Freshly fallen snow may look pretty, especially when the sun, moon, and stars shine upon it. However, winter weather can wreak havoc on your home. From heavy snow sitting on top of your roof to icicles forming on your gutters, frozen pipes, ice dams, howling winds, and more, winter weather may leave you and your family out in the cold. At Improvements, we’re giving you winter home maintenance tips so you can prevent any wintry woes that may fall your way.
Preparing Your House before Winter
To ready your house for winter, use our handy checklist, which can help you prepare for whatever the season brings, from ice to sleet, heavy snow, gusty winds, rain, and more. If you’re unable to do anything yourself, make sure you hire a reputable professional or contractor. As you go along checking off items on your list, keep track of everything you’ve fixed and the cost. In fact, you may want to create a special Winter Home Maintenance folder and file your invoices and receipts in it. It’s a great way to keep your winter home maintenance paperwork in one place so that you can easily access for next year.
Winter Home Maintenance Tips: Preparing the Inside of Your Home
Get Your Furnace Checked Out
Have a professional to check out your heating and air-conditioning system. If you have a maintenance agreement, schedule an appointment as soon as possible. If you don’t have a service contract, it may cost you $80 and up to have your heat pump, or furnace inspected. Again, schedule as soon as possible. Make sure the inspection measures for carbon-monoxide leaks. Also, the filters should be changed, Buy extra ones so you can change them when needed.
The sooner you call for furnace maintenance check, the better as you don’t want to call when your furnace breaks. When you research contractors and technicians, look for ones associated with the Air Conditioning Contractors of America. Make sure they have a certification from the North American Technician Excellence (NATE) program. Anyone you hire should follow the standards of the AACA.
Reverse Your Ceiling Fans
Preparing your home for winter includes reversing your ceiling fans, which is easy to do. Just flip the reverse switch so that the fan’s blades turn clockwise after you turned on your heat. An updraft will occur and push down the hot air that rose to the top of your room. If your house has high ceilings, you may be able to turn down your thermostat a degree or two which may help you to reduce your energy bill.
Protect Your Pipes from Freezing
Did you know that a burst pipe may cost you more than $5,000 in water damage? The good news is that a little winter home maintenance can help prevent this. If you go on vacation, don’t turn your heat down to low because your pipes need heat to prevent freezing. Allow your faucets to drip during cold snaps. Wrap pipes with insulation. You can find fiberglass sleeves or foam rubber at your local hardware or home improvement store. Caulk cracks and holes near pipes to prevent cold air from reaching them. You may also consider contacting a licensed contractor to ensure your pipes are ready for winter.
Insulate Your Water Heater
You may save on fuel by wrapping your old water heater in a blanket. Check with your utility company for instructions. Keep in mind that you do not want to cover the burner access on a gas or propane water heater. Also, don’t insulate the following:
- Pre-insulated water heater.
- Water heater whose instruction manual indicates that you should not insulate.
- Tankless water heater.
- A water heater that’s located where extra heat is welcome.
The cost to insulate a water heater ranges from $20 to $30. Contact your utility company and ask about discounts, free water heater insulation, or rebates.
Check the Batteries in Your Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Detectors
You should already be checking the batteries in your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. However, it’s worth repeating because you may use a wood-burning fireplace or stove. Make sure each bedroom and floor of your home has a smoke and carbon monoxide detector. It’s a good idea to have them in the kitchen as well. Check the detectors monthly to ensure they work and change or charge the batteries as needed.
Remove Your Window Screens
Remove your window screens may increase the natural light during the winter. You’ll also remove the risk of snow getting trapped between your screens and windows, which could potentially cause damage to the frames and sills.
Check Caulking and Weatherstripping around Doors and Windows
Caulking and weatherstripping can seal warm air while keeping the cold air out. If the caulking and weatherstripping around the inside of your doors and windows are old, you’ll want to replace them. Latex caulking comes in clear and colors, so you can easily match your home’s interior decor. Keep in mind that you’ll want to caulk the outside of your windows, too. Use silicone caulking because it won’t shrink and can stand up to the elements.
Get Your Wood Burning or Gas Fireplace Inspected
Even though you may use your wood burning or gas fireplace all year round, it’s a good idea to get it inspected for the winter. It’s also a good idea to have your chimney checked and cleaned as well. You may even consider gathering firewood and storing it a dry place for the winter. You may also want to get a heavyweight canvas log tote bag to make carrying your firewood easier and cleaner. If you have a gas fireplace, have your technician look for leaks. And while you’re at it, have your chimney inspected and cleaned.
