At Home with Captain Bri – Fall Home Maintenance

Hello everyone,Copy of 100_6278 (2)

My name is Captain Bri, and my wife has asked me to share my knowledge, know how and experiences when it comes to taking care of your home. Taking care of my house and vehicles is somewhat of a hobby of mine and something I enjoy doing.

The one immutable fact I have learned over the years is that if you take good care of your home and your vehicles they will take care of you. I know I am dating myself here by quoting an old Fram oil filter commercial. In the commercial a mechanic was telling people that if you didn’t change your oil on a regular basis and use a quality oil filter your engine could fail. The jingle was “you can pay me now or your can pay me later” referring to a small payment now for an oil filter or a much larger payment later for a new engine or extensive engine work.

I am a whole hearted believer in that saying and practice it always when it comes to my home and vehicles. In my neighborhood for example, I see where many of my neighbors have not kept up on painting the wood trim on their house and it is now rotted and in need of replacing. What’s worse is that some of it has been let go for so long that the OSB wood behind the trim is rotting as well, causing very costly repairs.

Since we are approaching fall in Michigan, I thought my fall check list might be a good place to start.

Lawn care
Usually in the month of October I spread Scotts Turf Builder WinterGuard Fall Weed and Feed on my lawn to feed and protect it from the harsh Michigan winters and help it bounce back quicker in the spring. I waited until mid-November one year but found my grass had already entered the dormant stage so all I did was waste my money on a “winterizer” that never got into the grass blades. I also do one of my three yearly power edgings in the fall which I do late October or the first week of November. Power edging in both spring and fall will keep the lawn looking manicured, and less dirt will accumulate making the edging easier than only edging once a year.

Home exterior
Every fall as in the spring and summer I do what I call a “calk walk.” Unfortunately, for my particular home, our wood trim goes right to the edge of all the windows and requires calking and painting every year. A contractor told me that our home builder should have had the edge of the windows going behind the wood trim. Instead, we have the edge of the windows meeting the trim flush. My calk walk is simply walking around the house with a calking gun and I calk where it is needed and then paint over the calk once it is dry. Some calks are not paintable, so make sure you buy paintable calk. For the higher parts of my house, I have my painter come every fall and calk and paint the second story trim.

Sprinkler system
If you have an in ground sprinkler system it needs to be blown out by a landscaping company that uses a powerful air compressor, usually in October. Also turn the valves to the hose bibs off in the basement and install covers over the hose bibs outside to keep them from freezing during winter. The covers can be found at most hardware stores, Lowes or Home Depot and are easy to install.



Air conditioner
I put a cover over my air conditioner once I know we won’t be using it until spring. (I have heard you don’t have to cover them in the winter, but I still do to protect it from the elements.)

Mushroom Lights
We have low voltage mushroom lights in the front and back of our house so each fall I go around and replace the bulbs. One year I didn’t, and by late January I was down to one mushroom light lit in the back yard around the patio and with all the snow I couldn’t replace them until the spring thaw. It is a tedious job but worth it for the aesthetics and the security.

One thing most people aren’t aware of and neither was I until I learned the hard and expensive way, is to lubricate your garage door spring every fall. At some point that spring will fail but if you lubricate it every year it will extend its life.  I do it in the fall before the air becomes dry during winter. There are garage door lubricants, but any lubricant will do. While I am lubricating the spring, I also lubricate the garage door hinges, pulleys and chain.  When you lubricate the garage door spring with spray lubricant, the lubricant will drip down onto the floor so I have invented what I call the “spring diaper”, which is a fabric sling that catches the excess lubricant.

While in the garage replace the battery in the garage door key pad and replace both light bulbs in the garage coach lights. Once winter hits I want all of that taken care of.

Once we are no longer using the air conditioner and begin using the furnace, I reverse something I do in the spring. In late spring I close all the main floor flapper valves in the ducting in the basement to force more cool air to upstairs bedrooms (it really works.) and in the fall I open all those flapper valves.

Since I am already in the basement, I install a new furnace filter (it is recommended you change every 90 day, but I do every 60 days) and a new water pad in the furnace humidifier. I buy two water pads in the fall and install one as soon as we start using the furnace and then another one in late February. Also, if you have never had the air ducting professionally cleaned, it is a good idea to do at least once. After that, keeping up on your furnace filters will help keep the ducting clean.


Furnace & Fireplace

One of the most important things on our fall home checklist is the furnace and fireplace. If you haven’t had a furnace inspection in a while it is probably a good idea to get one done. During the inspection you want to discuss the igniter with the inspector and maybe have a new one installed if yours is old. The old silicon carbide igniters are good for about 3-5 years where the newer silicon nitrite igniters have roughly twice that life span.  Getting these items completed in the fall will keep you from having your furnace and/or igniter fail when it’s 20 degrees out and you really need it.

If you have a wood burning fireplace and you use it regularly you will want to have a chimney inspection and cleaning. A very dangerous build up of creosote can coat the inside of your chimney and can ignite and even explosively causing a chimney fire. Choose an inspector/cleaner who is CSIA certified when having this done.

We have a gas fireplace and it is recommended that you have your gas fireplace inspected every year for gas leaks and other anomalies such as debris in the chimney that may lead to insufficient venting and non complete burning of the natural gas. Some HVAC professionals recommend having a CO2 detector near the fireplace for this reason.

Clothes dryer
One thing I always make sure to do on my spring and fall checklist is cleaning out the dryer tube. They make a special round brush that you can find at any hardware or appliance store and the brush has a long flexible handle. Simply remove the plastic dryer vent louvers and insert the brush and push it in as deep as you can.

I do this several times and then turn the dryer on “fluff” to help push any residual lint from the dryer tube before re installing the vent lovers. Dryer fires due to lint build up in the dryer tube are all too common and easily preventable by cleaning out the dryer tube. I do mine twice a year but the frequency of cleaning the dryer tube is certainly predicated on the use of your dryer. A family of six will need to clean the lint out more often than a family of three.


Window cleaning
Every spring and fall we remove our windows and clean out the tracks and clean the windows. You should also check the weep holes to makes sure mold is not forming and they freely let water drain out.

Garbage Disposal
My plumber recommends running ice through the garbage disposal on a regular basis to keep it clean and running freely so I am adding this to the check list for all four seasons.

Although I have no formal training in home maintenance, I hope you find my ideas and suggestions to be helpful. Click here to download our Fall Home Maintenance Checklist

Thank you, and enjoy your home!

Captain Bri