Elisa Shackelton: Fall home maintenance before the snow flies

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— It's time again to prepare your home for winter, so if you've been putting off any outside home maintenance jobs, now is a great time to finish them up, while the weather isn't too hot or too cold.

Maybe you should hang the Christmas lights while the weather is still nice, too.

Routine home maintenance helps provide a healthy, safe environment for your family and protects your growing financial investment. The benefits of regular home maintenance include:

• It helps maintain the value of the property.

• A well-maintained home usually sells more readily and usually brings a higher price.

• A well-maintained home is more comfortable and safer to live in.

• Routine maintenance minimizes unexpected repairs and expenses.

• Small repairs keep costs from becoming larger.

Heating systems

Schedule to have a heating professional inspect your heating system before the heating season gets into full swing.

Replace your furnace filter. Furnace filters need to be replaced frequently to allow your heating and cooling systems to operate properly.

Have a certified chimney sweep inspect and clean the flues and check your fireplace damper. Soot and creosote, which build up inside the chimney, can ignite when a fire is lit in the fireplace. Wood-burning stove connector pipes and chimneys should be inspected annually, also.

Remove bird nests from chimney flues and outdoor electrical fixtures. Bird nests on top of light fixtures are a fire hazard. Bird nests in chimney flues can prevent the proper venting of combustion gases and can catch fire from sparks.

Windows and doors

Check all window and door locks for proper operation.

Check glazing for loose or missing putty or glazing compound. This will also help reduce water damage to the windows and door frames.

Make sure the caulking around doors and windows is adequate to reduce heat/cooling loss.

Plumbing

Make sure the caulking around your bathroom fixtures is adequate to prevent water from seeping into the sub-flooring.

Check for cracked or missing caulk around the base of your toilet, bath tub and bathroom cabinets. Properly sealing gaps between your bathroom fixtures and flooring material can prevent water damage.

Protect your home from frozen pipes by checking to make sure insulation and/or heat tapes are in working order.

Rodent proofing

Seal all cracks larger than one-fourth inch (the space needed for a mouse to slip through) with hardware cloth, metal sheeting or mortar.

Trim back tree branches so none come within 6 feet of your roof.

In barns and outbuildings, seal rooms where you keep feed or put feed in metal containers with tight-fitting lids.

Keep the areas around your house, barn and outbuildings clean to reduce or eliminate rodent hangouts, such as old appliances, trash lumber, junk vehicles, open garbage cans or dense thickets of weeds. Allow a margin of mowed open space between buildings and nesting sites, such as a woodpile.

Emergency and safety

Steps are more slippery when people start wearing socks or slippers around the house again. Be sure to install stair surface treads with slip-resistant strips near the stair nosing.

Create and/or review your fire escape plan with your family.

Inspect and clean dust from the covers of your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.

Run all gas-powered lawn equipment until the fuel is gone to avoid storing flammable fuels in your garage all winter. Also make sure you aren't storing dirty, oily rags in a pile, which can ignite spontaneously.

For more information, contact Elisa at the CSU Moffat County Extension Office, 539 Barclay, 824-9180.

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