Rick BissonDespite the record-breaking warm temperatures of September and October, the signs of fall have arrived. The days are growing shorter. The temperatures have begun to drop and the leaves are falling. This change of seasons triggers the need to get the house prepared for winter.

Start the process by creating a checklist of items to inspect and make ready for the winter. Items on the list should include the roof, gutters, heating systems, energy efficiency, attic and drainage.

During the annual inspection and maintenance process, pay close attention to the roof. Look at the age and wear of the shingles and flashing. If you find colored grit from asphalt roof shingles in your gutters, beware. That sand-like grit helps protect shingles from the damaging ultraviolet rays of the sun.

Look closely for other signs of roof damage; black algae stains are just cosmetic, but masses of moss and lichen could signal roofing that’s decayed underneath. If the shingles are curling, buckling or crackling, replace them. If you have a lot of damage, it might be time to replace the entire roof.

While inspecting the roof, careful consideration of the gutters should also be taken. Leaves and debris can trap water causing icicles and ice dams. Gutters should be cleaned out after the leaves have fallen and before the snow falls. Make sure gutters aren’t sagging and trapping water; tighten gutter hangers and downspout brackets. Replace any worn or damaged gutters and downspouts. Installing gutter screens or gutter foam will help prevent gutter clogging in the future.

To provide peace-of-mind throughout the heating season and to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, have the home’s heating system(s) serviced by a qualified technician. Exhausts, fuel tanks, fuel lines, fuel filters and chimneys should be inspected annually. Items needing immediate consideration should be repaired and cleaned. Make notes of the items requiring future repair.

Another important step in the annual inspection process is taking stock of the home’s overall energy efficiency. The change in temperature, humidity and normal wear and tear can cause window seals to crack and shrink. Replace screens with storm windows and caulk cracks or install weather stripping around windows and doors to avoid leaks and drafts.

Air leakage out the roof and drafts from windows, doors and basements may suggest the need for a professional home-energy audit. The energy audit will identify the cause of these air leaks and recommend ways to keep heat from escaping the house. A by-product of an energy audit is a list estimating the costs and savings per solution. This solution list can then be prioritized and implemented accordingly.

Check the attic to make sure the insulation is installed properly. The vapor barrier on insulation should face down toward the living space. If it is installed incorrectly, the insulation will trap water causing possible moisture issues. In addition to posing potential dampness issues, the attic can also be a breeding ground for unwanted critters. Pests love attics because they are full of warm insulation for nesting and they offer easy access to the rest of the house. It is a good idea to install screens behind gable vents to keep critters out.

Finally, be sure to inspect and maintain proper drainage. This is especially true for homes in the Midcoast area where old basements are common. In the basement, ensure that perimeter and floor drains are clear. If the house has a sump pump, test it and consider adding a battery backup system for power outages. Outside the house, check to make sure that downspouts are in place, clear, and direct water away from the home.

After your annual inspection and maintenance has been completed, keep the checklist and any receipts in a safe place. Creating a history of routine maintenance to the house will come in handy for future reference. Keeping these maintenance records may also add value when it’s time to sell the house.

This column is produced by Rick Bisson and his family, who own Bisson Real Estate with Keller Williams Realty of Midcoast and Sugarloaf.