HGTV junkies know that fall is a crucial moment for carving out weekend time to prep for winter. There may be only a hint of a chill in the air now, but soon winter will set in, and you need to make sure your home is ready. For tips, we went to the master expert of home renovation, Liberty Mutual Insurance’s “New Beginnings” expert, HGTV handyman Chip Wade from Elbow Room and Ellen’s Design Challenge.

Keeping a cozy home

Making sure your house is properly insulated will not only keep you warm, but it will save you money too. “Leaky windows and doors can cause a jump in energy costs,” Wade says. “I recommend caulking around the edges of windows and potential entry points for cold air. You may also want to install weather stripping in the cracks and crevices around doors and windows that are prone to drafts.”

To start, Wade recommends using spray foam insulation, working from the top down. “Always start with the roof system, and if you can afford to do more, work your way down from the top floor exterior walls to the foundation. An entire home encapsulated in spray foam can be a huge energy saver,” he says.

On the Outside

When it comes to getting ready for winter, it isn’t all about the inside. Fall is the perfect time to give your exterior a good power wash, getting rid of mildew, mold and dirt. Also, Wade says not to neglect your driveway. “I’d also recommend filling any small driveway cracks with concrete resurfacer, or concrete crack repair with a foam backer rod, before water gets a chance to seep in and freeze over, making those small cracks a lot bigger,” he says.

Cracks over half an inch probably require replacing the entire surface, but smaller cracks are easier to fix: “Purchase backer rod at your local hardware store and cut to the size of the crack, then stuff it into the crack so it sits just below the surface,” he advises. “Line the sides of the crack with tape, fill with concrete sealer and scrape clean. Then, remove the tape for a clean fill.”

Repairing the roof

Cold weather can really aggravate a small roof leak, and heavy snow can damage a roof that isn’t prepared for it. “First, make sure your gutters are clear,” Wade advises. “According to a survey by Liberty Mutual Insurance, only 25 percent of people surveyed do this. Debris that collects in your gutter can create extra weight or blockages that could lead to serious issues.” But unless you’re a renovating pro, Wade advises hiring someone else to do it for you.

Another task Wade says to consider is trimming overhead branches that are a little too close for comfort. “Neglecting this task could put your home at risk during heavy snowfall and or high wind speeds during storms,” he says, adding to first check your home owner’s guide to make sure branch removal is allowed.

Staying safe

If you haven’t done so, Wade says to add one life-saving task to your to-do list: testing your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. According to a poll conducted by Liberty Mutual Insurance, only 25 percent of Americans do this in the months leading up to winter. “The fall is a great time to test the protective devices around your home and also consider upgrading if your systems are older. Installing new protective devices such as smoke or fire alarms may be an upfront cost, but it will help ensure the safety of your home and can even lead to savings on your home insurance.”

The obvious chore many people forget

When it comes to the one fall task a lot of people forget but has, has, has to be done, Wade says it’s raking leaves. “Think of raking your leaves as a positive for your future lawn in other seasons,” he says. “If you save your leaves all in one spot — such as an area contained by chicken wire, instead of throwing them into trash bags — your leaves can be used as compost for flower beds and shrub borders. Thick leaves can also be a hiding place for unwanted pests.”

What’s on your fall home “to do” list? Share it in the comments!

(Featured image via HGTV)