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Q. In preparation for winter, what home maintenance advice may BBB provide for consideration?

A. Great timing for your question; the air is getting cooler and the leaves and cornfields are turning yellow. Fall is here. With the change in weather comes a list of home maintenance that all homeowners should tackle before the really cold stuff sets in.

BBB offers these tips when preparing your home for the colder weather:

Clean those gutters. A buildup of leaves and other debris can cause your gutters and downspouts to not drain properly. Improper draining can make water spill over your gutters which can lead to foundation/basement damage and damage to your fascia boards. In the winter, ice dams can form that melt underneath your shingles. To get a listing of BBB accredited gutter contractors near you, visit BBB.org.

Inspect your roof. Damaged or loose shingles can let in water and ice during the winter which can create interior damage. Visit BBB.org to get a listing of accredited roofing contractors.

Test your smoke and carbon dioxide detectors. Making sure these important safety tools are in proper working condition is easy and vital to ensuring the safety of those in your home. The National Fire Protection Association, www.nfpa.org offers great information on installing and maintaining smoke alarms. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission , www.cpsc.gov has information on carbon monoxide detectors.

Check your window and doors for air leakage. Adding caulk and weather stripping helps prevent leakage of cold air into your home as well as spiders and insects. Also check where pipes and wires enter your home.

Organize your garage. You will undoubtedly use your garage a lot more in the colder months. Get rid of trash and clutter and make sure your winter-use items are easily accessible. Fill/repair any cracks or holes you see to prevent bugs and rodents from entering that will be seeking refuge from the cold. Now may be a good time to use garage organizers.

Inspect your driveway. The frequent freezing and thawing conditions in many areas, along with tree roots and ground shifting, can cause driveways to develop areas of needed repair. Fall is a great time to fill cracks and sealcoat to prevent wintertime water/ice damage. BBB may assist with driveway repair contractors at www.bbb.org/chattanooga.

Schedule HVAC maintenance. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, www.energy.gov , preventive maintenance can help save you up to 25% in energy costs. Heating contractors can help you professionally service your heating unit.

Tend to the outside water supply. Cover up your outside water spigot(s). Spigot covers help keep the exterior pipes from freezing and are reasonably priced at your local hardware store. Empty hoses of any water and move them indoors.

Sweep your chimney. Having the soot and possible blockages or creosote build-up helps reduce the risk of a chimney fire and can improve the efficiency of your fireplace. BBB.org is a great place to find an accredited chimney sweep.

Change the direction of your ceiling fan. In the colder months, you want your fan moving the warm air down, which means having your blades turn clockwise.

Check any professionals you may hire. Go to BBB.org to check the trustworthiness of a business. Do a general online search on a business to see what kind of reviews and other information may be available.

Contractors and maintenance businesses should meet these Standards for Trust:

* Build Trust

* Establish and maintain a positive track record in the marketplace.

* Advertise Honestly

* Adhere to established standards of advertising and selling.

* Tell the Truth

* Honestly represent products and services, including clear and adequate disclosures of all material terms.

* Be Transparent

* Openly identify the nature, location, and ownership of the business, and clearly disclose all policies, guarantees and procedures that bear on a customer's decision to buy.

* Honor Promises

* Abide by all written agreements and verbal representations.

* Be Responsive

* Address marketplace disputes quickly, professionally, and in good faith.

* Safeguard Privacy

* Protect any data collected against mishandling and fraud, collect personal information only as needed, and respect the preferences of consumers regarding the use of their information.

* Embody Integrity

* Approach all business dealings, marketplace transactions and commitments with integrity.

Jim Winsett is president of the Better Business Bureau in Chattanooga

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