Prepare home for coming cold weather

Although fall officially “fell” three weeks ago, our local weather ignored the calendar. After weeks of three-digit post-summer temperatures, we’re finally able to break out the fall wardrobe and enjoy a nip in the air.

As a home improvement/DIY pro, the changing time of year signals to me season-appropriate maintenance for the interior and exterior of my home. I especially like to knock these projects out of the way so when the holidays come, my home is ready. Here’s a season savvy DIY list I’ve compiled to help prepare us for the fall/winter.

■ Insulate exterior pipes and hose bibs. My first winter in Boulder City I was shocked when early one morning I went to turn my water on and nothing happened because my pipes had frozen. Freezes happen here, albeit not often, but it only takes that one time.

Many types of insulation and covers are available. I especially like the tubular foam or rubber self-sealing type as opposed to messing with fiberglass. You’ll need to know pipe size and use rubber tape to seal between lengths.

■ Clean your barbecue. Barbecues see a lot of action over the summer. Accumulated grease will attract pests and can clog and damage parts. Clean out the drip pan, take apart the grills, heating plate, etc., and scrub everything down. Use a degreaser like Simple Green Heavy-Duty BBQ &Grill Cleaner and a hard bristle brush. Soak parts if necessary.

Be mindful of your work surface; grease can stain and parts can mar. Replace the battery to the electronic ignition (unscrew the ignition button). If you don’t use your barbecue during the winter, disconnect the gas/propane line and remove the ignition battery.

■ Clean gutters and patio covers. Clear overhangs, gutters and drains of debris to ensure that rainwater ends up where it’s supposed to. Start near the downspout, and use a narrow trowel or gutter scooper to scoop out the big stuff. Flush with a hose; a gutter spray wand is helpful (around $25). If you live in an area with many trees, consider installing gutter mesh to reduce buildup.

■ Clean window screens. Now that the weather is cool enough to keep windows open, clean screens will assure the air isn’t carrying in built-up dirt, pollen, etc. They’ll also be more transparent and prettier.

Removing screens depends on your window type; there’s often a pull-tab. Remove your screens gingerly, remembering which goes where. Find an outdoor workspace, hose them down, then with an environmentally safe all-purpose cleaner and a soft brush, gently scrub each side. Rinse and let air dry.

■ Tidy your yard and garden. Cut back perennials and trim overgrown vegetation. Pull out annuals and vegetable plants. Dead vegetation left in the garden can become a haven for insects, fungus and disease. Do not store firewood up against your house. I made that mistake many years ago and came home to an infestation of carpenter ants whose nest was found under a stack of wood on the side of my house.

■ Change air filters and reverse fans. Start the fall season with clean air filters to optimize your heating system and help prevent interior air from becoming stuffy. Dust off grills and registers. Ceiling fan direction should be put in reverse or clockwise to circulate air without feeling the downward breeze. There’s usually a switch on the motor housing or on the remote.

■ Professional HVAC check. Before turning on the heat, now is a good time to have a pro come in for an annual system check. Do this before cold weather sets in so you’re not faced with a no-heat crisis when you really need it. I also recommend having a pro check your chimney for any leaks or blockage.

A seasoned veteran of home improvement, Norma Vally’s career includes four seasons as host of Discovery Home Channel’s Emmy-nominated series “Toolbelt Diva.” A columnist and author, Vally splits her time in Southern Nevada, Los Angeles and New York City. Follow her on Facebook at Norma Vally “Toolbelt Diva” and visit her at Email

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