Fall is in full swing here in Idaho, with early signs of winter starting to seep its way in with some bold, cold days. Once the leaves begin to fall and the wind turns cold, it’s a good time to start thinking about prepping the outside of your house for the winter season. Just like spring cleaning checklists help us prepare for warmer weather, an autumn cleaning checklist helps us plan for the colder months. Below are some fall checklist items to remember as you prepare for Winter.

1. Rake Up Fallen Leaves
This may be common sense, but it’s still a chore that homeowners need to remember to do. Leaving leaves on your lawn can actually hurt the health of your grass, so removing them keeps your grass healthy and makes your yard look nicer too. There are a variety of raking options to consider, including the more labor-intensive option of hand raking all the leaves into piles. For the more adventurous there are also leaf blowers you can take advantage of using, or even leaf vacuums that suck up the leaves and process them into mulch. Whatever option you decide to go with, raking up fallen leaves is a must on your fall cleaning to-do list.

2. Clean Your BBQ Grill And Store It Properly For The Season
Prepare your BBQ Grill for the off-season by deep cleaning it. You can start by removing and cleaning the cooking grates and using a stiff wire brush to scrape off any stuck-on food residue. Make sure to clean off all the grates with a soapy water solution and let it air dry. The inside and underneath metal parts of the grill should also be cleaned, including the burners. Once everything is wiped out and clean, including the outside of the BBQ, replace the clean grates. Cover the grill securely, especially if you don’t have extra inside storage space for it and it will be outside for the duration of the winter. It’s a good idea to spray metal parts with oil spray too to prevent rusting.

3. Check Your Doors and Windows For Energy Efficiency
Cracked caulking and flawed weather stripping can be a main cause for lack of energy efficiency in your home. Check your outside doors and windows of your home to make sure you don’t have any old caulking that needs to be redone or weather stripping around the doors that needs to be replaced. The easiest way to test if your doors and windows are energy efficient is on a windy day close all your doors and windows and move your hand around the frame. If you can feel any wind on your palm it means you need to repair or replace it.

Caulking properly around your windows and doors will prevent any cold air from coming in or warm air from going out. If you do need to replace caulk around a window or door to prepare for the winter, make sure you start the project early enough in the season for the caulk the adhere to the surface. Check your specific caulk you are using for instructions on what temperature you need your surface to be at for the caulk to work, usually around 42 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, try doing it on a dry day where there isn’t a lot of extra humidity.

4. Clean Out Your Gutters
Gutters have a way of accumulating a variety of odds and ends throughout the year. Fall is the perfect time to have your gutters cleaned out to remove all the extra leaves and random vegetation that have gotten stuck in there. Having clean gutters isn’t just for appearances. Clean gutters keep water away from your home, so you have less of a chance of water piling up and causing water damage to your home.

Look to clean your gutters after the leaves have finished falling, but before winter is in full swing. Because of the safety hazards and time requirements of cleaning gutters out on your own, consider hiring a professional to do the job. Talk to professionals about installing a heating cable in your gutters to help avoid ice dams from building up in your gutters. If cleaning the gutters out on your own, be sure to use good safety procedures while on the ladder.

5. Keep Maintaining Your Lawn
In the summertime it’s good to keep your lawn longer and give it room to breathe, but in autumn weather it’s quite the opposite. It’s actually a good idea to mow the lawn quite a bit shorter than you usually have it. In Boise, since it snows, most professionals agree that in the late fall months lawns should be cut short. One reason to cut lawn shorter in the fall is because it reduces your chance of getting snow mold. Long grass unfortunately is a breeding ground for snow mold, so make sure your last mow of the season is 1 to 1.5 inches shorter than you usually cut it.

6. Clean Landscape Equipment and Outdoor Items and Make Sure They Are Properly Stored
Clean off and store any summer patio furniture, such as tables and chairs, that are not going to be used in the wintertime. Clean and put away children’s summer toys and beach items. Before storing gardening items make sure they are hosed down and cleaned off to avoid them getting ruined or rusted over while they’re in storage for the winter months.

Don’t forget to winterize your lawn mower, either. Clean off any stray grass that is stuck to it. Many recommend using up the rest of the gas in the lawn mower, or winterizing the gas by draining it completely or adding fuel stabilizer to it.

7. Prune and Trim Any Overgrown Bushes and Trees
Are there any overgrown bushes that need to be trimmed back or trees that have limbs that need to be removed? Doing this in the fall is a perfect time to do it. The weather isn’t as hot as the summer to make the job more enjoyable, and it will prevent issues during the winter of overburdened trees or bushes when the snow arrives. Again, use good safety procedures when trimming and pruning.