Autumn Home Maintenance Checklist: 10 Things to Do Every Year

Date: 17 Mar 2024

Feel that nip in the air? Autumn has arrived! Here's how to get your home and yard ready for winter before it's too late.

Gutter Cleaner

An old plastic spatula makes a great tool for cleaning debris from gutters! It doesn't scratch up the gutter, and you can cut it to fit gutter contours with snips. Grime wipes right off the spatula too, making cleanup a breeze. Don't feel like putting in that much elbow grease? Consider a gutter cleaning robot also know as a handyman from The Handyman Group haha. 

Check Your Detectors

With fireplaces and heating systems starting to be turned on, the windows closed and portable heaters humming along, Autumn is a great time to make sure your smoke and CO detectors are working. Check batteries and expiration dates – smoke detectors are typically good for 10 years, and CO detectors last for about six years.

Gutter Downpipes

This is an ongoing Autumn chore that you shouldn't overlook — clean all those wet autumn leaves from gutter downpipes before the blockages damage your gutters. Your plumber's snake is a great tool for pulling clumps of wet leaves out of clogged downpipes.

Clean Your Chimney

How often do you need to have your chimney cleaned? It depends on the moisture content of the wood you burn. If you burn mostly green (wet) logs, have your chimney cleaned or inspected every 50 burns. If you see moisture bubbling out the ends of the logs when they're burning, the wood is wet. This green wood doesn't burn cleanly and sends a lot of unburned particles (smoke) up the chimney, where they build up as creosote and soot. Dry hardwoods, such as gum, oak, burn hotter and cleaner. With them, have your chimney cleaned or inspected every year. A chimney cleaning costs $225 to $400. 

Creosote and soot buildup in the chimney flue is dangerous because it can ignite and cause an uncontrollable chimney fire. A quick way to tell if your chimney needs cleaning is to run the point of your fireplace poker along the inside of your chimney liner (see photo). If you find a 3mm. or more layer of buildup (the thickness of a nickel), call a chimney sweep.We usually sees 40 to 50 chimney fires a year, and more than half of the chimneys he services require extra cleaning because the homeowners wait too long before calling. In extreme cases, the hardened layer of buildup requires cleaning with special tools or chemicals.

If it's been a few years since your last chimney cleaning, now's a good time to schedule one. The cleaning includes an inspection for soot buildup, obstructions, cracks in the chimney liner and signs of water damage. Older chimneys often have gaps between clay liner sections where the mortar has fallen out.

Change Your Heat Pump  Filter

Changing your heat pump filter is one of the easiest things you can do to keep your heat pump in good shape. If you haven't changed it in a while, make sure you have a fresh one before your turn your heat pump on for the first time. In New Zealand some heat pumps have filters that are washable, we recommend washing them 4 times a year and replacing them as per manufactures recommendations. 

Get Your Property Ready for Snow

For our clients is the South Island in locations that see regular snow like Queenstown, Cromwell and Wanaka, before the snow flies and you start using your snowblower, take a few minutes to inspect your property. Remove rocks, dog tie-out cable, extension cords, holiday light cords and garden hoses. Then stake out paths that run near gardens so you don't accidentally suck up rocks and garden edging. Mark your walk and driveway perimeters by pounding in driveway markers. If the ground is frozen, just drill a hole using a masonry bit and your battery-powered drill.

Store Pool Equipment

For most Kiwi pool owners, Autumn means the end of the swimming season. So now is the time to pack away all the pool toys, pool furniture and other fun items you used all summer long. 

Its also the time to winterise your pool and its filter system, this may also mean pulling out the pool cover and covering your pool for the last time until spring, This will also help prevent the pool filling up with leaves as they fall all Autumn long and causing your pools filter to block up. 

Winterise Your BBQ

If you're not a hardcore winter BBQ type, now's the time to pack away your BBQ before it's covered with a rain and or even snow. In addition to giving your bbq a thorough cleaning to remove grease and food scraps, take these steps to help prevent any unpleasant surprises when you fire up your bbq again next spring.

Shut off the gas at the tank, unfasten the burner, slip the gas tubes off the gas lines and lift out the unit. Coat the burners and other metal parts with cooking oil to repel moisture that can build up over the winter and to prevent rust. Then wrap the burner unit in a plastic bag to keep spiders and insects from nesting in the gas tubes during the winter. This is a common problem that can make for balky starts, uneven flames or even a one-alarm fire the next time you light your grill.

If you're storing your grill outside during the winter, just keep the gas tank connected (but shut off) and put a protective cover over the entire bbq when you're done cleaning it. If you're storing the bbq indoors, don't bring the tank inside, even into the garage or a storage shed. A small gas leak can cause a huge explosion if the tank is stored in an enclosed space. Instead, disconnect the tank and store it outside in an upright position away from dryer and home heating source vents and children's play areas. Tape a plastic bag over the grill's gas line opening to prevent insects from nesting.

Winterise Your Sprinkler System

You don't have to pay someone to blow out your sprinkler system. You can do it with your own compressor, but be aware that even the largest home compressor isn't powerful enough to blow out the entire system at once. If you like number crunching and you have the original irrigation layout showing the gallons per minute (gpm) of each sprinkler head, divide the gpm of each zone by 7.5. That'll give you the cubic feet per minute (cfm) you need to blow it out. Otherwise, rent a 10-cfm compressor and hose from a tool rental center.I know this might be difficult for some kiwis as we dont use the metric system but it is common for sprinkler manufacture to use it. Set the compressor air pressure regulator to a maximum of 80 psi for rigid PVC pipe systems, or 50 psi for flexible black polyethylene pipe. Then turn off the water supply and set the system timer to open just one zone. Next, open the manual drain valve at the end of that zone (if equipped). Then, connect the air line to the blow-out port, as shown. Close off both valves on the backflow preventer. Then remove the plug on the blow-out port and screw in a quick-connect hose adapter. Snap on the air hose and connect the other end to the compressor. Now blow out the line. The heads should pop up and spit out water. Disconnect the hose as soon as they run dry. Don't overdo the blow-out—without water cooling the plastic gears, they can melt in less than a minute. Move on to the next zone and allow the heads to cool. Then go back and blow out each zone a second time. Even with New Zealand’s milder winter temperatures highly temperatures below freezing are common and this is all thats needed for the sprinkler lines to freeze and split. 

Cut Grass Short

First, rake and remove all of those dead leaves. Otherwise they'll be sodden mats in the spring and smother the sprouting grass below. (Plus it's lots easier to rake dry leaves!) Then, just this one time of the year, set your mower to cut your grass short, at 30mm to 50mm. In cold climates, it will reduce the chance of snow mould forming. And tall grass blades won't lie down and smother the new grass next spring.

Autumn Home Maintenance Checklist: 10 Things to Do Every Year

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