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HOME WORK <br> WHEN FALL LEAVES YOU WITH LOTS TO DO, DON'T LET THE CHORES PILE UP

Whether it's closing the pool or stacking the firewood, many homeowners find great satisfaction and comfort in performing routine chores around the house. Especially this time of year - the last call for prepping the house for the long winter ahead.

Others, and they know who they are, are content to fit in a little rake time during halftime.

But new homeowners - as well as those who avoid gutter talk and other matters of home maintenance - should remember that tackling tasks now can save them energy later, prevent seasonal damage to home and garden and make chores less of a mess next spring.

It also gets their bodies moving and gets them out into the fresh air. A lot of people could use that right about now.

Mike Rejman, an associate in the garden department at Home Depot, Hamburg, is one of those outdoorsy types who enjoys working his way down his "To Do" list.

But don't plan on getting it all done in one weekend, he said.

Early in the fall, set aside some time to winterize your lawn with an appropriate fertilizer to strengthen the roots, and lime the lawn to bring up its PH level. Pruning can also be done early in the season, he said.

"This doesn't pertain to everyone, but some people will want to deer-proof their shrubs and, especially in rural areas, put up a snow fence," he added.

Later on, you definitely want to get the leaves off the lawn. The alternative?

"You can kill your lawn if you don't," Rejman said.

That's because leaves allowed to accumulate in thick piles can suffocate grass, spread disease and promote snow mold.

It's also a good idea to save the leaves for compost.

"It's like gold when they break down," Rejman said, adding that the compost should be "ready" next fall.

Other tasks can be tackled now before the leaves fall: Store away your outdoor furniture - but not before cleaning it and making any necessary repairs (or at least making note of them). Book a time to have the gutters cleaned later in the season, after the leaves have dropped. Have your chimney professionally cleaned and inspected. You want to eliminate any build-up of creosote, a fire hazard, while making sure the chimney cap is secure to prevent critters from entering and getting trapped.

You do have a chimney cap or mesh screen on top of the chimney, don't you?

You should also consider having your heating system inspected by a qualified heating contractor, who may also be able to check your home for carbon monoxide. After that, make a note on the calendar to clean or change furnace filters monthly.

Fall also is the time to remove dead plants, annuals, rotted produce, etc., and to prepare your perennials for winter.

And there's more. Tools need your attention. Once your yard is prepped for winter, don't just toss them in the garage and forget about them.

Clean them, sharpen them, then spray them with a light coating of oil, recommends home maintenance expert Edward R. Lipinski in his book, "The New York Times Home Repair Almanac: A Season-to-Season Guide for Maintaining Your Home" (Lebhar-Friedman Books, $19.95).

Clean the lawn mower, too. Check the manual for maintenance instructions, which should cover such fascinating subjects as draining the gasoline and removing the grass remnants. Make sure the snowblower - ah, yes, the snowblower - is ready for the wintry months ahead.

Many people look forward to sprucing up the interior of their homes this time of year.

"I find that September is a pivotal month as far as getting organized because you know the holidays are around the corner," said Linda A. Birkinbine, who runs a local organizing service called Keep It Organized!

"In the fall, I like to polish the windows - that's an inside and outside job - and I've been organizing my kids' closets, putting away the summer clothes and seeing what still fits for fall and winter. Same with my own," she said.

"We're also reorganizing our summer toys, closing the pool, weeding through and parting with those things that are worn from a fun summer," she added.

She's also a proponent of storing off-season items in plastic see-through storage totes, labeling them and stacking them on sturdy shelves in the basement or garage.

Cleaning out the garage is another priority.

"Putting away the summer toys, hosing out the garage . . . and I just cleaned out the refrigerator out there," Birkinbine said.

Some other chores to keep you moving - indoors and out:

Take down screens, if necessary, and wash windows. Or hire someone to do it for you.

Plant bulbs. You'll be glad you did next spring.

Prune tree branches reaching out to roof shingles, gutters and chimneys.

Install a carbon monoxide detector if you don't already have one. Replace batteries in smoke detectors.

Install an automatic setback thermometer. This will cut heating costs because it turns the furnace on or off at preset times.

Buy, cut, stack firewood.

Shut off the supply of water to all outdoor faucets.

Bring garden hoses inside and store them on the floor or on a hose reel. Experts advise against hanging them from nails because it can weaken them.

Seal windows and doors to prevent drafts.

Do deck duty, applying sealant, for example.

Get your bird-feeders in order.

e-mail: smartin@buffnews.com

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