Add or Replace Insulation
Inspect your attic, basement, or crawl space insulation to ensure it’s adequate. After all, insulation will keep it warm in the winter and cooler in the summer. If it’s worn out, you may need to replace it. If you need more, add whatever it will take to keep your house insulated. Keep in mind that adding insulation may require you to hire a professional. If you’re handy, ask if you can assist and if it will reduce the cost. But it’s not a cheap job. However, the payoff can be huge as you may receive rebates and financial incentives. Go to Energy.gov to find out an estimate on the return of your insulation investment.
Winter Home Maintenance Tips: Preparing the Outside of Your Home
Clean Your Gutters
Gutter cleaning and maintenance will help water drain away from your house and roof only if they’re not clogged. In colder months, your gutters may freeze, which means water may not drain properly. Melting snow and ice can soak into your roof or even flood your house’s foundation causing major damage. Before winter hits, clean your gutters, or hire someone to do it for you.
Evaluate Your Roof
How does your roof look? Are there any loose or damaged shingles? Do you need to replace your roof? You’ll want to get your roof inspected before old man winter sweeps through your area. A professional can tell you if you’ll need to replace a few shingles or your entire roof. They’ll also inspect the flashing seals around your vent stacks and chimneys to make sure they’re okay. The cost for a roof will vary, depending on where you live in the nation. If you live in an area that gets snow, you may want to invest in a roof rake so that you can remove excess snow.
Trim Your Bushes, Shrubs, and Trees in Late Winter
It’s a good idea to trim your greenery because you don’t want long tree branches hanging near your home, roof, or gutters. If they break during the winter, they could damage your house. Spend a few hours trimming your greenery because it could save you money in the long run. Also, make sure you get plant protection for your shrubs. After all, you shouldn’t leave them exposed to wintry weather which may damage them. Consult local gardeners at the nurseries in your area if you’re unsure about when to trim bushes, shrubs, and trees.
Prevent Ice Dams from Forming
If you’ve noticed that your house had a lot of icicles or ice dams, make sure your winter home maintenance includes taking steps to prevent them. If you don’t, your house may experience water damage. Consult a weatherization contractor who can pinpoint and fix air leaks along with insufficient insulation in your home’s attic.
Keep Water Away from Your Home
Detach all garden hoses and drain the water in your faucets because it’s a great way to prevent pipes from bursting because of ice expansion. Older homes usually don’t have frost-proof faucets. Therefore, you’ll want to turn off the shut off valve inside your home. In addition to this, you’ll want to add extensions to your downspouts so that water remains approximately 3 to 4 feet away from your foundation. And, you’ll want to drain your lawn irrigation system so that you can avoid unwanted freezing and leaks.
Mulch Leaves When You Cut Your Grass
Instead of raking leaves, mow them instead. However, they must be dry so they can easily decompose and nourish your lawn. If you have a lawn service, ask the people who cut your grass to mulch your leaves. And speaking of lawnmowers, you’ll want to prepare yours for storage. Do not leave fuel in the tank because it can decompose and cause a problem when you try to start it next spring. You may also check the owner’s manual for winterization tips.
Test Out Your Sump Pump
You should test your sump pump every few months to ensure it’s working correctly, especially if your area hasn’t had much rain. Gradually pour a couple of gallons of water into your sump pit and listen for the pump to turn on. Consult your owner’s manual for instructions on testing and maintenance. Also, consider how old your sump pump is. Most last for about 10 years. If yours is older than that, you may need to invest in a new one before winter arrives.
Wash and Cover Your Outdoor Furniture or Store It
Winter home maintenance wouldn’t be complete without covering and storing your outdoor furniture. If you live in a place where you could keep your patio furniture outside, you may use outdoor furniture covers to protect your chairs, benches, tables, etc. from the elements. However, no matter where you live, it’s best to cover and store your furniture indoors. The same goes for your outdoor cushions and pillows.
Will Your Home be Winter Ready?
Get your home winter ready before old man winter knocks at your door. After all, you can’t wrap a down blanket around your house and put a hat on your roof to keep it warm. So, use our winter tips for homeowners and do everything you can to get your home ready for winter. You may want to check your emergency supplies and restock whatever you need. For instance, if you have a wood burning fireplace, make sure you have enough firewood and cover or store it.
Because of your winter home maintenance efforts, you may be surprised by the amount of money you’ll save. For example, fixing or replacing old drafty windows may reduce your heating bill. Repairing or replacing your roof may save your home from water damage. Adding or replacing insulation can keep your home warmer. While winter home maintenance may be hard work, it can pay off in the long run!