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Are you a seasoned homeowner, first-time homeowner, or thinking of buying a home soon? Here are the most important home improvement projects to check off your list this fall to be winter-ready.

You might think owning a home means you’re all grown up, but keeping a home well maintained and protecting your investment may be the true meaning of adulting. Whether you are moving into your first house, or have been a long-time homeowner, here are a few projects to consider to be better prepared for the winter.

1. Clean up the Landscaping.

Shrubs, bushes, and trees add curb appeal to your home, but they can be trouble in the winter when ice and snow blankets the landscape.

Simple, low-cost tasks can be invaluable to the prevention of future issues. Think about:

  • Trimming back overhanging branches and removing dead or dying trees to avoid broken limbs caused by snow accumulation.
  • Cleaning out debris around your Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system as accumulated dirt and leaves could cause it to function less efficiently.
  • Draining and insulating outdoor water spouts and sprinkler systems and storing water hoses to prevent burst pipes or leaks during freezing temperatures.
  • Mulching shrubs or hedges to help insulate roots and maintain soil temperatures in colder weather.

2. Seal Leaks Around Windows and Doors.

Insulate cracks in doors and window casings using weather stripping or caulking. These only cost a few dollars in the hardware stores but could save you hundreds of dollars in heating costs.

If you have an older home, you may want to make an investment in upgrading to more energy-efficient windows and doors with better insulation. While upgrading windows and doors may be a more costly option than fixing cracks, according to Natural Resources Canada, doing so could save you up to 8 per cent off your utility bills. Over time, the savings will recoup the cost of the windows and doors project.

3. Service Your Heating System.

Your heating and air system requires regular maintenance to run smoothly all year round. If you’ve turned off the A/C in the fall but haven’t turned on the heat yet, that’s a perfect time to have your unit professionally inspected. For the price of a service call, which costs on average between $40-$250 depending on your area, you can get your system checked to identify any potential problems or maintenance needed to prepare for the winter months.

One low-cost task is to replace your furnace filter based on the furnace manufacturer’s recommended schedule. Also, make sure all the vents in your home are clear to allow air to circulate freely throughout your home.

You may want to consider investing in smart home devices to help keep heating costs down. You can regulate the temperature in your home automatically throughout the day and night.

If you have a wood-burning fireplace, have your chimney inspected and cleaned. Also, test your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they are working properly.

4. Inspect Your Roof and Gutters.

Check your roof visually for missing or loose shingles. Minor shingle replacements can cost a couple hundred dollars and may help prevent water from coming in short-term. Replacing the roof, on the other hand, can cost thousands of dollars, but can protect your home for about 20 years. If you own an older home, consider also replacing the insulation inside your attic to prevent moist air associated with ice dams from seeping into your home.

Ice dams are the result of snow and ice collecting in gutters and backing up onto your roof. When ice and snow sit on your roof and in your gutters in winter, they can cause water to seep under your shingles, leading to leaks and more headaches come spring.

To avoid ice build-up, take time in the fall to thoroughly clean gutters. Clear out leaves, twigs and other debris that could cause blockages.

Plan your fall home improvement budget carefully.

The point of prepping your home in the fall is to protect your home and finances while making you more comfortable throughout the winter.

If you have a limited budget and need to tackle more projects, a loan or line of credit may help you finance your home improvement projects. Some projects are more expensive than others, which is why having insurance for your loan or line of credit balance may provide additional comfort throughout the winter because you know your investment in home improvements is protected.