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    It may not seem like it, and you may not want to hear it, but “winter is coming.”

    Getting a head start on fall maintenance will leave you with more free time to enjoy the colors of autumn. Here’s a quick checklist to help you get started.

    • Fireplace and chimney. You’ll want to have a professional inspection and cleaning yearly if you use your fireplace on a regular basis throughout the winter. A qualified chimney sweep will remove any creosote which has built up over the past year and could cause a chimney fire. They will check the condition of your chimney’s liner as well as rooftop bricks, mortar, and flashing.
    • Outdoor lighting. Test all outside lighting and replace bulbs as needed.
    • Firewood. A good fire starts with good firewood. Now is an excellent time to place your order. Two years of seasoning is ideal, but one year is fine and may save you a few bucks. If you prefer to cut and stack your own wood, do so safely. Wear safety goggles and work gloves. Stack in either traditional cords or rack the wood.
    • Fire prevention. Check the expiration dates on your fire extinguishers and replace them if needed. Make sure extinguishers are accessible, that hoses have no cracks, nozzles are clear, and the extinguisher pin is intact. Look for any signs of rust or corrosion which would indicate a leak. Check the pressure gauge on each unit to see if it’s in the green. Shake and weigh to ensure each extinguisher is still pressurized. The weight of the extinguisher corresponds to the amount of pressure. Home units typically come in 5, 10, 15, and 20 pounds. Replace batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and test to be sure they’re working properly.
    • Patio and deck furniture. Clean, cover, and store all outside furniture.
    • HVAC. Fall is a great time for servicing your heating and cooling systems. Replacing air conditioning filters will ensure you’re ready for next summer. While testing your furnace’s efficiency, checking for duct leaks and draining your hot water heater — particularly if you have “hard” water — will guarantee you and your family are both safe and cozy for the cold weather ahead.
    • Exterior faucets. Store hoses for the winter and turn off outside faucets at their source to avoid frozen pipes.
    • Roof and siding. It’s important to make sure your roof is in tip-top shape with winter coming. Damaged, missing, or loose shingles present real danger in bad weather and may result in a leaky roof and flooded attic. Check flashing and mortar around chimney for leaks. Trim any trees that are within less than 10 feet of your roof to prevent roof damage and fires.
    • Gutters and downspouts. Clogged gutters and downspouts can cause water to back up and result in ice dams and roof damage. Clean thoroughly and flush out gutters. Remove any blockage in downspouts and confirm that they are positioned properly to drain water away from your foundation. Failing to do so may result in basement flooding.
    • Garage door. A clean and well lubricated garage door is efficient and reliable. Clean and lubricate all hinges, bearings, springs, and metal rollers. Don’t lubricate nylon rollers, as doing so may cause your garage door to slip when closing. Be sure to clear track throughly.
    • Windows. Check all windows for cracked or missing caulking and re-caulk to keep winter heating bills as low as possible.

    No one wants to rush the seasons; they’re short enough as is. But, by getting one step ahead, you’ll enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing your home is ready for the winter ahead.

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