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Fall chores can be more important than those in spring

| Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012, 9:17 p.m.
Jesse Grant/

Spring cleaning has developed an almost mythical household role, but fall chores can be even more important — and face a more challenging deadline.

The weather that creates threats for homes and properties is on the way and will show no favorites. Cooler weather brings down leaves that, if not cleaned, will ruin lawns. Ice and snow can eat away at faulty roofs and cause expensive trickles through walls.

It is time to take care of fall chores. Dealing with roof problems is a matter of wise preparation. But simpler, more innocent tasks such as painting need to be finished now while there is a bit of warmth in the air to create ventilation.

It is the first weekend of fall, and time to take care of those tasks.

Cold days wait for no one.

One of the key jobs of the season is related to another.

The leaves that create the seemingly endless pickup in the yard, also lead to gutters that need to be cleaned if they are to handle the snow and ice to come.

That task often means a trip to the rooftop, which can be frightening for many homeowners.

“We always advise: Safety first,” says Tom Bollnow from the National Roofing Contractor's Association in Washington. “If you feel comfortable going up there to check the roof, fine, but be careful.”

If snow and ice is to melt and be carried away properly, gutters must be cleared and downspouts must be open. Bollnow says the cleanup is the natural fall task, but adds there are other jobs that can be done while you are up there.

Whether on the roof or simply on the ladder, check to see if the flashing around the chimney and vents is OK. Naturally, take a close look at shingles to see if any are missing, loose or cupping, which indicates wear.

Cleaning the gutters can lead to another sign of shingle wear, he says. A high amount of asphalt granules in the gutter indicates the shingles are wearing.

“Naturally, there is always going to be some granules in there, but if you see a lot, it could be the sign of trouble,” he says.

Spring seems like the logical time to work in the garden, but Alvin Sanfilippo says there are important jobs in the fall.

• September through mid-October is prime time to restore and rejuvenate a lawn, says the Penn State master gardener from Hempfield. That makes it a good time to plant grass or reseed an area. It is important to remove leaves from lawns because they can smother grass. Some mulched leaves, however, will return a good deal of nitrogen to lawns.

• Be sure to eliminate all remnants of tomato plants, bits of the fruit as well as remains of the plant, because they can lead to tomato blight, which is the same disease as the infamous Irish potato famine of 1847.

• Plan to rotate all garden crops for next season.

• But don't prune in fall. Save that for late winter or early spring because the spring blossoming process might have started already.

The furnace soon will be one of your best household friends, so it is important to make sure it is ready to stand up to that task.

Ken Batko from Dynamic Heating and Maintenance in Shaler says a professional look at the technical elements of the furnace is an obvious need. But he says changing the filter could be the “most important thing you can do” with a furnace.

Efficient — and clean — heating is possible only with a clean filter, he says. As a “household hint,” he also recommends marking the end of the filter with the date of the installation so the three-month replacement pattern can be done on time.

He is not a proponent of duct cleaning, unless there is a problem.

“If you have an issue, get it done, but otherwise it should be no problem,” he says.

Inside or out, fall probably is the last good time of the year to take care of painting, says paint associate Colleen Thomas from the Monroeville Home Depot.

But, be careful, she warns. In doing outside work, the time between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. is best. But be aware of what's coming up behind. It is important that the temperature not drop below 35 degrees for 36 hours after painting because of the threat of uneven drying or bubbling.

Inside, she says, fall days are good for painting because temperatures are mild enough to keep the windows open for ventilation without making the indoors cold.

“There is always a little rush in the fall for painting,” she says, “as people try to get the last of their chores done.”

For many homeowners, it is only a matter of days before the cars no longer fit in the garage. Every day, added clutter makes space a little less.

Jill Yesko from Discover Organizing in Mt. Lebanon says September and October are great days to get the garage in shape. There are no holidays that will eat up time in preparation. The kids – of all ages – are back in school so they are not going to get in the way.

Plus, the weather is probably going to be good enough to work with the doors open and to spread belongings on the driveway if necessary.

The biggest secret, she says, is “deciding what you want your garage to be.”

After that, it is just a matter of doing it, she says.

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 412-320-7852.

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