Q: With fall winding down and winter right around the corner, I’m wondering what I should do to prepare for the cold, wet months?

A: Winter is fast approaching, and it’s time to start giving serious thought to preparing for the rain and chill of winter. Over the last 31 years, I’ve assembled this fall maintenance checklist based on my own professional and personal experience. If you do everything I’ve listed here, you will save time and money on your home. Not only that, you will stay warm, dry and thrifty through to spring.

  • Have your furnace cleaned and inspected annually (by a professional).
  • Keep flammable materials, including all lawn and power equipment, away from water heaters and wiring in the basement.
  • Insulate water pipes in areas exposed to cold temperatures and turn up the thermostat during extra cold periods.
  • Check for damage to your roof, and clean gutters and downspouts to keep debris from accumulating. This is especially important during the fall season to keep leaves from building up in the gutters. Check for signs of mold and mildew.
  • Check and replace caulking around doors and windows that show signs of deterioration. Look for missing or loose glaze in windows and replace as needed.
  • Check caulking around showers, bathtubs, sinks and toilet bases, as well as leaks and any water damage to floors or woodwork, and make repairs as needed.
  • Have your chimney cleaned (by a professional) and inspect for any damage to chimney chase or creosote buildup.
  • Clean the clothes dryer exhaust duct and space under the dryer. Remove lint, dust and scraps of material. Use a washing machine cleaner solution for front loading machines (twice a year).
  • Treat moss on roofs with a two-to-one water and bleach mixture or Moss Out products. Hire a professional to pressure wash or rinse roof, making sure to test on a small area first.
  • Check for any rotten wood in trees, mushrooms at the base of trees, cracks or splits in trunks, and inspect trees that have been heavily pruned, looking for any hazards (check with a professional for repairs).
  • Repair any stairs or bannisters to prevent falls and injury.
  • Inspect your home’s exterior siding; look for weather related damage, cracks or loose mortar. Check wood trim and siding for paint deterioration, peeling, blistering or looseness. Check windowsills and fascia boards that may be cracked, split or decayed as well as cracks in masonry or foundations.
  • Pressure wash walkways, steps, deck, porch treads and, every three years, your siding. Remember to treat for mildew and mold. Rake up leaves and debris.
  • Check your home’s insulation in attic and crawl spaces and insulate pipes in those spaces.
  • Wrap your pipes with heating tape every winter and insulate unfinished rooms and garages if they contain exposed pipes. Check pipes for cracks or leaks. Have any damage repaired by a professional immediately. Try to keep you home temperature set to at least 65 degrees and learn the location of the water valve and how to shut it off. This goes for gas too.
  • Check your space heaters and wood-burning stoves for safety and other hazards.
  • Clean and vacuum dust from vents, baseboard heaters and cold-air returns.
  • Inspect for damage to holes in eave areas where animals and/or birds may have entered.


Darylene Dennon is president and CEO of Solid Energy Inc., a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS). If you have a home improvement, remodeling or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of MBAKS’s nearly 2,800 members, write to homework@mbaks.com.