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The Pahlisch Guide to Fall and Winter Home Maintenance

Colder nights in Central Oregon and steady rain in the Willamette Valley are reminders that it’s time to get your home ready for the fall and winter months. A little proactive maintenance can not only save you money on repairs and energy bills as the weather changes but also ensure your home is well-equipped to last for years to come.

So make yourself some coffee, read our fall and winter home maintenance tips below, and take a few minutes to prepare your to-do list. Trust us, it’ll be time well spent!

Fall Maintenance Checklist

Exterior Preparation

First things first: grab a ladder and give those gutters and downspouts a thorough cleaning. If your roof is particularly high or steep and you’re worried about safety, it’s worth looking into hiring a professional gutter cleaner in your area. Removing leaves and debris is crucial to prevent water damage and those pesky ice dams that can wreak havoc on your roof. And while you’re up there, you’re also going to want to inspect your roof for damaged shingles and potential leaks. Don’t forget to peek into the attic to ensure proper insulation and ventilation.

Once you’re done on the roof, it’s time to take a lap around the house and inspect all exterior windows and doors for tight seals and air leakage. It may seem a bit tedious, but taking an hour or so to seal up any gaps or cracks can lower your annual energy costs by up to 20 percent.

Tidy the Yard and Other Outdoor Spaces

Whether you do it yourself or you have a landscaper, you’ll definitely want to prune any trees and shrubs near your home to prevent winter storm damage. This gives your house a little breathing room when ice and strong winds start sending big branches flying.

If you bought some new patio furniture this summer that you absolutely love, cleaning and storing it properly during the colder months will help it last for many summers to come. First, wash and clean the furniture as directed, taking special care to remove grime, mold, and buildup from cushions, umbrellas, tables, and chairs. Then, make room in your garage or shed to store your furniture in a dry area. If that’s not an option, it’s worth investing in a good set of protective outdoor furniture covers for your favorite pieces.

Safeguard Your Sprinkler System

Shutting off an in-ground sprinkler system is a little more involved than pressing the off button, but it’s time well spent to ensure beautiful landscaping in the spring and summer. In areas where freezing is common, have the system blown out to purge residual water. Failing to free up that water can cause costly damage due to burst pipes. 

After the water has been forced out (or fully turned off in non-freezing locations), disconnect and drain garden hoses, then store them somewhere dry to avoid letting any last droplets freeze within. Turn outside faucets firmly to the off position and consider using a weather-resistant cover for extra protection.

Also, if you’ll be removing snow later in the season, be sure to mark any sprinkler heads with stakes so they are spotted before being whacked or run over. 

Give Your Furnace a Checkup

This is a big one on our Pahlisch home maintenance checklist. Before the cooler weather creeps in, schedule a furnace inspection with a full cleaning or replacement of filters as needed. Keep a few air filters on hand, too, then check and change them every few months to maximize efficiency until your next annual appointment. Caring for your furnace can extend its useful life, keep energy costs down, maintain healthy air quality, and increase your peace of mind.

Some furnaces in Pahlisch homes have four air filters that require inspections twice a year and typically need to be replaced only once a year.

Perform an Interior Safety Inspection

From candles flickering inside carved pumpkins to warm bulbs twinkling on Christmas trees, the holiday season poses a few extra safety risks for homeowners. That’s why it’s important to check on your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide monitors, replace old batteries, and stock up on new ones. Keep an eye out for frayed cords and overcrowded outlets (we’re looking at you, Clark Griswold), and ensure trees and other fire hazards are far away from heat sources like the fireplace, stove, and candles. Finally, ensure your fire extinguisher is unexpired, accessible, and ready for use.

Winter Maintenance Checklist

Get Your Cold Weather Gear in Order

Shovels, ice scrapers, snowblowers, generators: you’ll want to take a little time to make sure all your winter gear is in full working order. Finding a part or a repair person can be tough when the weather gets bad, so it’s wise to plan ahead. Don’t forget to replenish your supply of gasoline and propane, then store it securely away from heat sources and out of the reach of children.

Monitor Your Heating System

Regularly check your heating system for any signs of trouble. Pay attention to odd noises, unusual smells, or a decline in heating efficiency. Also, keep an eye on your thermostat settings. While it’s tempting to throw on extra layers and lower the thermostat to save some money on your heating bill, setting it lower than 65 degrees during freezing temperatures can risk damage to your system.

Pro tip: Make the most of the heat you have by setting ceiling fans to turn clockwise at a low speed to draw the warmer air up and push it out and around the space.

Close Off Foundation Vents

In homes with crawl spaces, foundation vents improve airflow under a house and maintain healthy humidity and air quality. During the warmer months, foundation vents should stay open, but in the colder months, they should be shut or blocked to stop pipes in the crawl space from freezing, especially when temperatures drop into the 20s or below. Use foam blocks made for this purpose to provide extra protection. 

Prevent Frozen Pipes

Whether your home sees freezing temperatures every year or just the occasional cold snap, all homes can benefit from taking some simple precautions against burst pipes.

First, if freezing temperatures are headed your way, open the cabinet doors of your bathroom vanity and kitchen sink to bring in warmer air from the surrounding room. When you are headed out on vacation or even away for the day, keep them open if there’s a chance of freezing. You can also drip faucets to keep water moving and prevent pipes from freezing.

Next, if your pipes have already become frozen, use a hairdryer, heat lamp, or electric heater to thaw them out. Do not use an open flame.

Finally, if your pipes have burst due to freezing, shut off the water at your home’s water main, then contact a professional right away. And make sure you know where your home’s water main is and how to turn it off. You don’t want to be scrambling to figure that out while your kitchen is in the process of being flooded!

Deter Ice Dams

The National Weather Service states that ice dams “occur when heavy snow buildup melts during the day and then refreezes when temperatures drop overnight.” Ice dams can cause significant damage to your roof and gutters. Inside, meltwater can back up under the shingles, resulting in ruined walls, ceilings, drywall, and insulation.

Removing snow from rooftops and eaves before it builds up is one way to avoid ice damming. A professional can prevent further problems by sealing off warm air leaks in living spaces, providing adequate insulation, and venting properly. Heat tape may also be used.

Stay Prepared for Power Outages

As Portlanders who experienced the historic ice storm of February 2021 know well, planning for power outages is an essential part of winter home prep. At the very least, you’ll want to assemble an emergency kit with essentials like flashlights, batteries, non-perishable food, and blankets. It’s also good to have backup heating options available, such as a generator or a supply of firewood if you have a fireplace. For more tips on preparing for a winter power outage, check out this list from the Oregon Public Utility Commission.

Don’t Wait – Get Your Home Ready Today!

If you’ve been putting off some home maintenance projects, now’s the time to start crossing them off your list. We have a handy homeowner FAQ that we share with all new Pahlisch homeowners. Check it out to find answers to your home maintenance questions, and you can reach out to our Customer Care Department for additional support.

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