50 Little Home Fixes to Make Before the Start of Fall

published Sep 18, 2020
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House exterior. View of landscape on front yard
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Yes, Labor Day is in the past now, but as staunch pro-summer advocates know: Fall doesn’t start until Sept. 22. And real fall—you know, chilly weather, changing leaves—won’t kick in until mid-to-late October, depending on where you live. So while your Instagram feed might be starting to fill with pics of pumpkin spice lattes and cozy sweaters, don’t fret—you still have a few more warm weekends ahead.

That means that you’ve got plenty of time to cross to-dos off your list that might have taken a backseat in the sweltering months of July and August. Here, 50 little fixes to do around your home so it can be in tip-top shape come fall and winter, when you’ll want to spend all your time cozied up inside. Whether that’s cleaning certain spots or having parts inspected to make sure it’s ready for the change in season, these chores should be quick and easy to get ready. 

Things to Clean 

Credit: Ivan Hunter | Getty Images

1. Clean the gutters

The first thing on your end of the summer to-do list is to clean your rain gutters. Remove any dirt, leaves, sticks and other debris that may have piled up over the season. 

“Clogged gutters can overflow and run along the side of the house eroding the siding and seep into windows,” says Nathan Lugo from Deft Craftsman Home Improvement, a home improvement and handyman professional service in New Jersey. He suggests cleaning them at the end of spring, summer and fall so that the rainfall doesn’t damage your home at any point throughout the year. 

2. Clean your outdoor surfaces

Treat yourself to a “new” walkway, driveway, patio, and sidewalk simply by giving everything a good sweep and pressure washing. First, sweep as much of the dirt and debris off as you can. From there, use a power washer and a mixture of water and washing soap to make everything sparkly clean. 

3. Soft wash the outside of your house

If you have vinyl siding or another surface on the outside of your home that can withstand cleaning, give everything a soft wash. This will help remove the dirt from the summer and will keep the outside of your home looking fresh and clean. 

“You’ll bring new life to your surfaces with this easy task,” Lugo says. “Don’t forget the surface areas of your home. Winter grime, mold, mildew, moss can all cause permanent damage and hurt your home value.”

4. Clean your windows 

Cleaning the inside and outside of your windows is the next thing to tackle as the season ends. Having dirty windows hurts the energy efficiency of keeping your house warm by blocking out the full benefit of the sun’s rays during the winter. 

“Clean windows can help keep your home warmer,” Lugo says. “It also gives you a chance to inspect the seals and caulking around them to avoid potential leaks and drafts.”

5. Clean out your dryer vent 

While you’re hopefully doing the everyday maintenance such as cleaning out the lint every time you go to use your dryer or wiping down the inside if it gets gross, dryer vents are also important to maintain. As fall begins, the dryer vent (the tubing that goes from the dryer to outside) should be cleaned out. If you don’t and your vent clogs up, it can prolong your drying time, damage your clothes, and cost more in utilities. 

6. Dust your ceiling fan blades

The top of a ceiling fan can collect a lot of dust. Although it might be tricky to reach, it’s worth it to clean. Depending on the height of your ceiling, your approach to cleaning your fan may differ. You might be able to use an extendable duster, if it’s low enough—or you can carefully climb a ladder dust by hand. The mess-free way? Pull an old pillowcase over each fan blade, and slide off to pull the dust straight into the case.

7. Clean your grill

After all those summer BBQs, your grill can end up pretty dirty as fall rolls around. You’ll be able to use it through the end of the season—or longer, if you’re a grilling die-hard—but before you close it up for the winter, do a deep clean of your grill. It doesn’t take much more than a grill brush, a sponge, glass cleaner, dish soap, and warm water.

8. Clean and seal your deck or porch area 

Some more summer cleaning for your to-do list! To begin, sweep and clean off any summer dirt. To really clean it well, use a deck cleaner (like these suggestions from Lowe’s) to help remove dirt, nail stains, algae and mildew. From there, if your deck is made of wood, seal it for extra protection.

9. Unclog and clean out your drains 

Sink and tub drains can become filled with hair, soap scum, and mineral buildup. To take care of your drains and to prevent backup, you should take the time to clean them.

Instead of using a commercial cleaner with chemicals, you can make your own drain cleaner using boiling hot water, baking soda, and lemon juice. 

10. Clean faucet aerators and shower heads to remove mineral deposits

While you’re working on your bathroom, cleaning the mineral deposits off your showerheads and sink faucets can be quick and easy. Mix white vinegar with water in a plastic bag, then and tie it to your fixture with a rubber band. Leave it overnight to help dissolve mineral deposits.

11. Wipe down your outdoor furniture 

Your outdoor furniture can take a beating from sun and rain. You’re probably still using it for a few more weeks, but before you pack it up for winter storage, make sure to clean off any grime to prevent mildew and rust. In most cases, a soft cloth dipped in warm, soapy water will do the job.

