By Karen Tucker
While most homeowners know that there are some important things they should do to prepare their homes for winter, many people don’t know what to do or they just never got around to doing it. Even though it’s January and you may be kicking yourself that you didn’t winterize your home back in November, it’s not too late. While you’re taking down the Christmas lights is the perfect time to do some quick maintenance checks and prepare your home for the freezing temperatures and snow that is likely yet to come.
Clean the gutters. During winter, ice can build up in gutters and, in order for the ice to melt and drain properly, the drains must be clear. Clean your gutters now to prevent them from clogging or even bursting once the really cold weather sets in.
Ready your roof. Ice can form on your roof and prevent melting snow from draining. If the water can’t drain, it backs up and can damage shingles, causing water to leak into the home’s interior. Cleaning the gutters will help avoid ice back up, but the problem is often caused by poor insulation in the attic. The warm air from the house caused the snow to melt at the top of the roof, but when the melted snow reaches the eaves, it freezes again because the warmth of the house does not reach the eaves area. If the attic is well insulated, the snow will melt only when the sun gets warm enough.
Clear outdoor watering systems. Water trapped in an outdoor faucet or irrigation system can cause a pipe to burst if ice settles inside. Be sure to remove hoses and make sure that outdoor plumbing and pipes are clear.
Keep snow off. Be sure that exterior walls and siding are clear of snow, especially if your home has wood siding. Inspect vinyl siding for loose or damaged sections. This can make the difference of not having to replace the siding once the snow melts.
Examine foundation vents. Foundation vents help control moisture in the crawl space so you want to be sure that they are open and not blocked by snow, leaves, or other debris.
Watch for excessive moisture. If you see excessive condensation or ice accumulation on windows or doors, make a note to remedy this in the spring. Water leakage from snow, ice, and rain can harm the exterior and interior, resulting in costly damage to the structure of your home as well as causing health issues like mold.
Check for air leaks around baseboards, windows, and doors. Caulking or weather stripping these spaces will make a significant difference in your heating costs. Also, check storm doors and make sure they close tightly.
Protect against frozen pipes. Some homes are built with water pipes too close to outside walls or there are cold spots in certain parts of the basement. You may have trouble spots that you don’t know about, especially if you haven’t lived in the home for a long time. Frozen pipes are usually only a concern when temperatures are extremely frigid. You don’t want to take a chance, as a frozen water pipe can cause huge amounts of damage.
Get help. Some tasks are easy to do yourself, while you may want to consult a professional for areas that are outside your comfort zone. A professional can check your home not only for energy inefficiency, but can spot potential problems and keep them from turning into big, expensive repairs.