After the record-breaking heat that blazed through Ontario this summer, it’s finally time to embrace the cooler temperatures of fall. As you sip your pumpkin spice latte, unpacking the family’s cozy sweaters and warm socks, don’t forget about preparing your home for this welcome change in season.

Let the sunshine in, but keep the cold air out! Windows are wonderful for letting natural light into a room, but cracked seals are a sure way to increase cold drafts and bump up heating costs. The same goes for any outer doors that are showing wear or damage to their sealing. Before the snow hits, do a thorough inspection of your windows and doors, caulking any visible cracks and adding weather-stripping where necessary. Your family (and your wallet) will thank you!

Look up, waaay up! It’s never wise to assume your roof can withstand another Canadian winter. For ‘peak’ performance, get an inspection booked with a licensed roofer well before the first snowflakes fall. Undiagnosed trouble spots can lead to a collapse under heavy snow, or a leaky disaster when the spring thaw arrives. Unless your roof is brand new, an annual checkup is a fall necessity to prolong the life of your investment, and protect what’s underneath.

While you’re up there, it’s gutter time! Your gutters are responsible for directing rainfall and melting snow away from your home’s exterior and foundation. If they’re full of leaves and other debris, chances are your eaves troughs are falling short on performance, which can lead to flooding and water damage when the first thaw arrives. Time to grab a buddy, climb that ladder and get cleaning! This will also give you the opportunity for an annual checkup, making sure the troughs and drain pipes are properly connected and free from damage. If heights aren’t your thing, hire out the job and keep your feet firmly planted on the ground while enjoying peace of mind from your fully-functioning drainage system!

Clear the way for jolly old elves! If you have a working fireplace, fall is a great time to have your chimney professionally cleaned and inspected. Ensuring proper venting and getting rid of chemical build up in the chimney is essential for a safe, clean-burning fireplace. Your family will appreciate your efforts when they’re curled up in front of a cozy fire on a cold winter’s night.

Even your furnace needs a yearly checkup! Book an appointment with your heating company to give your furnace a full cleaning and tune up before you turn it on this fall. Simply running the unit with a dirty filter can cause damage to a furnace, making it inefficient and possibly increasing heating costs. Having the equipment checked out and cleaned, and filters changed, will allow you to face the coming chill with confidence.

Fall back and freshen up! This seasonal time change can be a pain, but it’s a great annual reminder to change the batteries in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Reportedly, house fires occur most frequently during winter months, and CO poisoning peaks in December and January due to the need for home heating.  What better time to prepare for a fire or CO leak than before it typically happens? Make sure detectors contain fresh batteries, are regularly tested and ready to protect your family from a potential disaster.

The cold might not bother you, but your pipes won’t agree! There aren’t many things less fun for a homeowner than a burst pipe. Notorious for causing damage to property and plumbing alike, not to mention the potential repair costs, frozen pipes are best avoided at all costs. Before temperatures hit below zero, insulate all water carrying pipes that runs along outer walls or any colder areas in your home. Also, be sure to turn off any outside water supply, properly draining and disconnecting hoses before the first frost. Keep your indoor thermostat set high enough to keep water from freezing, especially overnight when temperatures tend to drop. Even if you’re trying to keep heating costs down, the risk of freezing your pipes just doesn’t outweigh the reward. Should the pipes freeze despite your best efforts, it doesn’t hurt to be ready with a backup thawing method should the need arise. Keep the number of a licensed plumber or tradesperson on hand for ideas!

Fill the gaps and set the traps! We aren’t the only ones who seek shelter when the cold weather arrives. Keep unwelcome pests from moving in and causing damage with a full foundation examination. Get low and look for cracks, holes or loose spots where mice and moles can sneak in. Fill visible holes with steel wool and seal with caulking or spray foam to keep your home secure from unwanted furry visitors. You can also set traps at suspected entry points to keep infestations at bay if a few critters have successfully breached the perimeter (both traditional and humane traps can be found at most local hardware stores). If foundation cracks are significant or you’re worried about structural integrity, contact a licensed repair company for an inspection and to complete necessary repairs. As an added bonus, fixing your foundation will also prevent springtime basement leaks and prolong the life of your home.

Protecting the integrity and value in your home is always a worthwhile task. Combining these tips with your annual cleanup and maintenance plan will help give you and your family a safe, happy and healthy fall season. Get to work, and reward yourself with a tour of Ontario’s beautiful foliage and a cup of something hot to go with that feeling of accomplishment!