Just when you think it’s safe to head back into Winter, house problems can lurk where you least expect them. Don’t be ambushed. Take these four key steps now to shield your home from things that go bump in the night. (Warning! Images may disturb some homeowners!)

Let’s be honest: rainwater is no friend to houses. Clogged gutters prevent water from running off and away from roofs, foundations, woodwork, and siding. And that causes warping and rot.

If your gutters are already full of debris – maybe you’re sprouting seedlings, or a moss garden like this! – falling Autumn leaves will only make things worse. Schedule a thorough cleaning now, and inspect your gutters and downspouts for the cracks and rust that make rain a weapon of house destruction.

Nothing beats a cozy winter fire in the hearth. But fire should stay where it belongs. Dirty, clogged, and crumbling chimneys, or chimneys that need re-lining, create serious hazards. Is it time to have yours inspected and repaired?

Or maybe you’re ready to swap your romantic (but smoky and sooty!) wood-burning fire for the clean and pretty convenience of a gas fireplace insert. Just in time for the holidays.

No matter what, take this advice: the American Red Cross recommends we use the time change, on Sunday, November 6th, as a reminder to replace batteries on all smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Take an extra moment to hit the “test” buttons to make sure alarms are working. Then enjoy that extra hour of fire-safe sleep, as Daylight Savings Time ends.

We all dread the feeling. Icy fingers caressing our necks. Chilly gusts through closed windows. Disgruntled undead souls?

Or just drafty cracks in windowpanes and caulking? Replace broken glass and old caulking now, and add new insulation to attics and crawl spaces, to keep out the winter cold – and keep in that expensive furnace heat. While you’re at it, ask yourself: when did you last have your HVAC checked and serviced? Do your filters look like werewolves, they’re that woolly with dust and debris? Autumn’s the time to button up against unfriendly Winter.

Peril stalks your doorstep, without good outside lights for porches and walkways. Days grow shorter; evenings darker. Just coming home from work and school can be a hard stumble through the gloom. And then there’s Halloween.

Now’s the time to install brighter bulbs in outside fixtures, and wash glass shades and hurricane chimneys so lights can shine out. And if you’re really ready to stop cursing the darkness, revamp your exterior lighting plan altogether, with fresh new fixtures and photo-cell motion sensors to turn on lights when you need them most.

Lights make a home so welcoming. Don’t you think?

Scared? Take heart. The Wills Company Handyman is professionally staffed and equipped to handle every fearsome house challenge you face as Winter approaches. Make your own list, then call us to help.