Shutters, gutters and screens

09/23/2010 12:00 AM |

Workmen refurbish the roof of a Pike Street home in Mattituck Friday afternoon. Experts say fall is a good idea to make sure siding and roofing are in good repair and insulation is adequate.

Labor Day came and went and the leaves are turning fast. Can winter be very far off?

A person could easily get depressed at the prospect, but Peconic’s doyenne of domestic organization, professional declutterer and tag sale manager Yvonne McNab thinks this is a great time of year to get started on home maintenance projects that everyone can easily tackle.

All of Ms. McNab’s suggestions are designed to boost both your physical and psychological well-being through the winter months. She starts with the importance of maximizing winter light.

“Take down the screens and clean your windows,” she said. “And if you have a lot of windows and no time, then clean the ones in the rooms you spend most time in.”

While you’re making the windows sparkle, making sure they are locked down to make them airtight.

“You’d be amazed how much warmth escapes through unlocked windows,” Ms. McNab observed. Also weather-strip doors and windows where needed.

“Although I find a lot of people buy weather-stripping and then find themselves defeated over installing it,” she said. “It is worth it, though, to keep the house cozy.” It’s also time to bring out the winter blankets.

“Air them out to freshen them up,” she suggested. “A good trick is to put them in the dryer with a fabric softener sheet. There’s nothing nicer on a chilly night than a sweet-smelling blanket.”

With what we all hope is a few good weeks of Indian summer ahead, now is also the time to clean out the attic and basement.

“Have a last yard sale,” she said. “Get rid of unnecessary stuff, and make money for movie-going through the winter.”

As a professional organizer, Ms. McNab is obviously gung-ho about getting rid of stuff and believes now is also a good time to shred all the paper that you have probably accumulated in the form of old magazines, ancient receipts and long-ago-canceled checks for purchases you no longer remember.

Why? “Old paper can attract bugs.”

She recommends a thorough check of one’s home’s exterior, making sure gutters are clean and attached properly. Drain all hoses and check that all outside faucets and showers are turned off.

As for the cleaning of siding, her advice is to leave that for spring.

“Spring is a better time for an exterior cleaning,” she said. “The priority in the fall should be minor repair and maintenance.”

If an inspection reveals something serious that you can’t tackle, bring in a professional before the weather turns bad.

Greg Rose, an insulation expert with J.P. Hunter in Riverhead, advises taking steps to ensure that siding and roofing shingles are all firmly in place to avoid leaks. He also thinks fall is a good time to assess the state of a home’s insulation and doing what’s necessary to make it warm and energy efficient.

“Check last year’s heating bills and if they seem high, talk it over with an expert,” he said. “You lose a lot of energy through the roof, so reducing those bills might be as simple as installing attic insulation. Properly installed attic insulation will pay for itself in two or three years.”

Joe Novello, service manager with Hardy Plumbing and Heating in Mattituck, adds that heating bills can also be reduced by having heating equipment serviced in the fall by a trained professional.

“The filters should be changed and the state of the insulation on the heating pipes should be checked,” he said. “This is routine maintenance but it’s very important for keeping the house warm and avoiding frozen pipes.”

Once the house is buttoned up for the winter, Ms. McNab suggests a little psychological maintenance in the form of home decorating projects.

“You have to make things nice and cozy for yourself,” she said. “Sit down and plan indoor projects for the winter.”

In that regard, now is the time to bring in fresh greens from the garden to be placed in vases and to forage for bittersweet, an invasive species that makes a very good winter wreath, according to Ms. McNab.

And don’t forget about feeding your body as well as your esthetic sensibilities. Ms. McNab advises going through recipe books and using the fall bounty to make soups.

“Freeze them in small containers,” she suggests. “When you have one of those autumn soups bubbling on the stove in the middle of winter, it’s so comforting.”