If “summer is the time when it’s too hot to do the job it was too cold to do last winter,” as Mark Twain puts it, that leaves spring and fall for home maintenance and deep cleaning. Along with raking up the first fallen leaves and putting out pumpkins, here are some things to consider shoring up around your house before fall’s refreshingly cool temperatures become winter’s ice and snow.
Decks, Patios and Walkways
- Put away outdoor furniture and decorative planters: Left in place, these can become damaged and cause staining and/or mildew build-up on decks and patios.
- Sweep and wash: Clear away major dirt and debris, then wash or pressure-wash wood, stone and cement surfaces as needed.
- Touch up paint and sealing: Inspect surfaces and touch up any peeling paint or thinning sealing.
- Remove causes of debris: This is a good time to trim back overhanging branches or remove any other potential sources of ongoing detritus.
Roof, Chimney and Gutters
- Clean, inspect and repair your roof: Sweep or rake all debris from your roof, then look for loose or rotting shingles that need to be tacked down or replaced. Also, check and replace any faulty metal flashing around dormers, chimneys and vents.
- Inspect and repair your chimney’s exterior: Look for any cracked, loose masonry or thinning caulking. Ensure that the chimney’s cap and any surrounding screening is in good repair, and cut back any branches that closely overhang the area.
- Clean and repair gutters and downspouts: Clear away the leaves and dirt that tend to build up in gutters, then make sure that they’re well secured to the roof. Patch any leaks, and make sure downspouts are actually carrying water away from the house.
- Drain faucets and irrigation systems: Close shut-off valves, then open faucets and run sprinklers to drain the lines. Foam covers can be used to protect faucets and any exposed pipes.
- Replace screens with storm windows: Be sure to wash and label all screens before you put them away.
- Install or replace weatherstripping as needed: Weatherstripping can be used to easily seal gaps around doors and windows, preventing heat loss. For large gaps, you may want to apply caulk before installing weatherstripping.
- Install or replace door sweeps as needed: Door sweeps are inexpensive vinyl strips that can easily be installed along the bottoms of exterior doors.
- Screen vents: Place mesh screens over dryer vents and any other HVAC-related openings into your home.
- Fill any gaps/holes in siding or foundation: Use caulk or other filling/screening materials as required.
- Use eco-friendly insecticide: If you’re already having an issue with spiders or other pests, you may need to spray insecticide around your foundation. Many eco-safe options are available.
Windows and Doors
- Wash windows and doors inside and out: Use a squeegee to remove fingerprints, dust and dirt from glass. Use a soft rag or microfiber cloth to remove excess dirt from doors, then clean gently with homemade or all-purpose cleaner, wiping in the direction of the wood grain. You can use mineral spirits to take care of any tough stains.
- Clean window coverings and replace as needed: Dust blinds and vacuum drapes. Replace lightweight summer curtains with their heavier winter counterparts.
Flooring, Rugs and Mats
- Move large furniture and deep-clean flooring: Use specialized hardwood cleaner for hardwood floors, shampoo or steam-clean carpets, and scrub or steam-clean tile and grout.
- Shampoo area rugs: Move area rugs and clean the flooring underneath, then shampoo the rugs themselves. This is also a good time to replace any damaged or deteriorating rug pads.
- Clean or replace mats: Inspect all welcome mats, kitchen mats, and bath mats, and launder, vacuum, or replace as appropriate.
Walls, Baseboards, Ceilings and Fixtures
- Vacuum cobwebs and dust-bunnies: Use your vacuum’s wand attachment to remove major dust build-up from ceiling and baseboard areas.
- Dust from floor to ceiling: Next take a rag or microfiber cloth and remove fine dust from walls, baseboards, windowsills, and fixtures.
- Wash walls, baseboards, switch plates and fixtures: Use your favorite gentle cleaning solution to remove stains. Consider removing switch plates and fan-blades and washing them in warm, soapy water.
Closets, Cabinets and Pantries
- Remove, inspect, and cull contents: As you’re trading summer clothes and linens for winter versions, remove anything you haven’t used or worn this year and put it in the donation pile. This is also a good time to remove expired canned and dry goods from your pantry.
- Wipe down interior surfaces: Run a damp cloth over shelving, cabinet walls, and drawer interiors.
- Wash exterior surfaces: Use a mild solution of soap and water to wipe down closet doors, cabinets, and dressers.
Additional Deep Cleaning and Maintenance
- Small appliances and home decor items: Remove these from countertops and shelves, then dust, wipe, or wash as appropriate. Clean the surfaces they were sitting on before returning them to their places.
- Steam-clean granite and other stone surfaces: This can help remove deep-seated dirt and stains without the use of abrasive cleansers. Baking soda and water can be used to cleanse more durable surfaces.
- Clean sink and tub drains: Remove drain caps, extricate any obvious clogs, and cleanse with a solution of vinegar and baking soda.
- Wash and wax tubs and sinks: Use your favorite cleaning solution to scrub sinks and tubs, then apply wax to polish and protect.
- Inspect and reseal grout as needed: Pay special attention to shower surrounds, backsplashes, and other particularly vulnerable spots.
Once you’ve made your way through this list, celebrate both the change of season and your preparedness for it by lighting a fire in the fireplace or making a pot of tea and curling up with a good book or favorite television show. You’re officially ready to rest, relax, and enjoy all the fun winter has to offer.
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