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Q: We are new homeowners. What fall-maintenance projects would you suggest?

A: Fall is the time to get the house ready for winter.

By taking the time now to make sure all systems are a go, you won’t have to worry about clogged gutters, an unheated house or unsafe conditions as you hunker down for the damp and cold of late fall and winter.

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Change the air filter in your furnace, and plan to change your filters every month during the winter to prevent clogging.

A clogged filter forces the furnace to overwork, which causes stress on the system and creates the potential for damage. Inspect heating ducts and vents. Dust them off and clear away anything that may have gotten into them during the summer months.

Fall is a good time to inspect the insulation in your attic and crawl space. Seal areas around recessed lights, attic hatches and plumbing vents that could be allowing warm air from the living space below to enter the attic.

Also check your windows for any leaks that may compromise your heating efficiency. If you feel cold air coming in, you can purchase a plastic sealing kit from the hardware store.

You’ll want to check the doors as well and fit them with weather stripping if needed.

Gutters should be inspected and cleaned a few times during the fall, especially if there are leafy trees around your house.

Clogged gutters can cause water to spill over and onto the ground next to your foundation, potentially causing damage.

Fall is also a good time to walk around the house and check the foundation for any small cracks or openings where mice or other pests can tunnel in.

Disconnect garden hoses and, if practical, use an indoor valve to shut off pipes leading to outside faucets. This will reduce the chance of freezing during the winter in the section of the pipe just outside the house.

Check the trees on your property. Inclement weather can cause weak trees or branches to break and damage your home or car, or nearby utility lines.

Keep an eye out for large, dead or detached branches in trees, or rotten wood along trunks. If you see any of these warning signs, call a professional tree service.

If you have an emergency generator, haul it out and give it a test run to make sure it is in good working order.

And remember: Never run a generator in any enclosed space, including the garage, as it presents a dangerous carbon-monoxide hazard.

Most chimney sweeps recommend an annual inspection and sweeping before you start using your fireplace again.

In the fall, it’s a good idea to visually inspect the exterior of your chimney for cracks or other signs of deterioration.

If possible, use seasoned wood, which burns cleaner and longer, and be sure to store wood in a covered and protected location that is at least 30 feet from the house.

HomeWork is the weekly column by the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties’ Remodelers Council about home care, repair and improvements. If you have questions about home improvement, send them to

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