Preparing your home for winter

October 21, 2014 | Pam Leibfried

Now that it’s almost November, it’s time to get serious about preparing your home for the winter weather that is to come. Below are a few steps you should take in the coming weeks to protect your home from winter damage and ensure that you and your family stay snug and warm until spring.

Exterior Projects

  • Clean out your gutters and downspouts, sealing any leaks, and make sure that downspouts adequately drain water away from your home’s foundation to reduce the risk of basement leaks.
  • Prune bushes, trees and shrubs (except for spring-flowering shrubs). If you’re not sure if the plants you have need to be pruned in the fall, do some research online or ask for advice at your local landscaping retailer.
  • If you have a deck or wood fence that hasn’t been sealed in a few years, sealing it before severe cold hits could extend its life.
  • Check your roof for loose shingles and make sure that flashing around your chimney is not loose. Keep in mind that roofing repairs are a project often best left to professionals. The money you could save by doing it yourself would be more than wiped out by the injuries you might sustain in a fall from a roof or ladder.
  • Drain hoses before putting them away for the winter.
  • Turn off the supply of water to exterior faucets and drain them.
  • If you have water or drain pipes that are exposed in a crawlspace or attic, ensure they are well wrapped and insulated.

Interior Projects

  • Oil the tracks for your garage door, so that it opens more smoothly in sub-zero weather.
  • Replace the batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Most deaths from fire and carbon monoxide occur in winter months. 
  • Make sure that you have at least one fire extinguisher on every level of your home, and verify that the extinguishers aren’t damaged and that their pressure gauge needles are in the green zone. If one of your extinguishers is so old that it doesn’t have a pressure gauge, now is the time to replace it and get a newer one so you can be confident it will work in an emergency.  
  • Make sure that floor and wall vents are not blocked…you don’t want all of the heat generated by your furnace to be absorbed by the back of a couch or chair! 
  • Change your furnace filter.  
  • Have a professional inspect and tune-up your furnace.
  • If you have a wood furnace, get your chimney cleaned.
  • If you have a fireplace, make sure the chimney is not blocked, that the flue damper can be fully opened and closed, and that you can lock it in either position. 
  • Inspect brick fireplaces for open mortar joints and repair them before lighting a fire this fall. An open mortar joint can allow fire to spread from your fireplace into the wall behind the masonry. 
  • Seal any leaks around your windows and doors with weatherstripping or caulk. 
  • If it feels cool around a light switch or electrical outlet on an exterior wall, remove the switchplate or outlet cover and install a foam insulation insert under the cover. These pre-cut pieces are sized and shaped to fit under the covers and block drafts, and they pay for themselves many times over, as they only cost around a quarter each.

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