DIY expert breaks down the home projects you should be doing right now

‘Drastic dips in temperatures can put excess strain on the home’

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Fall is a time for pumpkin spice lattes, falling leaves and warm chats by the fire.

But, it’s also unfortunately a time for yard work. From raking leaves to cleaning out the gutters, there is a lot to do. Hippo’s home insights expert, Courtney Klosterman, shared some amazing DIY tips with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution to make it all easier on homeowners this year.

“The fall season is a great time to get ahead of home care and other upgrades to prevent unexpected repairs and aggravation on our homes as cooler temperatures set in,” Klosterman said. “Think of the fall season as one of the best times to complete a physical checkup for your home. In the same way you go to your doctor for a routine physical or bring your car into the auto shop for a tune-up, give your home the tune-up it needs before winter hits.”

It all comes down to being proactive to protect your home from future damage, as the winter can take a toll on your house.

“This means preventing home hazards by servicing critical systems — think HVAC units and water heaters — and completing other home maintenance tasks, such as cleaning gutters and wrapping pipes, to help protect your home from unexpected repairs that lead to unwanted stress and costs,” she said.

While Atlanta is not known for its frigid winters, fall cold can still be damaging to your home.

“Drastic dips in temperatures can put excess strain on the home,” she said. “During the fall, many parts of the country, including Atlanta, may experience their first morning frost of the season, showing signs that cooler winter weather is right around the corner. Prepare early to prevent repairs that come with cooler weather. For instance, wrap pipes early to help prevent the more than $5,000 in water damage it can cost in repairs for burst pipes, according to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety. Furnace repairs cost nearly $300, on average. Roof damage from overhanging tree limbs can cost several thousand dollars to repair. As wind speeds pick up during the fall with cooling weather, cut back longer branches that extend over your home or other structures on your property. This will not only help maintain your tree health, but prevent any damages from fallen limbs during storms.”

Klosterman expanded on Hippo’s seasonal home maintenance checklist with a checklist of her own. Check out what you can do to protect your Atlanta home from the coming cold within the checklist down below, as provided by Hippo’s home insights expert.

Clean your gutters

“Clear out rain gutters. Remove leaves and other outdoor elements in your rain gutters to ensure proper drainage during the next storm,” Klosterman said.

Patch and repair leaks

“During the fall season, check the roof as well as the basement or bottom floor baseboards for leaks and patch up holes before they lead to water damage,” Klosterman said.

Rethink your entryway

“Take a quick minute to rearrange and make your entryway more Autumn-worthy by making sure there is a place for a heavy rug and boot scraper outside and slip-proof mats inside to wipe shoes, a place to sit and take off any winter footwear and a place to store them,” Klosterman said. “Then make sure your coat rack is up to the challenge of extra-heavy coats and hats being hung on it and that your wet umbrellas have a proper place so they won’t drip onto the floor. Lastly, protect entryway flooring by laying down a rug that can take a bit of seasonal abuse.”

Deep clean carpets

“Carpets insulate and keep rooms warm and cozy, but the signs of mold can creep into your home completely unnoticed, and in the damper fall and winter months, it can be normal to experience increases,” ,” Klosterman said. “Use (or rent) a carpet extraction cleaner to do a thorough deep cleaning of your floors to help remove any dirt and debris as well as suck up any excess moisture before the really wet season starts.”

Change out HVAC filter

“A dirty HVAC filter is an easy fix to reduce wear and tear on your unit and prevent it from overworking and driving the bill up,” ,” Klosterman said. “The filter will turn a light brown color and, if not changed regularly, can also lead to health concerns. An easy fix is to swap these filters out with new ones every season change to proactively maintain your heating and cooling system. This ensures the air in your home is clean, especially when it’s more comfortable to have all the windows and doors closed.”

Clean and ready the fireplace

“After sitting dormant through the spring and summer months, checking the fireplace before lighting your first fire can prevent potential hazards like smoke from entering your home,” Klosterman said. “You can handle cleaning the fireplace yourself with a dust broom, dustpan, and a bucket, but if you think your chimney needs servicing, it takes this project difficulty from a 2 to a 10 quickly. You can do it yourself, but a professional not only has an expert eye but also the heavy-duty prep, cleaning and safety equipment needed to do the job properly.”

Seal any drafts, and don’t forget to clean the weep holes

“Weep holes are a row of tiny holes at the bottom of your window frame on the outside,” ,” Klosterman said. “Their purpose is to provide drainage for water that may leak inside the window’s channel. Use an unbent paper clip to clear debris out of the weep holes whenever you are doing seasonal maintenance, spring and fall. Have you been noticing breezes where there shouldn’t be any? You may need additional weatherstripping or caulking to keep out the cold winter air.”

Flush hot water heater

“Hot water is a luxury none of us want to go without, especially during the cooler months,” Klosterman said. “That’s why taking care of this hard-working appliance is essential and easy once you have done it a few times (but can also be delegated to a professional because it is a detailed process). Take your time to research how to handle this on your unit because each has its own best practices, or as mentioned before, an expert is always a quick call away to help with routine maintenance.”

Pipe prep

“Pipes located in areas without proper insulation, like basements or attics, could probably use some extra insulation to keep from freezing,” Klosterman said. “It’s better to do this chore way before the freezing comes; weather like that tends to keep a homeowner busy enough. Fitting with foam rubber or fiberglass sleeves can help decrease the chances of your pipes freezing. Extra insulation can be an easy solution for exposed pipes. Adding insulation to walls and ceilings can also work to keep the pipes warm. Insulation keeps a pipe close to the water temperature inside the pipe. Quick note, insulation won’t stop the pipe from freezing in freezing temperatures for a prolonged time.”

According to Klosterman, preparation now can save a number of house headaches in the future — making it well worth all of the effort.

“Let preparation be your main focus throughout all of fall, as the extreme weather during upcoming winter months can cause severe damage to your home if not taken into account ahead of time,” ,” Klosterman said. “The steady temperatures of the season allow for ample time to finish up renovation projects and complete the few fall tasks required.

“About one in 50 insured homes has a property damage claim caused by water damage or freezing each year (source: Insurance Information Institute). Find the right home insurance provider that provides the tools and resources to prevent damage so that you can focus on enjoying your homeownership experience.”