Whether you’re one of the Chicagoans who lives for summer, or you can’t wait to enjoy the fall season, it’s important to get your property ready for the cold days and serious weather still to come. 

There’s a lot of beauty that comes along with autumn in Chicagoland. The changing leaves, the crisp air, the fields full of pumpkins… The list goes on. But as you take your kids out Halloween shopping and prepare that first batch of warm apple cider, it’s also important to keep the maintenance of your property in mind. 

As the days grow shorter and the winds get colder, conducting some end-of-summer upkeep can help make sure your family stays safe and secure as we slowly but surely head for winter — while also increasing your home’s efficiency and allowing you to save some money down the line. 

The shift from summer to fall may not be as harsh as the annual winter thaw, but there are still a few key maintenance tasks to add to your to-do list at this time of year. Here are a few simple steps you can take to prepare your property for fall:

1.) Clean out the gutters

Regularly cleaning out your home’s gutters and drainage systems is important throughout the year. Though you may have cleared out your home’s gutters back at the beginning of the summer, it’s important to take another look as the weather starts to change. Over the course of the fall, water can back up in your home’s gutters, pipes, and spouts, particularly if there’s still “summer debris” left over from earlier in the year. 

At the end of the summer, take some time to remove any leaves, twigs, and other debris from the gutters and try running water from a garden hose through each gutter and spout to ensure water is flowing freely and safely away from the house. Throughout the season, be sure to regularly remove any fallen leaves or other debris that may be gathering in your gutters and spouts. 

It’s important to make sure that there’s a clear flow of water through your home’s gutters and downspouts. Regularly cleaning out obstructions can allow water to pass through seamlessly. On the other hand, allowing blockages to form in your home’s gutter systems can cause water to spill out or seep down the outside of your home, or pool around the foundation — which can cause serious damage over time and even, in a worst case scenario, cause water to flow back inside and flood your house! 

2.) Check on your home’s HVAC system

Chicagoans are all-too-familiar with unpredictable weather. From cold nights in early June to sweltering heat late into October days, there’s often no telling what you’re in for, even in the fall or winter months. 

With this in mind, as summer gives way to autumn, be sure to take some time to check up on your home’s HVAC systems, including your air conditioner and your heating system. 

At the end of the summer, give your air conditioner a final look, to make sure it’s still in prime working condition after the sweltering heat of the last few months. During the unpredictable early days of fall, you’re also going to want to take care to be careful running your AC. So, for instance, on an unexpectedly hot fall day, you may still want to think twice about running the air conditioning system. Why? Broadly speaking, air conditioning systems are designed to “operate within a relatively narrow range of temperatures,” as Hunker has noted, so when the temperature drops below the minimum designed for the system, the compressor strains to compensate and can become seriously damaged. The best bet during these annoying days when the temperature vacillates is to cool down by opening the windows or running fans, to protect your systems and keep them operating efficiently. 

Just as important as making sure your AC has made it through a hot Chicago summer? Have an expert come in to inspect and, if necessary, service your home’s heating elements, before the chilly weather really has the chance to settle in. You don’t want to wait until a frigid day to learn whether or not your home’s furnace, radiators, ducts, or forced air heating systems will be able to keep you safe and comfortable. 

And don’t forget to take regular steps to keep your home’s HVAC systems running at their peak. Regularly clean your vents and swap out or clean your air filters, to make sure your heating and cooling systems are operating efficiently and your family can breathe easily, all year round. 

3.) Check and change your home’s safety devices

One of the easiest and most important steps you can take to keep your household safe is to regularly inspect your home’s smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and change out their batteries as necessary. 

Did you know that dead batteries were responsible for 25% of smoke alarm failures in 2015-2016? In addition to fully replacing your home’s smoke alarms every ten years, you should also change their batteries every six months. You should change the batteries in your home’s carbon monoxide detectors just as regularly, as well as replacing the device entirely every five to seven years.If your detector has no date and/or you can’t recall when you bought it, you may be due for an upgrade

If it helps, you can make checking and updating your household safety devices part of your routine for “springing forward” or “falling back.” That is to say that when you update your clocks for daylight savings time twice a year, take some time to test your smoke alarms and detectors, as well. It’s a simple step that could make a big difference.  

4.) Trim back trees and shrubs from summer growth

The summer months can bring beautiful and luscious foliage to your Chicago home. It’s important, though, to keep up with your landscaping, particularly as the weather starts to transition from warm and sultry to cool and crisp. 

In addition to lowering the curb appeal of your property, having overgrown or unkempt plants and trees can cause serious damage to your home over time. Roots and branches can tangle with septic pipes and gas lines, or pose a risk to the power lines around your home. Similarly, old or overgrown trees buffeted by heavy winds or weighed down by snow can crack and break, causing damage to your home right when you most need shelter from the elements. 

At the beginning of fall, take some time to trim back dead branches or extensive overgrowth, to avoid the risk of damage from upcoming winter storms. It may help to bring in an expert, to help identify dead trees or find growth that could pose a risk to your home’s systems over time. 

5.) Clean the humidifier

Coming off a hot and sweaty summer, plenty of us start to actively flinch at the word “humidity.” After a summer spent trying to avoid humid conditions, it’s easy to overlook the importance of bringing a little moisture into your home during the fall and winter. 

When preparing your home for cold weather, it’s actually important to bring some humidity into the house, as the temperatures drop and the air becomes more dry. Indoor heating systems may keep you warm during those subzero Chicago winters, but the forced air can also dry out your skin, eyes, lips, and negatively impact your overall health

Generally speaking, experts recommend aiming for maintaining humidity levels around 30-50% in your home. If you use a humidifier, it’s important to keep this device clean, as unclean humidifiers can breed mold, bacteria, and other germs hazardous to your health. Unplug your humidifier before cleaning and empty, rinse, and dry the base every day. Be sure to regularly check on any filters or cartridges and disinfect regularly, in line with manufacturer’s instructions, to get rid of any built-up debris. 

What to Expect with Windy City Home Inspection

Whether you’re buying a property, selling a property, or just need information on the best ways to maintain your property, Windy City Home Inspection as an inspection for you.

With Windy City, you can expect a competent, thorough inspection that covers all the bases and keeps you informed about any details you need to know. The inspectors at Windy City Home Inspection, Inc. are licensed by the State of Illinois, certified, and insured. Each home inspection is backed by our Warranty and Protection Plan. Furthermore, we pride ourselves on our superior customer service. If you ever have questions, even years after your home inspection, we will be here to answer them — even if it means returning to your home.

At Windy City Home Inspection, Inc., we perform inspections to the highest standards – yours. Backed by a consulting team with more than 60 years of experience, Windy City Home Inspection is committed to excellence. Have a question? Let us help.