December 7, 2016
7 Home Winter Maintenance Steps That Can’t Be Missed
So much time and effort is put into the process of obtaining a home – and since it’s such a big financial transaction, that’s how it should be. But being a homeowner doesn’t just end with the mortgage payments coming out of your bank account every month. Like taking care of your personal health or your car, regular preventative maintenance of your home is key, and is the best way to keep your home performing well year after year.
Given that, it’s a good idea to do a yearly check-up of sorts on your home. Spring cleaning is typically the time that everyone likes to brush out the winter cobwebs, but fall is another good time to check on your home’s performance, especially if you live in a climate that’s known for harsh winters. Snow and ice can wreak havoc on your home’s structure, and your energy bills can skyrocket due to escaping heat or your heating systems not functioning properly. It’s going to get cold eventually, so taking a few steps now to make sure that your home is ready for it can save you headaches – and hundreds of dollars.
Keep an eye out for ice dams
A buildup of icicles may look pretty from on the outside, but ice dams can cause major damage both inside and outside your home. Ice dams occur when ice builds up against the eaves. The buildup occurs when the heat from inside the house causes the snow on the roof to melt and slide down toward the eaves. There’s no heat source to the eaves, however, so the water freezes there and accumulates. When the dams build up, they can cause stress and damage to the eaves and roof, and buildup can even result in water leaking into your home if excess water continues to flow under the shingles. The good news is that this doesn’t happen overnight, so you can see where any ice is beginning to form. You can install heated cables on the outside of your home, rake the ice and snow off your roof, or look at some other long-term solutions.
Caulk, baby, caulk
Aim yourself with a caulking gun and take a walk around your house, looking for any small cracks. Air doesn’t need much space at all to seep out (nor do any creepy-crawly critters need much space to get in), and taking a bit of time to seal these fissures, especially around windows, can make your home much warmer in the cold months ahead. If caulking isn’t an option for whatever reason, another way to prevent drafts is to seal the windows with plastic shrink wrap. It’s more unsightly, but does the job: all you have to do is secure the plastic around the edges of the window frame and take a hair dryer to it. You can find kits at any home improvement store.
Check driveways, sidewalks, and steps
That cracked pavement that you’ve been meaning to fix for months may simply be a nuisance in the summer, but it can turn into a serious slipping or hazard once it’s covered in ice, slush, and/or snow. Not only can it be dangerous, but water gets into the cracks and once it freezes, it expands, worsening the damage. Make sure any cracks and uneven pavement are repaired, especially if they’re in a high traffic area. You can DIY it if the cracks are small, but larger jobs will require a call to the pros.
Check your furnace/heating sources
This may seem a no-brainer, but many people don’t think of it until they start to use their heat regularly, and if any repairs are needed, then they’re stuck suffering in a cold house. Make fall a regular time for furnace service and checking your baseboard heaters or radiators. Do you have a chimney? If so, make sure the chimney is unobstructed and ready to go before you want to curl up in front of that first fire for the season. If you didn’t get it cleaned last year, make sure you do so this year to protect against any harmful creosote buildup or even carbon monoxide that can flow back into the house.
Check ventilation systems
You may have your furnace under control, but what about your humidifiers? Have they been cleaned and given new filters, if necessary? Long periods of disuse may have caused some mould to gather inside, and the last thing you want is for damp air laden with mould spores flowing into your home. If you have ceiling fans, clean the dust off of them and click the switch to ‘reverse’ mode; instead of sending a draft down, as you want in warmer months, you want a draft to flow up, redistributing the warm air from the ceiling.
Gardeners get excited for spring, but fall care is just as important. Raking leaves is something that most homeowners already do because having too many leaves on your yard all winter will inhibit growth in the spring and promote some mould diseases. A smattering of leaves on your grass is okay, but a better idea is to rake them into your garden beds. Over the next few months, the leaves will decompose and turn into nutrients for the soil, increase the soil’s microbial life, and boost its water-holding capacity. For perennial plants, it also provides an extra layer of warmth, protecting them from the wind and cold. Stack or cover any outdoor furniture, cover any air conditioning units, drain any water barrels and disconnect your garden house from your outdoor spigot.
Check those batteries
Spring and fall are good times to test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and make sure your fire extinguishers are in good working order.
Once you do a check up on your home, you can rest easy knowing that your home is in good shape for the hibernating months ahead.