Whether your winters are severe with snow and ice or just cooler with rain and wind, fall is a great time to ensure your home will keep you snug and safe through any adverse weather conditions.

The experts at This Old House have put together an extensive Fall Checklist as a guide to help you look for leaks, cracks, breaks, wear and other problems that develop through the year. We’ve taken a few items off the list for you to inspect. 

Place any problems you find onto a maintenance list to take care of over the next few fall weekends.

Your home’s exterior

Check for cracks in asphalt or concrete on your driveway and sidewalks. They are a tripping hazard all year, but worse during colder months, they invite water that freezes and does more damage.

Examine the foundation and retaining walls for bulges, cracks and loose areas. Make sure retaining walls are secure to prevent mudslides. Make sure weep-holes are clear, and that the grade of the ground around the foundation slopes away from the house.

Examine porches and decks for sagging ceilings, loose rails/boards and damaged steps. Make sure posts are still firmly in the ground and not loose or rotted. 

Check trees around the house to ensure they’re not threatening electrical wires or phone lines: ice can break limbs and put your power and communication in the tank for days.

Look for signs of insect or bird nests in soffits, eaves or attic vents. If you see signs of animal waste, look for the possible nest or culprit. Examine vent/chimney caps for missing or damaged parts. Animals seeking shelter during cold weather can invade your chimney or attic and do damage.

Speaking of your chimney, look for any leaning and check that the flashing is in good condition and not peeling or missing. Hire a certified chimney sweep to make sure everything’s clean, clear and up-to-code. This Old House suggests using the Chimney Safety Institute of America Web site to locate a sweep in your area.

Attic

Check your attic from the inside during daylight hours with the lights turned off to find holes that let in light … and thus water and/or critters. 

Look for missing or torn insulation, which could be a sign of animal activity. Feel around insulation for damp spots where leaks might be occurring.

Heating

Take a flashlight into the furnace flue and look for a buildup of soot or rust. Rust is a sign of condensation that is caused by an inefficient furnace. Look for overall deterioration, rust, loose parts and other signs of a failing system.

To check your ductwork joints for leaks, make a solution of dishwashing soap and water, then brush on the joints and look for bubbles.

Have a professional service the system regardless of what you find.

Doors and windows

Look for peeling paint and other signs of wear on window frames and stools, usually in the bottom corners. Check the sill for rot and insects, and make sure weep holes in the sill outside haven’t been caulked over, which inhibits drainage.

Examine weatherstripping around exterior doors and windows for tears and wearing. Replacement is fairly easy and leads to big energy savings.

Look for cracks in window glass and glazing around panes.

Written by CJ Yeoman