Get your home ready for El Niño

Patrick McCarran column logo 2015By Patrick McCarran

Fall is here and with it cooler weather and shorter days. It’s also the perfect time to prepare your home for the winter months that lie ahead. The most common fall home improvement projects include fencing, interior and exterior painting, window maintenance, flooring, and roof repair, all of which are in preparation for El Nino and the winter weather that will soon follow. Performing regular maintenance of your home protects your home’s value and can prevent major repairs which in turn can save money and avoid stress that comes with emergency projects.

Roof and Gutters

Check for slipped tiles and debris which can impede water flow and cause leaks. Trim back all tree limbs and vegetation away from the roof and remove debris, such as leaves and sticks from your gutters and downspouts and ensure that all the drains spouts are working and directing the flow of water away from the house and into the ground or to the storm drain. Clogged gutters don’t allow water to drain away from the home which may lead to serious damage to a home’s roof, walls or foundation and overflow will cause dry rot of the eaves and fascia boards. Tree branches rub on the roof and can break loose tiles or wear shingle roofs.

Heating and Cooling System

If you have a forced warm-air heating system, first thing replace your intake filters. This helps to improve efficiency as well as prevent airborne dirt from circulating throughout your home this should be done at least quarterly. While you are doing this check the exhaust vent and air shutter openings for dirt and dust. Clean any lint and dirt from the motor and burner. Vacuum air passages and check and replace, if necessary, fan belts. Regular maintenance improves air quality and promotes better air circulation which reduces wear and tear on your furnace and saves you money.

Doors and Windows

To help control heating costs, repair or replace weather-stripping around door bottoms and jambs and window frames. Also check for cracks in the stucco or gaps in the siding and make sure that you caulk or repair them to prevent moisture or cool air from entering.


Before you light the logs and get ready to settle in front of a cozy fire, inspect your fireplace. Clean the chimney flue and if needed inspected and repaired. Check the seal on your flue, which is designed to keep out drafts. Replace the seal if it is loose or damaged.

In addition, before inspecting, cleaning or making any repairs refer to your owner’s manual for all equipment for proper instructions, which should be the final authority on any maintenance.


Inspect for peeling or chipped paint. Bare wood or metal should be cleaned and spot painted to protect it from any moisture penetration which leads to dry rot and mildew. Hammer in any popped nail heads and paint them. Stucco cracks should be patched with caulking and painted.

Inspect for gaps where trim boards come together end-to-end and where it meets siding or stucco. Use a good quality water resistant exterior caulk to seal all gaps to stop moisture intrusion and insects.


Now is a good time to trim back any overgrown shrubbery and ground cover, keeping away from the home and fences where it tends to trap moisture and promote the deterioration of the wood and exterior finish of the home.

I know what you are thinking, “Wow when do I have time for all of this?” The answer is to break it up into projects and do one each week, by starting early you should have plenty of time, and of course you can always call a service professional to have it done for you. Regular maintenance can help you keep your home in good shape and protect against major repairs maintaining value in your most valuable asset.

Patrick McCarran is a local Realtor and can be reached at (925) 899-5536 or

Mason-McDuffie Real Estate is an independently owned and operated franchise of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate LLC.. Equal Housing Opportunity.

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