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Button Up Your House For Fall

By Sal Vaglica, This Old House magazine
September 21, 2012; 3:55 PM ET

Six Essentials Tasks

We all know the drill: You wake up on a Saturday with every intention of doing some pre­-winter maintenance but ditch your best-laid plans as soon as you feel the late-summer sun on your shoulders. Take a tip from the experts and avoid putting off till next Saturday (or next year) what you can do in a snap today-whether it's replacing old weather-stripping or adjusting the pitch of the gutters. You can always put your feet up later, when it's time to rake the leaves.

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How to Do It

Seal gaps larger than 1/8 inch around windows and doors to cut your winter heating bill by up to 15 percent. On windows, press adhesive-backed closed-cell foam onto the bottom of the sash. Secure a loose sash by applying a strip of plastic V-channel weather­stripping in the groove the sash slides in, securing it with finish nails. Use foam strips on the sides and tops of doors, and install a door sweep on the bottom.

When gutters aren't pitched at the right angle, they overflow—and can threaten your once dry basement. Properly pitched gutters slope between 1/16 inch and 1/8 inch per foot, directing water to the leader and out the downspout. Check the pitch by holding a level even with the gutter; on longer runs, pour in water from a hose and check the flow's direction. Get instructions for keeping your gutters in good working order.

Cracks in your driveway, walkway, or steps are a big-time trip hazard, and they'll only get worse if water seeps in and freezes. Luckily, if you can caulk, you can fix concrete-just make sure it's clean and dry to start. For cracks less than a half-inch wide, squeeze a bead of acrylic latex concrete repair compound deep into the crack, smoothing excess with a putty knife. For larger cracks, trowel on a vinyl concrete patching compound, and let it cure one day before walking on it, three days before driving over it.

If you have ceiling fans, change their rotation to clockwise to push warm air down (usually accomplished by flicking a switch on the base), and while you're at it, wipe down the blades with a microfiber cloth that traps dust. At month's end or when the temps drop, remove window AC units. Vacuum the coils and filters, and store them in a cool, dry place, preferably covered to keep out dust and bugs.

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