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Fall is officially here, and that means it's time to get started on your fall maintenance list. It's much easier to get this stuff done while it's still pleasant outside, so don't put these projects off until we have more snow in the weather forecast.

This fall maintenance list was originally compiled by our very own Duane Erickson and has been added onto numerous times over the past several years. We post this same fall maintenance list every year, and we modify it just a bit every year with new and updated information.

Fall maintenance - winterize faucets


Disconnect any garden hoses.

  • If the exterior faucets are not frost free, drain the water out. See How to Prevent Your Outside Faucets from Freezing. This post also shows how to determine if faucets are frost-free or not.
  • Remove any pond pumps and store the pump in your basement in a 5-gallon bucket filled with water. This will help to prevent the seals from drying out.
  • If you have a utility sink in your garage, drain the water out of the pipes and dump some RV anti-freeze into the drain.
  • If you have a lawn sprinkler system (aka "irrigation system") it needs to be drained and blown out with compressed air. Hire a pro to do this.
    • Side note: If you hire a pro and they tell you that your existing system also needs to have the backflow preventer tested, please check out what the real requirements are for yourself: New backflow preventer testing requirements for Minnesota. Only new installations must be tested annually.

fall maintenance - clean air intake


  • Clean the combustion air or makeup air intake vents.
  • If an air exchange system is present, such as a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) or energy recovery ventilator (ERV), clean it. Regular maintenance items for an HRV include cleaning the exterior intake, the filters, and the core. See HRV maintenance.
  • Clean the clothes dryer duct. The damper at the exterior should move freely and close properly. See dryer duct maintenance.
  • Check the bathroom and kitchen exhaust dampers for wasp nests. Nests in these terminals will prevent the dampers from openings.  See Bath Fan Terminal Inspections.



  • Clean the soffit vents.  These can get clogged up with lint, dust, insulation, and paint.  They’re located under the roof overhangs.
  • Check the roof vents for bird nests. They can typically be seen from the ground.
  • Clean the gutters after all the leaves have fallen.
  • If the downspouts or sump pumps drain into an underground system, re-direct them to drain to the ground surface when feasible. See Sump Pump Discharge.


Air Conditioner

  • Outdoor covers are NOT necessary. If a cover is used, it should be the type that only covers the top, not a full enclosure.
  • If the furnace or water heater vent blows exhaust gas onto the air conditioner, a plastic cover can be used to shield the air conditioner from the corrosive exhaust gases.
  • Don’t cover heat pumps. Heat pumps are not common in Minnesota.


General Exterior

  • Seal any gaps around the home 'envelope'; check for loose or dried out caulking around pipes, ducts, faucets, air conditioner refrigerant lines, etc. While this is the most generic piece of fall maintenance advice, it's still smart to do this before winter.
  • Replace any damaged or worn weatherstripping around windows and doors.


Smoke / CO Alarms

  • Smoke alarms should be located inside every bedroom, and one in a common area on every level.
  • If you don't have photoelectric smoke alarms in your home, add them.  This is a big deal.  If you don't know what type you have, you probably don't have photoelectric.
  • CO alarms should be located within ten feet of every sleeping room, but not in furnace rooms, kitchens, or garages.
  • Replace the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms and test them using the built-in test buttons.
  • Check the age of your smoke and CO alarms; smoke alarms are good for up to ten years, CO alarms are good for between five and ten years.  If they’re any older, replace them.


Furnace / Boiler

  • Have a professional furnace or boiler tune-up performed annually.  See Are Annual Furnace Inspections Really Necessary?
  • Replace the batteries in your thermostat.  If your thermostat fails while you're on vacation, you might come home to a winter wonderland.
  • Clean or replace the furnace filter - this should usually be done every one to three months, depending on the type of filter.  The arrow on the filter should point toward the furnace.



  • Have the flues professionally cleaned on any wood burning fireplaces if they get used regularly; every 30 - 50 fires is a good rule of thumb.
  • Avoid burning any woods that are not hard and dry.
  • Clean the dust out of the bottoms of any gas fireplace inserts.
  • If you have a gas log installed in a wood burning fireplace with an adjustable damper, make sure there is a damper stop installed to prevent the damper from getting closed all the way.  See My Beef With Old Gas Log Fireplaces.

Last but not least, Duane says "Cuddle, stay warm, and safe sledding."

Author: Reuben SaltzmanStructure Tech Home Inspections


Cougar Paws: these boots are made for walkin' (roofs)

For anyone in any type of business who regularly walks sloped roofs, I recommend getting a pair of boots that are made for the job. They're called Cougar Paws, and they're not your everyday work boot; they're designed specifically for walking sloped roofs, and the bottoms are made from the same stuff that Spider-Man has on the bottom of his feet.

Cougar Paws Estimator Boots

After just one use on an asphalt shingle roof, you'll swear you're Spider-Man. I've been using the Cougar Paws Estimator Boots for just over a year now, and I'm completely sold on them. They make tougher versions of this boot, but I don't need them for home inspections.

When to use them

I suppose it would be safest to use these boots every time a roof is walked, but let's be honest, switching shoes takes time. Nobody who walks roofs as part of their profession is going to bat an eye at a 4:12 or even a 6:12 roof; heck, I'd feel comfortable walking those roofs in dress shoes. Maybe.

Side note: roof slope, aka pitch, is measured in rise over run.  For example, a roof with a 6:12 pitch will have 6" of rise for every 12" of run, making for a 22.5 degree incline.  A 12:12 roof will have a 45 degree incline.  To determine roof pitch, check out Pitch Gauge, a free app for Android or iPhone.

For slopes greater than 6:12, Cougar Paws are worth the time it takes to switch shoes. Just for the heck of it, I tried these shoes on a 12:12 roof the other day, and I scampered right up without any problem. I wouldn't normally climb a roof with that pitch, but I had a lower sloped roof below me, along with a big masonry chimney right behind that for insurance. The limiting factors for roof pitch safety will probably come down to ankle flexibility, personal comfort, and the condition of the roof. My personal policy is to only walk roofs when I'm sure it's safe to do so.

Traction grip technology

I don't know what the bottoms of these boots are really made from, but it seems to be a piece of heavy duty foam held in place with a hook-and-loop system. The Cougar Paws website calls them Peak Line Replacement Pads, and they claim these pads provide performance on shingles, plywood, wood shakes, felt, and slate.

cougar paws pad

After using these boots to walk steeper roofs for the past year, I'm beginning to see some wear on the bottoms of my replaceable pads.

cougar paws bottom

I'll probably need to order some new pads in another year or two. They go for $15.95 online. The boots, on the other hand, will probably outlast any pair of boots or shoes that I've ever owned because I only wear them for short periods of time.


It says right on the Cougar Paws website that men should order these boots in their normal shoe size and that women should order two sizes smaller. I tried ordering my normal shoe size and my foot was swimming in this boot, so I went one size smaller and that fit nicely. Several of the inspectors in my company have these boots, and they all use one size smaller, so my advice is to ignore the advice on their website and order one size smaller. Perhaps women should order three sizes smaller.


If you walk roofs, get yourself a pair of Cougar Paws. At around $150, they're not cheap, but they're nice boots that will last a long time. If they save you from just one fall, it'll be some of the best money you've ever invested. I've had another home inspector tell me that broomball shoes work very well on roofs too, but I've never tried them myself.

Author: Reuben SaltzmanStructure Tech Home Inspections