12. Clean your outdoor furniture cushions 

Don’t forget outdoor cushions! Mix some dish detergent, Borax, and warm water in a bucket and scrub with a hard bristle brush. Then rinse the cushions and allow them to dry in the sun before storing.

13. Clean out and organize your garage

Decluttering your garage is even less fun to do once temperatures dip into the 30s, so it’s best to do it now.

14. Vacuum heat registers and heat vents

Take your vacuum and give each heat register and vent a good once-over to clear out any dust or debris to help your heaters function more efficiently this winter.

15. Clean the garbage disposal 

Nastiness can get stuck at the bottom of your garbage disposal if you don’t clean it regularly. To clean your garbage disposal, flush it with baking soda and vinegar followed by boiling water. Then, fill the disposal with ice cubes topped with salt before turning it on; that helps clear away any stuck-on gunk. Finish with cold water.

Things to Check and Inspect

16. Check your siding 

Walk around the outside of your place and look at your siding. See if there are any blistering paint, cracks, holes or other abnormalities that you need to fix before winter comes.

17. Check your roof 

Maintaining your roof is crucial to preventing leaks that can cause problems inside your home. No need to do any climbing—instead, while standing in your yard, use a pair of binoculars to see if you spot any loose or missing shingles. Think something looks amiss? Call a roof repair specialist to make any necessary fixes.

18. Get your fireplace cleaned and inspected

As the weather starts to cool down, you might want to light a fire in your fireplace. Before you even think about that, you probably need to get that fireplace cleaned. Not only does this keep it in good condition, but it’s also to ensure that you have clear access for the smoke to escape. 

Between 2012 and 2014, there was an average of 22,300 chimney-related fires in the U.S. that resulted in $23.7 million in property loss, according to statistics available from the Chimney Safety Institute of America.

Call a chimney expert to come and give yours a good look. By examining it, they are checking for damage, obstructions, creosote buildup, and soot. They will also tell you if you need to have your chimney cleaned. 

19. Check your battery collection 

Checking your batteries might not be on top of your to-do list but it’s important to do every so often. Not only will it give you more space in your drawers, but it will help in case you need them for something important—like a flashlight if the power goes out. 

“A $5 battery tester is all you need,” Lugo says. “A good battery tester should be able to test all of your typical household batteries—AA, AAA, C, D, 1. 5V, 9V and the button type.”

20. Check your furnace filters

Replacing your furnace’s filter is key to keeping your system running smoothly. Make sure you check out what type of filter you need before buying a new one, as there are lots of different options.

21. Check for pest entrances and exits

No matter how tiny, cracks and holes can be the perfect spots for bugs and rodents to make their way into your home. From the outside, do a check for visible entrances and exits and patch up any holes with caulk. Do the same inside.

For larger holes, use steel wool, which ensures that mice can’t nibble their way through.

22. Test your smoke detectors and change the batteries if needed 

Experts suggest that you test your smoke detectors once a month. If you were too busy this summer and forgot, now is the perfect time to do it. 23. Check your carbon monoxide detectors—or add some if you don’t have them 

In addition to testing your fire alarms, you should make sure your carbon monoxide detectors are in working order. Each year, 450 deaths are reported in the United States from unintentional carbon monoxide (CO) poisonings, according to a 2011 study published in the American Journal of Public Health.

If your home doesn’t have a carbon monoxide detector, adding one is simple—and inexpensive, too, with prices starting at under $20.

24. Check your water heater 

The temperature of your water heater might not be something you think of checking each year. But “if your water heater is warm to the touch, it is wasting power,” Lugo says. “A $50 fiberglass insulation blanket can save you hundreds of dollars by keeping that warmth where it belongs in the tank.”

25. Check the water softener 

For those that have hard water, they know what a pain it can be. Adding a water softener, which is a special appliance that removes mineral ions from tap water, can help. If you already have a water softener, check the salt content and refill if necessary. If you don’t have one but think it might be a good addition to your home, a plumber can provide a pro opinion.

26. Inspect electrical cords for wear

Whether there’s a frayed extension cord or a lamp that has seen better days, less-than-perfect electrical cords can cause big problems. Inspect the cords in your home to ensure they’re all working properly, otherwise, swap them out. 

27. Conduct an energy audit 

Energy bills higher than you expected these past couple months? Conduct a DIY energy audit to pinpoint possible energy sucks. These tips from the U.S. Department of Energy will help you do it right. 

Things to Secure 

28. Repair window and door seals 

Make sure that you don’t have any holes or broken wood around your doors or windows. “Sun and rain wreak havoc on caulking so it’s important to make sure they’re not dry rotted or worn away,” Lugo says. “Otherwise, you’re in for high energy bills and cold winter with draft creeping their way into your home.” If you see a spot, repair it or add additional caulking to bind it back together. 

29. Weatherstrip your windows

Leaky windows can lead to chilly drafts, which increase your energy costs. By 30. Apply grout to any areas that need it 

Before you fix or add grout anywhere, you’re in for a good scrub. Take a mixture of water and white vinegar and use a scrub brush to make sure the surface is totally clean. Once that dries, if there are spots where the grout has come off or is really discolored, go over it with the same color grout to give your tile a new life.

