How to get your house — and yard — ready for cooler weather

Reporter/Byline: Bryan Baeumler, Special to the Toronto Star’s New in Homes and Condos

The nights will soon get colder and the days, noticeably shorter. The kids will be back at school, and the leaves will start to show signs of fall colour. Before that happens, there are a few things you should do around the house.

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If your outdoor living season is over, put away your furniture and winterize any equipment that you won’t need. Drain your garden hoses and close the shut-off valves to hose bibs from inside, leaving the tap open outside to ensure the pipe doesn’t freeze in the winter.

Do a fall cleaning. While it’s still warm enough to keep the windows open, shampoo your carpets and give your home the once over. If you’re planning on painting or doing any minor renovations that will create dust, try to do it now. Indoor air quality is the worst in winter so a good scrub will help you breathe easy.

It’s a good time to do a little landscaping. Grass and tree roots are burrowing deeper to get ready for the big sleep, so now is a great time to seed and fertilize. Trim trees and bushes away from the house, as well as any larger limbs that could potentially break under heavy snow and cause expensive damage. Ensure that the grading will direct excess water away from your foundation — it’s an important step that will prepare you for the spring thaw and avoid costly foundation or basement damage.

Spring and fall are perfect times to poke your head into the attic. Make sure animals haven’t taken up residence and inspect the insulation. Make sure the soffits aren’t covered and that you have good airflow into the attic to avoid ice dams. Ice dams occur when warm moist air rising from your home causes ice and snow on the roof to melt, where it runs down and refreezes above the unheated areas (soffits) of the roof. The end result is water backing up under your shingles, causing damage to them and the roof framing.

As we head into colder weather, we tend to batten down the hatches and crank up the heat. It’s a good idea to have an HVAC professional come by to shut down the air conditioner and check the furnace to make sure everything’s in working order. You’ll want to change all of your air filters and clean any dust and debris out of your ducts.

Chances are your windows will be closed for six or seven months in the colder seasons, which means indoor air quality will suffer unless you have an HRV and secondary air filters in your system. If you have a humidifier built into your system, you’ll want to clean and test it — you want about 40 per cent humidity in your home in the winter to reduce condensation on windows and other cold surfaces, and to keep you healthy.

If you have a fireplace (specifically a wood-burning fireplace), inspect the damper and ensure you have a good seal to stop heat loss when it’s not in use. Have a professional check and clean the chimney if necessary, to avoid excess creosote build-up — a dangerous fire hazard.


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