Now that the cold is officially here, it is time to consider preparing your home for winter. If you live in a cold and snowy region, it is important make these arrangements in order to avoid future home repairs.
1. Tune up your heating system: When the weather gets cold, it will be the worst time to find out that your heating system doesn't’t work. You do not want to have to wait for someone to come out, while you are freezing!! For around a $100 you can have a technician inspect your furnace or heat pump to ensure your heating system is clean and in good condition. It will also ensure your system in reaching maximum efficiency and not leaking carbon monoxide. Make sure your technician is licensed and qualified!
2. Reverse the ceiling fans: Some people may not know that ceilings fans can be reversed. If your ceiling fan has a reverse switch, turn it on to run the fan blades in the other direction when you have the heater running. The fan will create an updraft and push the hot air back down into the room. This will keep your room warmer and is great in rooms with high ceilings.
3. Prevent ice dams: If your home tends to get a lot of icicles there is a chance that your home can get ice dams. This causes water to back up and flow right into your house which can cause rotting, mold, foundation and structural problems. A home-energy auditor or weatherization contractor can identify and fix air leaks and inadequate insulation in your home’s attic that can lead to ice dams.
4. Check the roof: Look for damaged, loose or missing shingles that may leak during winter’s storms or from melting snow. If need be, hire a handyman to repair a few shingles or a roofer for a larger section ($150 to $450 for a 100-square-foot area). Check and repair breaks in the flashing seals around vent stacks and chimneys, too.
If your roof is flat and surfaced with asphalt and pebbles, rake or blow off fall leaves and pine needles, which hold moisture. Don’t sweep aside the pebbles; that will expose the asphalt to damaging sunlight.
5. Caulk around windows and doors: If the gaps between siding and window or door frames are bigger than the width of a nickel, you need to reapply exterior caulk. Make sure to check the joints in window and door frames, too. Silicone caulk is best for exterior use because it won’t shrink and it’s impervious to the elements. Check window-glazing putty, which seals glass into the window frame. Add weather stripping as needed around doors, making sure you cannot see any daylight from inside your home.
6. Clean the gutters: If your gutters are full of leaves and debris, water can back up against the house and damage roofing, siding and wood trim -- plus cause leaks and ice dams. You’ll typically pay $70 to $300 to clean gutters on a single-story house, depending on its size. Look for missing or damaged gutters and fascia boards and repair them.
7. Divert water: Add extensions to downspouts so that water runs at least 3 to 4 feet away from the foundation. For example, you can purchase a spout extension, which extends 25 to 55 inches, for $5. (Water near or directly against the foundation can cause huge problems in the future).
8. Turn off exterior faucets: As the weather drops, undrained water in pipes can freeze, and will cause pipes to burst as the ice expands. Disconnect all the garden hoses and drain the water that remains in faucets. If you don’t have frost-proof faucets, and if your home is 10 to 15 years old you probably do not have them, turn off the shut-off valve inside your home.
9. Drain your lawn-irrigation system. It is probably best to call in a professional to do this job. Your sprinkler service will cost between $75 and $150, depending on the size of your system. If you drain them, it will avoid any freezing and leaks that will happen as a result freezing water expansion.
10. Mulch leaves when you mow: Mow your leaves instead of raking them. The trick is to cut the leaves, while dry, into dime-sized pieces that will fall among the grass blades, where they will decompose and nourish your lawn over the winter. Use your lawn mower without its bag, and optionally swap the cutting blade for a mulching blade, which will cost about $30 to $50. The process may take several passes, but at least you don’t have to rake it!
11. Prepare to stow your mower: As the mower sits through the winter, fuel remaining in its engine will decompose, "varnishing" the carburetor and causing difficulty when you try to start the engine in the spring. If you've added stabilizer to your fuel to keep it fresh longer, then fill the gas tank to the top with more stabilized fuel and run the engine briefly to allow it to circulate. If not, wait until the tank is nearly empty from use and run the engine (outdoors) to use up the remaining fuel. Check your mower's manual for other cold-weather storage steps.
12. Prune trees and shrubs in late-winter: Horticulturalists advise waiting to prune until late winter for most plants, when they've been long dormant and just before spring growth begins. To get advice specific to your plants and region, don’t be afraid to talk with master gardeners at your local nurseries.
There is an exception to this: If your larger trees need a trim, you may need to hire an arborist to remove deadfall or trim limbs close to your home or power lines that could cause problems in a winter storm.
13. Call a chimney sweep: Before you burn the Yule log, make sure your fireplace (or any heating appliance burning gas, oil, wood or coal), chimney and vents are clean and in good repair. That will prevent chimney fires and prevent carbon monoxide from seeping into your home. You can expect to pay $50 to $100 for an inspection to see if you need a cleaning, and $100 to $300 for the cleaning.
14. Avoid the rush: Get your snow and cold weather supplies early! Salt, shovels, snowblowers, etc., get them before the first snow fall to avoid higher prices and lower inventory.