31. Secure wobbly handrails

Prevent falls by shoring up any wobbly handrails at your home’s entrance or inside. If they’re attached to the wall, you might just need a strategic screw; outside, cement can help anchor the posts.

32. Add traction to slippery stairs

Installing traction tape can help give some grip to slick concrete stairs in the garage or basement.

33. Check your locks

Make sure they’re all working, and that you have a copy of current keys to give to a trusted friend or neighbor in case of emergency.

34. Make repairs to your shed

Sheds and any other external structures are also important to keep up with the maintenance. “Now is the time to make any repairs to soft rotting or sun-damaged wood,” Lugo says. “It will only get worse over the winter. A fresh coat of paint is not a bad idea either since it will help against the winter weather.”

35. Seal natural stone countertops

Granite needs to be sealed every three to five years; marble, as often as every three to six months. Do it now so you don’t have to sweat apple cider and mulled wine spills.

Things to Service and Prepare

36. Get your heating system serviced 

Experts suggest having your heating system inspected once a year—and it’s best to do this before you have to turn it on. Proper checks monitor By having it looked at annually, they check the overall condition but ensure that all systems are operating properly. With the proper checks and service, this can help extend the life of your systems, make them more efficient and ultimately, save money. 

37. Change your AC filter 

Cleaning and changing your AC filters will not only keep your system working better but it will help keep your AC unit in the best shape possible—putting off a costly replacement. A normal person without a shedding pet or severe allergies should change their air filter roughly four times each year so roughly every season, but by cleaning it well, you can reduce that to just two times per year.

38. Install a smart thermostat

It’ll help save you money on heating this winter by adjusting the temperature higher and lower depending on the time of day.

39. Reverse your overhead fans

You’re starting to think about the cooler weather. And changing the direction of your fan might not come to mind. But running fans in the colder months can actually save up to 10% on heating costs. There’s also science to it! In the summer, the slightly angled blades of a ceiling fan turn counterclockwise to move air down. This makes it feel cooler in the home. But in the winter, the warm air from heating rises. 

Changing the direction that fan blades turn ensures that the cooler air is sent upwards while forcing the heat to stay in the space where you are. 

40. Maintain your gardening equipment

Spring and summer are usually filled with gardens and yardwork. But all those gardening tools need maintenance, too. To start, clean and sharpen your blades, clean your gardening tools and store them and clean out your pots from your annuals to get them ready for next year.

41. Clean out your refrigerator coils 

Who knew that you needed to clean your refrigerator coils? “Probably the most forgotten and neglected upkeep is cleaning out the refrigerator coils,” Lugo said. “These coils are critical to pushing heat out, so removing the dust and dirt will allow them to more efficiently keep the inside of the refrigerator cold. Not only will this effectively keep things cold, but you’ll be using less electricity which saves you money and helps the environment.” 

42. Get your snowblower and other snow gear ready for winter 

If you’re in for snow, get your winter supplies ready. From a snowblower to salt for your walkway or replacing a broken snow shovel, it’s time to get prepared. “If you have one, get that snowblower ready,” Lugo said. “Check all the fluid levels—oil, gas, lubrication points—and run it for at least 20 minutes. You don’t want to wait until the first snowfall to find out that you’re out of luck.”

43. Prep flower pots for storage

Once your potted annuals are spent for the season, toss or compost the plant and dirt and clean out the inside of the pot for storage.

Things to Spruce up

44. Touch up your paint 

Take care of the wear and tear on your space and touch up any paint chips, holes or other spots that need a little extra TLC. 

45. Add more mudroom space

Once snow starts to fall, you can count on lots more gear taking up space in your home, like boots, winter coats, umbrellas and more. Adding a mudroom space where you can gather things when you walk in the door is key to staying organized. Making a few small additions, like adding hooks or a new rug by the door, can help you feel at home as soon as you walk in. 

46. Plant bulbs for spring

If you plant bulbs for spring, now’s the time to get them in the ground. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, usually, the late September to mid-October in a northern climate is perfect to avoid the ground freezing. While you’re at it, bringing in mums for some fall color is also a great addition.

47. Hang blackout curtains

They’ll help you sleep better, and they’re also helpful for adding insulation in the cold months ahead.

48. Fluff up your throw pillows

Netflix season is nigh, so it’s time to make your couch extra cozy. Punch up flattened throw pillows by tossing them in the dryer with a couple tennis balls, which helps dry out any lingering moisture and allergens and fluff up the fill.

49. Replace any worn furniture pads

Check for flattened or worn-out felt pads on the feet of your furniture, and replace whatever’s not up to snuff to help prevent damage to your floor and your furniture.

50. Swap out any dim lightbulbs

Replace any lingering incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient LEDs. Choose different temperatures to suit different spaces in your house: For relaxing spaces, like bedrooms, choose a warm light; for spaces where you want to feel energized, such as home offices, go for a light that leans more white (which simulates daylight).