This story was originally published in October 2020.
It can be tempting to put off all the things that need to be done this time of year when the ground is still bare.
Time is running out to get to all the items on your pre-winter checklist. Here are 11 things you should check and take care of before that first major snowfall covers the ground.
Shovels front and center
The time to go looking for your snow shovel is not when you need it to shovel a path to where it is stored. Now is the time to make sure your snow shovel is easily accessible, so when you do have to shovel those front steps or walkway, you are ready to go.
Put things away
Pick up anything in your yard, alongside your house or in your driveway that you are not going to need until next summer. Once the snow comes and covers them up, it’s pretty hard to find those flower pots, water hose or garden tools. Leaving them out all winter under the snow can cause anything with metal parts to rust and plastic to deteriorate. Plus, you don’t want to run over anything hidden under the snow with a snowblower.
Clean your gutters
If you have not done it already, now is the time to climb up — or hire someone to climb up — and remove leaves and other materials from your roof gutters. Not doing so can lead to clogged gutters that overflow when it rains. Once the temperatures drop below freezing, all those leaves and any water left in the gutters will freeze, creating the perfect conditions for an ice-dam on your roof. That ridge of ice will prevent any melting snow or water from draining off your roof. The water can back up and find its way inside your house through cracks or holes or seep down between your walls.
Leaving fallen leaves to collect on any hard surface like your deck, walkways or driveway can create a real hazard. When the temperatures drop, those leaves freeze and become very slippery.
Sheds or other outbuildings with dirt floors can actually move slightly when the ground freezes. The movement can potentially position the building so its doors are stuck shut and won’t open. Make sure you have everything you are going to need for the winter removed from any dirt-floor shed before the ground has a chance to freeze.
If you have an area around your house you want to protect from blowing snow, putting up snow fencing is a great way to do it. Do it now before it starts to snow. There is nothing fun about wading through a snowdrift and pounding fencing stakes into frozen ground.
Get some grit
Snow and ice make things slippery. You can make your walkways and outdoor steps safer by sprinkling a bit of grit or salt on them when things are icy. Take some time now to purchase grit or salt and find a convenient place to store it so you can access it easily all winter.
Most auto mechanics will tell you autumn is one of their busiest times of the year. People switch out their car’s summer tires for winter or studded snow tires. You definitely don’t want to be driving to the garage or shop on summer tires in a snowstorm, so make that appointment for your winter tires now.
Clean out the garden
Fall is the traditional end of prime outdoor gardening time in Maine, so now is a good time to make sure your garden is ready for winter. There are pests and pathogens that survive on dead plant matter under the snow and will come back out in the spring. Before it snows, get out there and prune off any dead stems of living plants, remove dead plants and pick up any dead plant debris that is laying around.
Check the chimney
Whether you heat with oil, wood or both your house has a chimney. Before lighting your first woodfire of the season or turning up the furnace, have a certified chimney inspector climb up and check it for creosote build up, cracks and obstructions like bird nests.
Get your furnace inspected
A furnace inspection not only spots any potential problems with the unit that keep it from running efficiently, it can identify any safety issues. An improperly vented furnace, for example, can produce a buildup of deadly carbon monoxide. So before the weather gets cold, have a certified inspector come in to give your furnace a one over and tune up.