How to Prepare Your Home for Winter
Although many of us are still picking up the pieces of last year's snowmageddon, it is officially fall and time to prepare our homes for the cold Truckee weather ahead. Getting the exterior of our homes ready for the cold winds, snow and ice is critical for keeping the elements out and keeping it warm and toasty inside. Sub contractors and service companies are still backlogged from the heavy snow load of last season and scheduling a roofer or someone to cut down a fallen tree may feel impossible. At KJM, one of the things we offer beyond a real estate transaction is the support in finding a solid referral for any given job. If you need a reference or assistance making calls, be sure to let us know.
Winter Prep Checklist below:
Tune Up Your Heating System
Have a technician inspect your stove, furnace or heat pump to be sure the system is clean and in good repair, and that it can achieve its manufacturer-rated efficiency. An inspection also measures carbon-monoxide leakage.
Although largely ignored in warm weather, the wood-burning fireplace and chimney can be a major source of cold air leaks and other issues in winter. So the chimney and fireplace also need some inspection and service before winter sets in.
- Check to make sure the chimney is clear of any nests from birds, squirrels or other small animals.
- Check flue damper operation. Make sure it opens and closes fully, and that it is can be locked in the open or closed position.
- Check chimney draft. Make sure the chimney will draw up the fire and smoke properly. Test this by taking several sheets of newspaper and rolling them up. Then with the fireplace damper in the open position, light the newspaper in the fireplace. The smoke should rise up the chimney. If it doesn't, you have an obstruction and need to call a professional in to clean the chimney of creosote and ash and possible debris.
If it has been several years (or never) since you had your fireplace chimney cleaned, you should have it done by a professional chimney sweep. It is definitely not a fun DIY project.
Reverse Your Ceiling Fans
If your ceiling fan has a reverse switch, use it to run the fan's blades in a clockwise direction after you turn on your heat. The fan will produce an updraft and push down into the room heated air from the ceiling (remember, hot air rises). This is especially helpful in rooms with high ceilings -- and it might even allow you to turn down your thermostat by a degree or two for greater energy savings.
Protect Pipes from Freezing
Plumbing is especially susceptible to cold weather and freezing. Burst pipes from freezing can cause some of the most expensive repairs in the home. So let's go over some of the basics to make you have them covered.
Insulate exposed piping:
If you have any exposed water or drain piping in uninsulated spaces, such as in a crawlspace, attic, outside walls, etc., make sure to insulate them with foam insulation at a minimum. Ideally, you should wrap them with electrical heating tape first, then insulate them.
Known as hose bibbs or sill-cocks, the exterior faucet needs to have its water supply turned off inside the house, and you also need to drain water from it by opening up the exterior faucet. You may also want to consider an insulated cover for the hose bibb. And remember to disconnect your garden hoses from the sill cocks or outside faucets, and drain them if you store them outside.
If you are shutting down a property for several months you should always shut off the water supply and drain the plumbing system. If a leak were to occur without occupancy, the damage could be catastrophic.
Windows and Doors
Infiltration of cold air from air leaks around doors and windows is a significant contributor to your heating bill, just as is poor insulation in the walls and ceiling. An easy way to reduce your heating bill is to reduce these drafts with simple weatherstripping.
- Check all the weatherstripping around windows and doorframes for leaks to prevent heat loss.
- Replace weatherstripping, if necessary.
- Replace all screen doors with storm doors.
- Replace all window screens with storm windows.
- Examine wooden window frames for signs of rot or decay. Repair or replace framing to maintain structural integrity.
- Check for drafts around windows and doors. Caulk inside and out, where necessary, to keep heat from escaping.
- Inspect windows for cracks, broken glass, or gaps. Repair or replace, if needed.
Gutters, Roof, and Drains
Do a quick check of the roof. Either hire someone to inspect the roof if you are not comfortable safely doing this yourself, or inspect it yourself, wearing well-fastened shoes with non-skid soles.
- Prevent Ice Dams: If your home had lots of icicles last winter -- or worse, ice dams, which can cause meltwater to back up and flow into your house -- take steps to prevent potential damage this year.
- Check the roof for missing or damaged shingles, and have them replaced.
- Check flashing around chimneys and other roof projections, which are often the source of leaks. Have repairs made, if necessary.
- Make sure gutters and downspouts are clean, having no leaves. Wet leaves remaining in the gutters over winter add significant weight and volume to the gutter when frozen and increase the risk of damage.
Landscape and Outdoor ACCESSORIES
- You may be tempted to get out the pruning shears after the leaves fall, when you can first see the underlying structure of the plant. But horticulturalists advise waiting to prune until late winter for most plants, when they've been long dormant and just before spring growth begins.
- Aerate the lawn, reseed, and apply a winterizing fertilizer to promote deep-root growth come spring.
- Ensure rain or snow drains away from the house to avoid foundation problems. The dirt grade — around the exterior of your home — should slope away from the house. Add extra dirt to low areas, as necessary.
- Clean and dry patio furniture. Cover with a heavy tarp or store inside a shed or garage to protect it from the elements.
- Clean soil from planters. Bring pots made of clay or other fragile materials indoors. Because terra cotta pots can swell and crack, lay them on their sides in a wood carton.
- Dig up flower bulbs, brush off soil, and label. Store bulbs in a bag or box with peat moss in a cool, dry place for spring re-planting.
- Remove any attached hoses and store them away for the winter to prevent cracks, preserve their shapes, and prolong their life. Wrap outside faucets with covers to prevent water damage.
- Undrained water in pipes can freeze, which will cause pipes to burst as the ice expands. Start by disconnecting all garden hoses and draining the water that remains in faucets.
- If your home had lots of icicles last winter -- or worse, ice dams, which can cause meltwater to back up and flow into your house -- take steps to prevent potential damage this year.
- Inspect decks for splintering, decay, or insect damage and treat, if needed, to prevent further deterioration over the winter.
- Clean leaves, dirt, and pine needles between the boards of wooden decks to thwart mold and mildew growth.
- Inspect outdoor lighting around the property. Good illumination will help minimize the chance of accidents on icy walkways at night.
- Check handrails on exterior stairs to make sure they’re well secured.
Remember, we are here to help. Please contact us if you have any questions or need local recommendations. Happy fall!