It’s finally happening: The warm summer breeze is fading into crisp fall weather–and this means that it’s time to start prepping for the winter months ahead. Cold, wet weather can take its toll on a property, and the cost of repairs can mount quickly–unless you’re proactive.
Here are 9 helpful tips that should be on everyone’s fall maintenance checklist, from landlords and property managers to homeowners associations.
Fall Maintenance Checklist
1. Do end-of-season yard maintenance. This doesn’t just include raking the leaves (although that’s important, too!). It also means trimming the hedges, fertilizing the grass, trimming unwieldy branches, and removing any weeds or roots that may impact siding, patios, and walkways.
2. Pack up and store outdoor items. It may seem a little premature to do now–but if the recent spate of hurricanes is any indication of what the rest of this season will look like, it’s a good idea to start now. Clean, pack up, and store outdoor furniture, grills, and other items that could be damaged by late fall or winter weather. If your property is located in a hurricane-prone area, be sure to tie down any large items that could wash or blow away.
3. Drain water lines. If your property is located in a cold-weather climate, now is a good time to turn off the water leading to outdoor spigots. Turn off sprinkler systems and drain outdoor hoses to prevent water from freezing and bursting the lines.
4. Clear debris from gutters. One of the best things about fall is watching leaves transform into beautiful shades of red, orange, and yellow. But it only lasts for so long–and then those leaves fall, clogging gutters in the process. Be sure to clear all debris from rain gutters to prevent water from pooling–or worse, causing roof damage.
5. Inspect the roof. Climbing up a ladder and getting onto the roof is not for the faint of heart, but it’s a worthwhile exercise to ensure that the roof is in good condition when you’re heading into the winter months. Loose or missing shingles are easier to replace during the fall. Otherwise, you could face costly roof repairs caused by hail, sleet, and snow.
6. Seal windows and install storm doors. Aging seams and weather stripping around windows and doors often lets cold air in and warm air out. This drives up heating costs, which can add up for landlords and HOAs that pay for heat as part of their fees. Seal drafty windows and doors with caulk, install new windows if necessary, and swap out screens with storm doors and windows.
7. Prep your HVAC system and water heater for winter. Nobody wants to wake up on a cold winter morning to find that there’s no heat or hot water. Prevent that from happening with some routine HVAC maintenance. Make sure that vents are clear and filters are in good working order. Consider draining the water heater (flushing the system on occasion prevents sediment from building up in the tank). Last, store or cover up AC units for the winter.
8. Insulate pipes. Frozen pipes are a nightmare. In the best case scenario, a hairdryer will be able to thaw the pipes enough to get water flowing again–but in the worst case scenario, a frozen pipe could burst, and you could end up with water all over the basement. Check all pipes to see if any need to be insulated. Foam insulation may not be sufficient in particularly cold climates. You may want to consider wrapping pipes with heated electric cords that can be switched on during especially cold weather.
9. Make fire safety a priority. House fires spike during the winter months, particularly as residents turn to space heaters to keep warm. Replace batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and be sure that each unit has a working fire extinguisher. If your property has a fireplace or wood stove anywhere on-site, be sure that all vents are clear and flues are operational. It may be worth re-caulking the chimney cap to prevent obstructions–small animals love to burrow in chimneys during the winter months!
There’s no doubt: fall maintenance can be daunting! In our experience, however, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, consider hiring an extra set of hands to help with your fall maintenance checklist and beyond. When that time comes, All Property Management will be here to connect you with experienced property managers in your area.
Amanda Maher is a self-proclaimed policy wonk who dabbles in real estate law. Amanda holds a B.S. in Political Science and Sociology from Boston University, as well as a Masters in Urban and Regional Policy from Northeastern.