Getting Your Home Ready for Winter: a Fall Home Maintenance Checklist [UPDATED]

Originally published September 2018. Updated September 2023.

Harsh winter weather can take a toll on your home. Keeping up with home maintenance is key to making sure your home can stand up to everything a Minnesota winter can throw at it. 

So, alongside your pumpkin carving and leaf-peeping this fall, make time to prepare your home for the cooler weather and winter storms to come.

To help you get your home ready for Old Man Winter, we’ve compiled this fall home maintenance checklist. Consider adding some or all of these projects to your fall to-do list to make sure your home is buttoned up for the cold months ahead.

Exterior Fall Maintenance Checklist

1. Assess Your Home’s Drainage

If the phrase “spring thaw” resonates with you, you live in a part of the country where melting snow and thawing earth can be synonymous with a drainage disaster. 

Since the ground shifts and settles over time, it’s wise to assess the drainage situation around the foundation of your home each fall. Making sure all drainage is directed away from your foundation will help you avoid a costly wet spring basement.

2. Trim Trees

Around here, winter shows no mercy, often unleashing its fury in the form of heavy snow, ice accumulation, and high winds. To keep falling tree branches from damaging your roof, siding, or windows during harsh winter storms, take the time now to trim any dead or overhanging branches on the trees near your home.

3. Turn Off Exterior Faucets

As the weather cools down, water that’s left in exterior pipes can freeze and cause the pipes to burst. So before the weather turns cold, drain and disconnect your garden hose from your outdoor spigot.

Next, turn off the shutoff valve for the spigot (this valve is most likely inside the house). Then, open and close the outside tap to release any water that’s left inside the pipe. You may also want to consider adding an insulated cover to your spigot to further prevent freezing.

4. Clean Out Gutters and Downspouts

Clean out your gutters and downspouts so that when heavy autumn rains fall or winter finally gives way to spring, your gutters are ready to direct water down and away from your roof and siding.

Clogged gutters keep water from flowing off your roof and away from your home, which can lead to leaks and water damage (not to mention the formation of ice dams during the winter). Leaves, twigs, and other debris also add weight to your gutters, which can cause them to pull away from the house and potentially damage your trim and siding.

5. Have Your Roof Inspected

Visually inspect your roof from the ground, looking for signs of potential problems, such as damaged or missing shingles or damage to metal flashing. Also, when you clean out your gutters and downspouts, look for an accumulation of shingle pieces or granules, which can point to your roof losing its coating.

Then, schedule a professional roof inspection. It’s a good idea to have your roof inspected each fall to ensure it’s ready to weather the winter storms to come.

6. Check for Siding and Foundation Damage

Closely examine your home’s siding and foundation, carefully repairing any gaps or cracks so moisture and mice can’t find their way in (and your heat can’t escape). 

Caulk around areas where pipes and wires enter the house and where masonry meets siding, as well as around window and door frames. Repair any damaged siding as well so it’s ready to protect your home this winter. 

7. Examine Exterior Stairs and Railings

Examine the structural integrity of your exterior stairs and railings, making necessary repairs to secure them so they will withstand the added load of heavy snow. It’s also a good idea to put a fresh coat of paint or sealant on any surface that will soon be covered in snow, including your stairs and deck.

Interior Fall Maintenance Checklist

1. Service Your Furnace

There’s no better time to service your furnace or boiler than in the fall before you’ll need to rely on it to keep your house warm. Having your heating and cooling system inspected and cleaned once a year will help prevent breakdowns and ensure it runs efficiently and safely. 

While you’re at it, replace your furnace filter. A clogged filter makes your heating system work harder to keep your home comfortable, which leads to more wear and tear…not to mention bigger utility bills!

2. Sweep Your Chimney

Sweep your fireplace or woodstove chimney to clean out creosote and prevent chimney fires. When creosote builds up in your chimney flue, it can ignite and cause a chimney fire. So, it’s a good idea to have a professional inspect your fireplace and chimney for any blockages that could cause a fire. 

Then, you can enjoy peace of mind and the warmth of your fireplace all winter long.

3. Clean Out Your Dryer Vent

Lint buildup in your dryer vent can greatly reduce its efficiency. It can also become a fire hazard during the low humidity months of winter. You can clean out your vent yourself or hire a duct cleaning specialist, but be sure to cross this “to do” off your list this fall.

4. Test Smoke and CO Alarms

Replace the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and test them to make sure they’re operating properly. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, smoke detectors should be tested once a month and the batteries replaced at least once a year.

In addition, if it’s been a while since you had your home tested for radon, consider doing so this fall. Radon can more easily accumulate when your home is closed up tightly, so now is a good time to make sure radon levels in your home are safe.

5. Seal Windows and Doors

Apply weatherstripping around drafty windows and doors and door sweeps to the base of drafty doors. This will help keep cold air out and warm air in, improving your home’s energy efficiency and decreasing your heating bill. Because weatherstripping can deteriorate over time, it’s important to inspect it periodically and replace it as needed.

If your windows are older or drafts around your windows persist, it might be time to have your windows replaced.

We hope this fall home maintenance checklist helps you get your home ready for winter — inside and out! To learn more about how Hoyt Exteriors can help you with your siding, roofing, windows, gutters, and more, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 651.212.4965 or email us at!

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