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Answering all those burning questions you didn’t know you had about home ownership.

Exterior Fall Maintenance

Picture of Jessica Dabkowski

Jessica Dabkowski

Helping you with all things homeownership!

Last week, I covered all the interior items to check off your fall maintenance list. This week in Part 2, we’re covering exterior fall maintenance so we can be holistic and thorough.

Cooler days are here, and I’m ready for those 60 degree and sunny days! Use the weather to your advantage and complete some of these outdoor tasks during the more temperate weather days.


Clean out gutters and downspouts of leaves and debris. It’s Michigan, so if you have trees around your home, you may have to do this task more than once in the fall. (Congratulations!)

One of my favorite home inspectors insists that the best method to clean out your cutter is to drag your leaf blower up there and just blow the leaves out on a dry day. I’ve never tried it, but I thought I’d pass his methodology along.

Blocked gutters can cause water damage to your home at any time of the year. During fall rains and winter thaws, you want that water whisked away from your home. The gutters can’t do their job if they are clogged up.


Walk around your home and verify that drains are all attached to the downspouts. Great. Now, are the drains all pointed away from the home and emptying at a point that allows water to move way from the house? That’s what you want.

If you have any drains dumping onto pavement, take a look to see if you can re-route them. If not, it might make sense to consider burying that particular spout. Water running onto pavement is going to (1) create potentially icy conditions, and (2) degrade the pavement over time. You’ll want to take care of this issue if you spot it.

Remember! Water is the #1 enemy of your home. It’s extremely important to look for water issues as you work through your exterior fall maintenance.

Sprinklers and Faucets

Drain your outdoor faucets and put away your hose. If you leave the hose outside during the winter, you will probably have a non-functioning hose come spring.

Blow out your sprinkler system with an air compressor. This is an easy DIY with a YouTube video consult. Or you can take a page out of The Mathematician’s book and just chase down a sprinkler guy when he’s blowing out the neighbor’s lines.

The Roof

Inspect your roof for any damage to shingles, and double check seals around vents and chimney to prevent any leaks. You probably don’t want to get up there, but at least take a look from the ground and make sure nothing looks wonky, missing or discolored. If it needs a closer look, call in a pro.

Cement & Cinderblocks

Take a walk around your foundation. Do you see any holes, damage or cracks? Now is the time to seal foundation cracks to prevent mice, insects or other creepy critters from sneaking in. It’s much easier to plug a hole now than to deal with a mice infestation in February.

Inspect your driveway for cracks. Seal it now to prevent winter damage. Add a note to your calendar for March to call a professional if you have major problems in need of professional help.


Rake leaves regularly in your yard so you aren’t overwhelmed with one big job at the end of the season. Also, your neighbors will detest you if all your leaves are blowing into their recently raked yards!

Check your community’s leaf pick-up services, requirements, and schedule. Some cities, like City of Plymouth, let you rake them into the street and the machine comes and slurps them all up. Other municipalities require you to bag them into yard bags. If you are a composter, you may want to throw some of leaves onto your compost pile to enrich the composition.


Remove and weed any dead plants, especially those summer and early fall annuals. You just want to get them out of the way now. (See how I wrote that with complete confidence, almost like I haven’t killed every house plant I have ever owned?)

Prune shrubs before they go dormant. My boxwoods still look like Harry Potter’s hair, but I know my time is up because those have to trimmed by early October to prevent the bushes from becoming damaged by trimming too close to the frost.

Me, tackling the boxwoods.

Cut back perennials; divide and transplant as needed.

Aerate, fertilize, and seed your lawn as needed in early fall. This category is another one that is easy and cost effective to outsource. We use NatureWay for our fertilizing, and it has been a good experience. I pay for the year in advance, and they just show up on schedule (like magic).

Plant bulbs now for springtime flowers. You can plant them as soon as the ground is cool, when evening temperatures average between 40° – 50°F.

Check out Pinterest or gardening sites for some ideas for your garden. Perennial flowers are less costly and time consuming in the long run, making your yard look nice with less work each year.

Tree Hugging

Trim tree branches that hang too close to your home or electrical wires. You don’t want any surprises during a storm so hire a professional company to care for your trees and trim where necessary. They can also evaluate your trees to see if your trees need any additional love and care to live a long healthy life.

For example, we have two very large trees in our front yard that sit on the edge of a drainage ditch. Our tree service recommended a root treatment to do some voodoo and make the tree focus on strengthening its roots rather than growing itself taller. We want these trees to last forever, so we decided to go that direction.

Outdoor Spaces

You will want to clean your deck furniture before putting it away for the winter. If your cushions have removable cushion covers, you can usually machine wash those to clean them. If not, YouTube is full of videos on how to scrub them out.

Don’t forget to scrub your furniture covers as well if you have those. A bucket, dish soap and scrub brush work wonders.

Power Failures & Severe Weather

Winter power outages are no joke. Review your emergency stash – check out this article if you need ideas. At a minimum, you want to have flashlights, batteries, candles, and matches in easy-to-reach locations. Get battery operated candles if you are worried about matches and small children!

Keep extra water bottles, nonperishable food (for Fido too!), blankets and necessary medications on hand.

All it takes is one crazy scenario to bring down the power.

Find the phone numbers for your utility companies and add them to your contact list or download the app. Subscribe to any alert apps/text services that your community provides. You can usually find information on these alerts on your locality’s website.

If you have a generator, make sure your setup is in good working order and you have any required supplies (e.g. gasoline).


Snow shovel. You don’t want to be the person who’s in Home Depot buying the shovel after the snow storm. One time at Home Depot in Verona, WI, we had an enormous early season snowstorm. I was working as a cashier, on the 6 a.m. shift. Of course, because of the storm, I was the only cashier who showed up.

I am pretty sure I sold every single snow shovel and roof rake we had in the store before 9 a.m. Every person who came in after 9 a.m. was mad as hell that we didn’t have any shovels left. (I’d like to point out I had no idea what a roof rake was prior to this job. It’s exactly what it sounds like except you use it to rake snow off the roof.)

The Mathematician was gifted a variant of this type of shovel two years ago (thanks, G!). He absolutely loves it. It has cut his shoveling load in half.

Snow Melt / Sand. Avoid the salt if you can; it is so incredibly rough on our roads and our environment. Stock up now so you don’t get caught unawares.

Okay, that wraps up part 2 of Fall Maintenance. Now is a good time to look at your calendar and schedule some of these must-do projects over the next couple of months.

As always, I’m here to help with all your home ownership questions. Reach out if I can help you with any questions or resources.

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