Summer is officially over, and that means that winter weather is on its way. It is important to double-check your home’s structural and safety features before the first big winter storm. Here’s a checklist to help you get started.

Clean the Gutters.

It’s no one’s favorite job, but clean, clear gutters are the foundation of a good drainage system. Every year, your roof’s gutters divert hundreds of gallons of water off your roof and away from your home’s foundation walls. Clogged gutters can lead to a host of problems: everything from water in your basement to rust and corrosion on the gutters themselves. Cover your gutters with mesh before the leaves start to fall, or hire someone to clean them out once most leaves have come down.

Check Your Steps, Sidewalks, and Drive.

Damaged walkways, driveways, and stairs are dangerous year-round, but they pose a much greater threat in the winter. Disintegrating asphalt can damage shovels, snow blowers, and plows, while uneven sidewalks or footpaths are harder to keep clear of ice.

During your check, keep an eye out for cracks more than 1/8 of an inch wide, uneven sections of pavement, loose railings or steps, and the disintegration of asphalt.

A confident do-it-yourselfer can probably take care of most smaller jobs, but turn to the professionals if you see a bigger problem.

Have Your Heating System Inspected.

It’s a good idea to have your heating system inspected by a professional once every year or eighteen months. To avoid any rush or delays, book your inspection for early fall, before the heating season begins.

Make sure to watch for these warning signs:

  • Noisy Belts: If you hear unusual whining noises from your heater, it may be a sign that the belts connected to the blower motor are damaged.
  • Too Little Heat: A heating system that doesn’t seem to be working as well as it did in earlier years is usually a sign of a problem. Make sure your furnace filter is clean, and call in a professional if the problem persists.

Check Your Warning Systems.

Replace the batteries in each of your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors as part of your fall clean-up. Once you seal up your house for wintertime, it becomes even more important to have these detectors functioning correctly. Make sure there is a smoke detector on every floor of your home, including in the basement.

Also make sure your fire extinguisher is up-to-date. Check the indicator on the pressure gauge to make sure the extinguisher is charged. Also check that the lock pin is intact and fully in place and that the discharge nozzle is clear. At a minimum, you should have one fire extinguisher in or near your kitchen; having one per floor is never a bad idea.

Clear Out Debris.

If you live in a home with a yard, take time to rake your leaves, prune back your bushes, or do other maintenance to keep the yard and paths clear. This will help you clean up snow and ice and decrease the chance of wind damage during winter storms.

Also take the chance to clear out any old flammable materials or chemicals you have inside your home. This cuts down on the likelihood of anything dangerous happening over the winder.