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Fall home repairs: inside and out

With winter around the corner, it's time to tackle those fall projects that crept up over the summer. I've had a to-do list since last winter I found easy to ignore throughout the warmer months. So much fun is to be had: camping, traveling, backyard barbecues, and on those scorching days, enjoying marathons. In front of the television. I must confess, I loved Orange is the New Black. But alas, I've watched every episode and my house won't repair itself.

Prioritizing fall projects: budgeting is the new black

First and foremost, you should consider your budget and the ultimate payoff for fall home repair projects. You can find plenty of affordable and simple projects to improve your home's safety and energy efficiency.

The following list includes fall home repairs to prep your home for winter, which should make for a cozy and energy-efficient season:

  • Clean gutters. Nobody wants to hop up on an icy roof to chisel out the nasty gunk that accumulates in gutters. Make the job easier and do it before it frosts. If you notice cracks, repair or replace gutters to ensure the safety of your property. Or, if you have a desert home like mine and have noticed icy patches in the winter, consider installing gutters in problem areas. Your home may not need a full gutter system, nor does it need a temporary permit for an ice skating rink.
  • Inspect your roof. If you have loose or missing shingles, replace them. Also check for cracks around ducts, chimneys, and vents. And if your home needs a new roof, make sure you get multiple quotes before settling on a professional contractor to replace your shingles, tiles, or shakes.
  • Touch-up paint. Paint does an amazing job protecting your home from the elements. Check your house for external and internal cracks. Be sure to seal the cracks, then cover with paint or a weather-proof seal. Your local paint store or home improvement center can easily match paint colors. Simply take in a paint chip and they should be able to mix enough to meet your needs.
  • Inspect your windows and doors. Is it time to consider replacement windows, or do you just need to replace the seals and caulking around the window sills? That will depend on the age of your windows, the frame material, the region you live in, and how many sheets of glass you have. Consider calling a home window contractor to get a professional opinion. As for your doors, can you see daylight around them? Then it's time to replace the weather stripping.
  • Inspect your furnace. Wait for an unseasonably cool day to do this and make sure it works as well as it did last year. Seriously, don't wait until Christmas Eve when there are no professionals to be found. Check it early and check it twice! Now is a good time to replace furnace and central air filters, too. At a bare minimum, you should do this quarterly.

After thoroughly inspecting your home for issues, you should prioritize problem areas depending on urgency, and of course, your budget. Sometimes, despite the initial shocker of a sticker price, repairs can quickly pay for themselves. For instance, replacement windows with double, or ideally, triple panes can save you a small fortune on your heating bill if you have an older home with drafty single-pane windows.

Energy efficiency: professional skill or hocus pocus?

You can also have the energy efficiency of your home tested by a local professional. They can show you where your home's insulation is compromised, how to improve efficiency, and help you prioritize repairs. You may even be able to write off some repairs on your income taxes.

Low on funds for an official energy efficiency test? A trick of the trade is to walk through your house with a stick of burning incense. Watching the direction and intensity of the smoke while you hold it around windows and doors can give you a good idea where your home is losing heat. While not exact science, you can find problem areas quickly. Just be sure to keep flammable surfaces away from smoldering embers. You can also find drafty areas by looking for spider webs. Always the opportunist, a spider will build traps where bugs can enter and exit, making for a good food source at the most vulnerable spots in your home.

Writing this article reminds me it's time to quit yammering and get to work. The weather's turning quickly and I have plenty of projects to tackle before the first frost. And I bet you do too, so power down the computer and get outside!