks or in crevices—using a screwdriver or putty knife. Wait at least 48 hours before sanding the surface using 80-grit sandpaper, then sweep or vacuum, and apply your sealant.
Call in a pro: The cost of professional sealant jobs vary depending on size and the surface to be sealed, but for an average deck, expect to spend around $800.
3. Store your yard furniture
The fastest way to make your outdoor furniture look faded is to leave it out in the elements. Store your grill, deck chairs, and outdoor set in a shed or garage.
Shortcut: If you don’t have the storage space, invest in durable covers for your furniture to protect it from snow and rain.
Call in a pro: We suppose you could hire a personal assistant for this task (who are you, the Queen of England?!), but this one really just requires a little lifting and five minutes of your time. You’ve got this!
4. Stow that hose
If you live where it snows (yes, it’s time for that word again—sigh), it’s a good idea to drain and store your garden hose before temps start significantly dropping.
“Hoses with water in them will freeze and burst,” says Lisa Turner, author of “House Keys: Tips and Tricks from a Female Home Inspector.”
DIY: Here’s a clever hack: Unroll your hose on a downslope and then recoil it upslope so the water drains out, Turner recommends. You can store the hose outside in a shed or underhang if most of the water is removed. But it’s best to stash it inside if possible.
Next, shut off the water supply to your external faucets. Then drain the line by turning the faucet on and letting the residual water drain out.
For extra protection from freezing temps, install a foam insulator cover over each external faucet.
Call in the pros: If you see any faucet damage or leaking that won’t stop, call in a pro ASAP to repair or replace it. Expect to spend anywhere from $150 to $300.
5. Do a ‘fall cleaning’
“Open those windows up wide and do a thorough fall cleaning of your home that includes dusting areas that don’t always make the cut, like ceiling fans and ceiling corners,” says home organization expert Marty Basher.
DIY: Wash your draperies, dust your blinds, remove your window screens, and wash the windows inside and out.
Depending on where you live, a professional home cleaning could run you upward of $100. Now is also the time to have your carpets and rugs professionally cleaned to rid them of dust and other allergens (you should do this once a year). For a professional carpet cleaning, expect to spend anywhere between $100 and $250.
6. Feed and seed your lawn
“After a long, hot summer your lawn could probably use a bit of extra TLC, and seeding is proven to be the most effective way to repair damage,” says Bryan Raehl, general manager of Agronomic Lawn Management in Virginia Beach, VA.
Plus, by seeding now—before the first frost of the season—you can allow seeds to begin taking root in the soil and get a jump on spring growth.
DIY: Choose a seed for your lawn that’s right for your budget and your geographic region. You can complete a soil test, which will allow you to measure your soil’s health and nutrients, using a DIY kit. You’ll then have to prepare your lawn, lay the seeds by hand or using a spreader, and water.
Call in a pro: If you don’t know what you’re doing (or if your thumb isn’t the greenest), call in a professional landscaper, who will charge between $250 and $1,300.
7. Inspect your gutters and downspouts
Maintaining gutters and downspouts, which direct water away from your home, can go a long way toward preventing catastrophic roof leaks—especially if you live in an older home. This is particularly important during autumn, since it’s prime time for those gutters to get clogged with fallen leaves and twigs.
DIY: If you’re comfortable shimmying onto the roof, grab a ladder and have at it. Clear leaves, dirt, and pine needles from gutters, and examine downspouts for damage or loose pieces. Use a hose to flush out small bits of debris, and check the underside of the gutter to ensure no water leaks through. Inspect the downspout to verify that water is running freely through it and away from your home. Then inspect the flashing around your chimney and any openings in the roof (like skylights) for leaks.
Call in a pro: If you’re afraid of heights (guilty!), call in a pro for a thorough inspection. Expect to shell out around $150.
By Holly Amaya. Based in San Diego, Holly Amaya is a writer, lawyer, and communications strategist. She writes about real estate, legal, lifestyle, motherhood, and career issues.