Your autumn checklist

Keats called autumn the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, but he forgot to mention that it’s also the season where the next downpour could spell disaster for your home.

The last few weeks have seen all the usual markers of the season - children heading back to school, nights drawing in, shops filling with Halloween merchandise - but the weather has been hard to predict. Rain has battered parts of the country, and temperatures have dropped in places, but there have also been spells of unseasonable warmth, delaying trees from taking on their usual fall hue.

But don’t be deceived. Sooner or later, bad weather will arrive, and the cold and wet and wind will lay siege to your home like always. Just as you’re trying to avoid turning on the heating to save as much money as possible on your rocketing bills, the mercury will plummet, and you’ll be left wondering if there was anything you could have done to prepare.

Well, there is - follow these seven steps to make sure your home is ready for whatever the season throws at it - whenever it happens.

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Boiler service

We’ll keep saying it until people start doing it, but boiler services are vital to make sure your boiler is working properly. Not only does that mean it’s less likely to suffer an unexpected breakdown, leaving you at the mercy of the next cold snap, it also ensures it’s running safely and efficiently, which is vital when you’re trying to cut down on your energy bills.

A typical boiler check up takes less than an hour and the cost is small compared to the price of an expensive repair job or full boiler replacement, so book a service today, before gas engineers are busy dealing with the emergencies of people who forgot to plan ahead...

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Ventilation

It’s always a telltale sign of a chilly night when you wake up and see the inside of your windows all fogged up. But that condensation is a sign that your home’s ventilation might not be up to scratch - and that can lead to problems.

We all produce moisture in our homes, especially when we cook, have a bath or shower or - especially in the colder months - dry our washing indoors on airers and radiators.

Good ventilation is key for avoiding moisture build up that can lead to damp and mould. Keeping windows open where possible is ideal, but when it’s cold outside, this can be more difficult, so making sure kitchen and bathroom extractor fans are working properly is key - an electrician can replace any failed units.

Many windows also have ventilation slats in, but these can be blocked over time by dust, so make sure they’re clean and working properly.

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Roof tiles and flashing

We told you to fix the roof when the sun was still shining, and if the forecasters are right, you might still have a bit of time where that’s the case.

But when the rain arrives, you’ll soon find out if you have any issues. Try and look in the loft to see if there are any damp patches you can spot, or light coming in where there may be damage.

Pay particular attention to places where flashing is used, such as where a chimney meets the roof. A roofer is the best person to inspect and repair any damage.

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Fireplaces

If you’re lucky enough to have a solid fuel burning stove it might help you avoid the sharp rise in gas prices - but then again, if you’re used to buying coal and logs at your local petrol station, you might also be out of luck.

Assuming you do have fuel for your fire, you might be getting ready to light her up and enjoy the cosy warmth of an open hearth - but before you do, it’s important that you make sure your chimney is ready.

A chimney specialist can make sure your flue is clear of any bird nests, debris or soot build up, and will burn cleanly, meaning you can enjoy your fire safely.

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Gutters

Like fireplaces, gutters have a nasty habit of filling up with all manner of stuff when you’re not paying attention, and like fireplaces, if they’re suddenly put to work without being properly cleared, you can be in for trouble.

Blocked gutters and downpipes tend to overflow, diverting water against your roof, walls and windows, which is a major contributor to penetrating damp. It can also cause the pipework to break, meaning more long-term damage.

Gutter cleaning is a cheap and straightforward job, but a guttering specialist can also repair or replace any damaged sections and make sure it’s ready for any downpour.

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Fencing

Timber has been in short supply for much of the year due to a combination of factors - the pandemic, climate-affected growth, and issues with the global supply chain - meaning that fencing isn’t as cheap as it once was.

But, if you have a damaged fence in need of repair or replacement, it’s still better to try and tackle it now rather than wait until later in the year when bad weather can really kick in.

High winds are the archenemy of elderly fences, taking down loose panels and uprooting unmoored posts, while heavy rain and cold can also speed up rot on any fences that haven't been properly treated and maintained.

Speak to a fencer to see what options are available and look for more than one quote to get a price you’re comfortable with, and a fence you can trust.

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Rendering and painting

Looking after your external walls is something best done when the weather is good, so if you spot any opportunity in the next few weeks, make the most of it.

Cracks and weak spots in rendering can allow water to penetrate through to the structure of the wall and cause damage, so it’s important to get these patches repaired sooner rather than later by an experienced plasterer

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