Five Ways to…Prep Units for Autumn

Seattle’s been on a roll with this whole sunshine thing lately–we’re nearing our 1951 record of 51 days in a row of gorgeous weather! With sunshine on the mind, it’s hard to think about the impending fall…but the kids are back in school, and falling leaves are closer than we care to admit. With that in mind, it’s time for another Five Ways–and this time around, we’ve got expert tips to keep the impending season from taking you–or your gutters–by surprise. Enjoy!

1. Check–and double check–the furnace. 

We were curious, so we looked it up–the coldest day ever in Seattle was in 1950; it hit 0 (that’s zero) degrees fahrenheit that January. While the thermometer probably won’t fall anywhere near that low this fall, it will start to get chillier as the summer fades–so now is the time to check your furnaces for function and safety.

While the furnace checklist can vary depending on the type of hardware you’re using, important steps for natural gas furnaces include: cleaning and/or replacing the filter, checking the blower belt and oiling the blower motor, ensuring that vents in the unit are unobstructed, and removing all flammable objects from within the vicinity of the furnace. Need more direction? Check out this short instructional video from Studio5. And if you’d rather outsource the job, most local technicians will be happy to give your furnace a tune-up–for a fee, of course.

2. Consider weatherizing drafty or poorly insulated units.

A drafty apartment is fun for exactly no one–landlords included. Particularly in older units, you may want to nip things in the bud this fall by shoring up windows and doors before the first hint of cold weather seeps past the threshold. Again, while weather isn’t likely to get too extreme this Autumn, it never hurts to weatherize windows and cracks before winter’s set its sights on us–that’s one more thing done before the real cold sets in and you have other things to tackle.

This weatherizing guide from DoItYourself.com is a great start. Don’t let the long list of required tools and materials give you pause–they cover everything from caulking (good for sealing joints like those between foundation and siding, and for sealing the edges of vents) to weather stripping (you know it’s used on windows and doors, but we bet you didn’t know how many use-specific kinds there are…). Both caulk and weather stripping are most effective when applied to clean, dry surfaces in moderate temperatures–so you don’t want to wait until December to seal things up.

3. Clean and prep your hardworking gutters.

It sounds obvious, in a city like Seattle, to remind landlords that gutters need attention every fall–but in our moisture-loving, tree-lined city, we just can’t mention it enough. If you haven’t cleaned gutters and downspouts before–although we can’t imagine that being the case–EHow.com has easy-to-follow instructions and some helpful safety tips (never hold on to the downspout for support, for instance), and include some related articles on gutter-cleaning in different situations (steep roof, anyone?).

If your gutters seem to clog on a regular basis, you may want to consider mesh gutter covers–these filter out debris while still allowing water through. Remember, clogged and neglected gutters can cause all manner of problems in a building, including leaky roofs, rotting wood, cracks in the foundation, and even sagging driveways…in short, just plain bad news. Love your gutters, and they’ll love you back!

4. Got a fireplace? Don’t forget to sweep the chimney!

Here’s one fireplace you won’t have to clean…

We’ll paint you a lovely Autumn picture–your tenant has just come in, apple-cheeked, from the first cool hint of winter in the air. Leaves are falling, Halloween is just around the corner…it’s time for the first fire of the season. Units with fireplaces can be an easy sell to potential tenants, and with good reason–having a fireplace lends an extra bit of home feeling to an apartment, making it cozier and instantly easier to connect with.

The flip side of this, of course, is that fireplaces and chimneys must be maintained in order to be safe. As FamilyHandyMan.com explains, there is no blanket rule about how often to clean a chimney; but it must be done at regular intervals, depending on use. Their site does offer some helpful tips about how to check for potentially harmful buildups in your unit’s flue, and when a professional cleaning is necessary. For information about local regulations, contact your local chimney sweep business–it’s their job to know what’s what!

5. Prepare landscaping for colder weather.

Fall is a time of change–out in the yard as well as in the unit itself–and what with all the leaves and muck, September, October and November can be hard on the landscaping that fared so well all summer. If turfgrasses are incorporated into your unit’s yard, consider using an all-natural, slow-release fertilizer in September; the grass will store those nutrients all through the cold winter, and grow healthier come spring. Avoid planting anything delicate during this time–mud and leaves may soon cover just about everything.

Finally, as the rain makes its way back to Seattle, don’t forget to turn off any underground sprinkler systems you use. You don’t want the first frost to catch you unawares and burst a pipe that’s still in use! Frozen pipes are no fun at all. Besides, you won’t be needing that regular watering schedule…although it’s hard to imagine now!

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