Autumn is a season of serene scenery; crimson and amber leaves; ethereal, low morning fog; crisp blue skies that have lost the haze of summer. But for all its beauty, as a mass of leaves begin to fall and temperatures start to plummet, the season of autumn can spell disaster for any unprepared domestic cave. Fear not: follow these simple steps to autumn-proof your home this season.
1. Keep that lawn alive
As the trees begin to shed their foliage, your lawn will soon become completely submerged by a sea of fallen leaves. As these begin to rot, they form a thick, heavy blanket over the grass, preventing it from getting the sunlight that it needs to thrive. Instead of simply raking the leaves up, utilise them as a natural fertilizer by breaking them down with a mulching lawnmower: the leaves will be shredded into tiny pieces which will quickly decompose without damaging the grass, fertilising the lawn in the process.
2. Prevent damage to your outside tap
Autumn heralds the onset of cooler weather; with little to no warning, the temperature can plummet to below zero overnight. As the water inside a garden tap freezes, it expands: this can crack the pipe which lies inside the tap. To prevent this, invest in an insulated tap cover and ensure that it is in place before the subzero temperatures descend.
3. Get the roof into shape
With the cooler temperatures putting a strain on the exterior of your house as ice sets in, autumn is the last chance to ensure that your roof is fit to withstand the approaching winter weather. Thick sections of ice can create ‘dams’ on the roof, which trap water as hail and snow melt due to the warmth of central heating in your house. This water will leak into any crevices - namely loose or cracked roof tiles. With blustery autumnal winds creating the added risk of roof damage from fallen branches, it is important to be extra vigilant throughout this season: take the opportunity to repair any loose roof tiles before dense ice, snow and hail make an unwelcome appearance.
4. Inspect your fireplace
As you begin to stock up on dry logs in preparation for lighting a crackling fire, be sure to inspect the fireplace before lighting it. Each time you burn a wood fire, creosote gradually forms. This is a highly flammable compound: if left to build up, it can ignite from flames in the fireplace, resulting in a chimney fire. Get ahead and ensure that your chimney is professionally cleaned before you need to start using it again. Likewise, ensure that the firewood you stock up on is a dense wood, such as oak, as opposed to softer woods like pine: softer woods lead to a faster buildup of creosote.
Throughout the year, your home goes through wear and tear. However, it is in the colder months that you will notice these the most: shrinking or cracked seals around windows and doors result in chilly drafts, and also reduce the effectiveness of your insulation as heat escapes through these gaps. Repair the seal with foam or caulk which expands to fill the gap: this is a quick, simple and cheap solution, and the results last for years when done correctly.
6. Protect plants
As cooler temperatures arrive, many outdoor pot plants can begin to suffer. If you don’t have a greenhouse, bring the plants in overnight and then return them to the garden the following morning: this lessens the shock for the plant, as dramatic temperature increase or decrease can lead to leaf loss or death. Use caution when bringing in plants, though: ensure that you don’t introduce unwanted visitors into your house by inspecting the plants for insects - hose these off, or use an insecticide spray if this is not 100% effective.
7. Declutter the gutter
Leaking gutters are the most common cause of isolated damp in homes. Blockages in gutters and downpipes, which result from a build up of of debris including moss and fallen leaves, can lead to such leaks. When the majority of the autumn leaves have fallen, take this opportunity to assess your gutters: if the gutter appears to be ‘sagging’ it is filled with heavy debris. Likewise, if water runs down the side of your house when it is raining the gutter is overflowing or leaking, and is thereby not doing its job. Be sure to get gutters cleaned once a year at the end of autumn - ideally by a professional - to ensure that your home does not experience issues with damp throughout the cold winter months.
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