Cooler weather has arrived, but there are still some wonderful fall days ahead to get outside and accomplish something useful. Even if it’s chilly, think of the damage to your home that you’re preventing — and how cozy it will feel when you get back inside.
Here are nine home maintenance tasks you should take care of in November.
Clean gutters and downspouts. Clogged gutters and downspouts prevent rain and melting snow from draining safely away, and they let water wick up underneath the roofing, causing the trim boards or even roof sheathing to rot.
If you have a multistory house, are on a slope, or aren’t comfortable working on a ladder, hire a gutter-cleaning company. Make sure it has insurance.
If you have a one-story house and are comfortable working on a ladder, you can probably do the work in an hour or two. Start at the end farthest from the downspout, so any leaves over the downspout can keep more debris from flowing into it as you clean.
If you can’t get a ladder close to a section, perhaps because a shrub is in the way, get a stick to extend your reach. Use it to pull leaves toward you. Don’t fling the debris onto the ground; dump the bits into a bucket, so you don’t have to clean up later. If necessary, disassemble downspouts to clean them.
Check exterior handrails and steps. With days growing shorter, people will be frequently coming and going from your house in the dark. That, combined with slippery surfaces in damp weather, increases the chances of people falling.
Make sure exterior handrails are secured and easy to use. Bigger screws might be enough to tighten a wobbly connection between a rail and its support brackets. If the rail is splintered, sand it smooth or replace it; it’s probably too late in the season to paint.
Prune shrubs that cascade over handrails. If steps are slippery, consider adding traction tape, which has sandpaper-like grit on top. Some types come with a reflective strip — a safety bonus.
Improve outdoor lighting. Ensure that walkways are safely lit. Solar lights with built-in battery-charging panels require no wiring, so they are simple to install. They work even in winter if they get enough sunlight. On the shady side of a house or in areas where winter skies are often cloudy, outdoor LED string lights can be a better solution, provided you have an outlet nearby. Before you shop, measure the distance you need. If a single string isn’t long enough, buy ones that can be linked. The maximum run of linked strings depends on the wire thickness.
Clean carpets. Carpet cleaners available for rent at grocery stores and home centers aren’t as powerful as the equipment professionals use, but they can make a huge improvement — and the price is right. Home Depot charges $26 for four hours or $37 for a full day, plus cleaning solution. Be careful to follow the directions so you don’t drench your carpet.
A professional cleaning averages about $177, according to a 2021 update on angi.com, a website that links consumers and service providers. Rather than paying every time you want your carpets cleaned, consider buying your own machine, which could run from about $100 to more than $400, depending on the model.
Insulate pipes. Besides helping to prevent freezing, which could cause the pipes to burst, insulation keeps the water in hot-water lines hotter and helps prevent condensation on cold-water lines in the summer. Hardware stores and home centers sell foam tubes that are easy to install. Measure the diameter of your pipes before you shop.
To install, just open the lengthwise slit on the tube and slip it over the pipe. If there is a crease but no slit, carefully cut along the crease first. Some types come with tape attached to seal over the slit once the tube is in place. Where necessary, cut the foam to length with scissors.
Inspect gaskets on wood stoves and fireplace inserts. If you burn wood, have a certified chimney sweeper clean the chimney and inspect the fireplace annually. If you have a fireplace insert or a wood stove, also check the gasket around the door. If it’s frayed or loose, replace it when the fireplace is cold. Take the old piece with you to a hardware store or fireplace shop, so you can buy replacement cords of the same diameter. Also get a container of the cement that holds the gasket in place. Chip out the gunk before you install the new piece.
Clean the hearth. Keep a whisk broom and dust pan in an attractive basket near the fireplace so you can clean up each time you add wood. Empty the pan into the fire, which is safer than dumping stray embers into a wastebasket or vacuuming them up.
Clean and stow your mower. Plug-in electric mowers just need cleaning. Turn the mower on its side to remove leaves matted around the blade, and wipe off the exterior.
If you have an electric mower with a rechargeable battery, store the mower (or just the battery, if it’s removable) where the temperature stays within the range the manufacturer recommends, usually 40 to 80 degrees. Check the manual or look online to see whether your model should be recharged periodically while it’s in storage.
Gas mowers need protection against corrosion. Standard gasoline contains ethanol, which can gum up the motor and cause parts to rust if left in the machine all winter. To prevent an expensive repair bill in the spring, some homeowners drain their mower of fuel. It’s easier and probably better to mow until the motor runs out, then add fresh fuel with a good-quality fuel stabilizer. Let the machine run for about five minutes to make sure the stabilizer gets to the carburetor.
Clean or replace chair protectors. When people scoot chairs in and out over hardwood, tile, vinyl or linoleum, any grit under the chair legs functions like sandpaper and scratches the flooring. Add protectors to any bare legs on scratch-prone floors, and replace those with grit embedded. Adhesive-backed pads are easiest to apply but are prone to coming loose on some chair legs. If that happens, get nail-on pads.