1. If you have an open fire get your chimney swept.
This is really, really important. I know it has been chilly already and you may have already lit a fire but an annual sweep of Chimney’s you intend to use is a must. For some strange reason Squirrels, Jackdaws, and Pigeons seem to think that a chimney is for them to set up home. To be honest you may pick up on some signs earlier in the year that you have lodgers if nest building materials start showing up in your hearth. It’s the end of nesting now and any remains can be gently shoved back out the top without upsetting anyone. The other purpose to having your chimney swept is to clear away soot. This is the carbonised, tar rich debris that deposits the entire length of the stack. Not only does it build up to such an extent it reduces the draw of the fire but it is combustible. A chimney fire is when this catches light part way up the stack is truly terrifying, it literally roars, and can quickly get so out of hand that the Fire service will need to be called. So make friends with a chimney sweep.
2. Check your roof for damaged or missing tiles.
A combination of weather and clumsy pigeons and squirrels will cause tiles to fracture and slide off roofs. These can be easily replaced and repaired by a roofer. More drastic damage occurs over time where the roof bears the brunt of the sun in the warmer months and prevailing winds and numbing frosts in the winter not to mention driving rain in between. This has an effect of breaking down the surface of all tiles (stone, slate and clay tiles) causing “laminination”. When this happens, a roofer needs to be contacted and re-roofing considered before water ingress starts. The other biggie to look out for is if you notice the shape of the roof has changed, is the ridge line sagging or gable looking out of place. This could be an indicator that the timbers underneath is struggling. In very old houses though this may be stable, and the result of hand worked green oak moving as it dried out years ago. You may need to speak to a structural engineer before you speak to a roofer to resolve underlying timber problems.
3. Gutter cleaning
Moss sliding off and leaves from trees and climbers will accumulate in late Autumn and clog and block gutters and down pipes. Our window cleaner offers gutter cleaning as an extra over the winter. If the water does not flow down the guttering it will fall onto the walls and cause damp in your home. If you have valleys or concealed valleys and gutters (mainly in Georgian and Regency homes) it is essential to clear these as water will back up, pool and gravity will take it in the best available alternative route down - through your roof.
4. Water stains on walls
This is the visible sign the guttering is not working for you, if it is recent then the wall surface will be darker than the surrounding area. If it has been going on some time ie months then algae will have taken advantage of the wet conditions and begun to establish causing a green or black bloom over the wall. Fungi will even grow on the vertical surface. If the guttering is not the problem it may be a water overflow pipe leaking, call a plumber. If the stain is starting at the bottom and working its way up the damp proof course has been compromised. At the bottom of your house, particularly a modern house, you will see a thin black line of heavy grade plastic. This prevents the water in the ground rising into your home. Never go above this line with soil when building a border or even push up planters and troughs tight to the wall or you will get rising damp in your home.
5. Clear drain covers
Yuck, horrible job alert, but you can do this yourself and reward yourself with carbs and sugar combinations after. Wear rubber gloves, compost your work and rinse with water not chemicals. Only Jeyes fluid will clean this area if you really need to (kitchen drain), any other cleaner is frankly not up to the job and a waste of money.
6. Keep paths clear of leaves or algae
Slips, trips and falls. Again, an in-house job, think of the calories you are burning and put a reward at the end or bribe a older child to move away from a screen into the fresh air - they will thank you one day! Just a brush is needed, chemicals and power washers are both OTT, and compost your work.
7. Move furniture under cover
This is the one I forget to do and then end up with “weathered” - read mossy and slimy, wooden furniture in Spring that needs far too much scrubbing before I can enjoy it again, so I miss the first few warm days. Squeeze it into a shed or under a cover and they will last a whole lot longer and just need a wipe over before they are in use again. Really need to follow my own advice sometimes.
8. Lock up your sheds and check regularly
Outdoor stuff accumulates what with gardening kit, bikes, BBQ’s, hobby gear, outdoor furniture (!) and it all adds up. Get a decent lock and use it. Store the key in a safe non visible place and remember to go in and out to check it’s all still there. I keep bird food in an old lidded metal bin in the shed so once a week I have to go into the shed to refill the feeders, one action two jobs, tick done.
9. Store logs in baskets near the door
Unless you get a huge statement log basket that it is not physically possible to move unless empty you will need to refill a log basket at least every other day if you have an evening fire. Get more log baskets than you think is necessary, they can be filled once a week and stored under cover next to the door closest to the fire. This will save you tip toeing out in unsuitable footwear to top up in the dark of the night.
10. Check outdoor lighting is all working
This is still an unchecked item on my list. The light that illuminates a “killer out of nowhere” step down to the front door needs my attention. To save me the trouble of having to replace the bulb in the near future I need a long life eco bulb and clear the ivy from the sensor so that it comes on and off at the appropriate times and not glow all day in the undergrowth. Not only will this save you and Christmas Carol’ers from a nasty fall it will also serve to keep thieves away. Given that we are “on our own” a bit in the countryside we need to look after each other.