Last updated: February 19. 2013 5:44PM - 243 Views

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Ready to hunker down for winter?

Not so fast. Now's the time to tackle a few chores that will help your house and yard ride out the cold season ahead. Here are a few to check off your to-do list.

Clean the gutters

Gutters and downspouts direct rainwater away from your house. That keeps water from pooling around the foundation and leaking into the basement, or freezing in the gutters at the roof line and causing damaging ice dams.

But those gutters and downspouts can't do their job if they're clogged with leaves and other debris.

After the trees have finished shedding their leaves, get up on a ladder and clean that stuff out. When the gutter is clean, run some water into it from a garden hose.

Clean up the garden

Even though plant growth winds down this time of year, diseases don't necessarily go away. Many pests and pathogens spend the winter on diseased plant parts, lying in wait for the chance to launch a new attack in spring.

That's why plant experts preach the importance of cleaning up diseased plant material. Prune out affected stems, remove diseased leaves and pick up any plant debris that's lying around.

Fertilize your lawn

Lawn-care experts often say this is the best time to fertilize a lawn.

Fall fertilizing prepares grass plants for the rough winter ahead and ensures nutrients will be available to them in spring, when growth resumes.

Ohio State University's Joe Rimelspach recommends two fall feedings, one around Labor Day and the other right about now. If you skipped that first fertilization, you won't see the dramatic response in your lawn that you would have otherwise. For an average lawn, he recommends applying a high-nitrogen lawn fertilizer at a rate of 1 to 1.5 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.

Store your mower

Gasoline shouldn't be left in a lawn mower or other gas-powered equipment for more than two months, Stiles said. Before you store that equipment, run the engine until it's out of gas, he advised.

It's a good idea to clean your mower, sharpen the blade, change the oil, lubricate the engine and clean or replace the air filter, too, mower maker Lawn-Boy recommends.

Store the mower in a cool, dry place, Lawn-Boy says. If you cover it, use cloth, because plastic can trap moisture.

Inspect the furnace

A furnace inspection is a matter of safety as well as comfort. Besides spotting potential problems and helping your furnace run more efficiently, a technician can find combustion and venting issues that can lead to the production and buildup of deadly carbon monoxide.

Inspect the chimney

Most people need a basic chimney inspection, which involves a visual examination and check of accessible parts of the fireplace and chimney. The inspector will also look for obstructions and identify the type and extent of combustible deposits on the inside of the chimney.

Seal and weatherstrip

Closing gaps in your home's exterior and between conditioned and unconditioned areas keeps warm air in and cold air out. That not only makes you more comfortable, but it saves energy and money.

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