Getting Your Home Ready for the Winter

Before you know it, our warm weather will be replaced by some chilly fall weather and it will be time to start thinking about getting your home ready for winter.  The following early preparation tips will go a long way to helping you avoid common winter weather pitfalls, while keeping you warm and saving you money.

Trees and shrubs

A good place to start is to look at what is going on with the trees in your yard.  If branches are crowding your home, look dead or likely to come down with stronger winds, you will be much better served by bringing them down where you want them.

Trimming trees before potential winter storms opens up the tree’s canopy, reduces fallen branches and keeps your home safe.  Although shrubs and bushes will not fall on the home, properly trimming them before the winter will insure that water and debris have little chance to collect on the surfaces of the home and siding.

If you are not sure or need a refresher on how to properly trim branches, Fiskars has an instructional post HERE on how to do just that.

Gutters

Once the trees are no longer potential hazards to your home, you’ll want to check the gutters.

Maintained gutters and downspouts divert water away from your house and protect your home and foundation from the harmful effects of water.  Scheduled cleanings may be all that is necessary to keep rain water going where it should. When the heavy and constant rain begins, debris are likely to gather in gutters, causing pooling of water and other compounded problems.

You may elect to use a handyman, we refer some HERE, but the job can be done without great cost using a hose, ladder, gloves and trowel. Give special consideration to the corners and connections where debris is likely to gather.  Although many customers employ the use of gutter guards to decrease the labor of cleaning the gutters, they too must be cleaned regularly.

Rinsing the gutter with a garden hose, allows you to inspect the seams for leaks. Once dry you can repair leaks with an approved sealant. Make sure the gutters are strongly attached to the home and look for any large gaps between the fascia and the gutter that will allow water to drip or flow. Your fascia should be inspected for evidence of water damage so that any needed repairs can be done while weather is cooperative. If your home has steel gutters, be sure and check for rust or any exposed metal that will begin to rust. Paint over exposed metal on the gutters and replace any rusted areas as needed.

Lastly work your way down from your ladder and check that water is properly diverted away from your home. Since you rinsed the gutter with the hose you should be able to see if water is flowing away from the house or pooling. If water is pooling consider flexible gutter extensions or installing French drains if needed.

Roofing

Check your roof for potential signs of current or future leaks.  Do you have any broken or missing roof shingles? Is the flashing around chimneys, skylights and vents flush with the roof? Check your attic, the upper crawlspace and any top ceilings for stains from potential leaks. If you find any areas that look concerning, check them right after a rain. If they are damp or the stain changes size or color than it is likely that you have a leak.

Although some roof repairs can be completed by a knowledgeable and experienced homeowner we strongly encourage the use of a professional roofer to make any necessary repairs.  Many roofers are also available to look over the condition of your roof if you are not able to do the pre-winter inspection yourself. We refer dependable and local roofing contractors and handymen on our Contractor Referral page HERE if you are in need of any assistance.

Windows and Doors

Missing or damaged weather stripping on doors and cracked caulking around windows, are major issues when trying to keep your home warm in the winter. These fixes are relatively easy and inexpensive compared with high energy bills later on.

Start by checking the sills and all moving parts of your windows and sliding glass doors for dirt and debris. Debris can get caught in sills and moving parts causing improper seals. Clean these areas with shop-vac on the outside as well as the inside, to create a tighter seal and increase the performance of your windows. Check the seals and make sure they are properly caulked.  The caulking should not have any gaps or cracking and should be in a continuous bead along the seams of the window. If caulking is absent or damaged we suggest re-caulking the area with a multi-polymer caulk like Alex Plus Windows and Door which has a 40 year warranty and comes in 9 colors.

Caulking can be one of those frustrating skills to acquire so check out the video we found below for help.

The weather stripping on the inside jams of doors is the greatest entry point for cold drafts leaking into the home. Your heating system is constantly fighting to make you comfortable, not to mention the increased monetary expense of fighting these intrusions. Check the weather stripping around all your doors for damaged or missing pieces that need to be replaced. Make sure and bring your damaged weather stripping into the store so it can be easily matched.

Watch the video below if you’re new to replacing weather stripping.

Some other areas that will assist in stopping heat loss

  • Install blinds, shades or window coverings
  • Installing storm doors on exterior entryways will add an extra layer of insulation to help lower draft impacts
  • Replace old windows with energy efficient double or triple pane windows
  • Replace old doors with fiberglass

Heating Systems

Whether you are heating with wood or have a furnace, now is the time to do the maintenance.  This can be as simple as changing the furnace filter and getting it serviced by a technician or getting the chimney cleaned.  In most cases this is as simple as a phone call to your local heating company or chimney sweeper before they are booked with peak season calls.

Insulation

Insulate, insulate and you guessed it, insulate some more.  Adding insulation to the attic will go a very long way to keeping the heat inside your home this winter.  Some applications work well with batt insulation in rolls while others might prefer the blown in type to fill the gaps. Angeles Millwork offers free rental of the Attic-Cat blow in System with purchase of AttiCat Loose Fill insulation. Attached garages are frequently left uninsulated and if you are in and out of the house through the garage you could benefit from insulating this space. Also, pay attention to upper crawl space and attic entrys. Using some self adhesive weather stripping around the edges will help with keeping your heat in.

Electrical Boxes

Another area in need of additional insulation is the electrical boxes for switches, phone and cable junctions. When they are located on exterior walls you can sometimes feel a cold draft coming through the box. Using low-expanding foam to fill the gaps between the box and the exterior wall surface will solve this problem with little need for expertise, just be careful not to spray foam inside the box.

If you’re new to expanding foam or want to know of other money saving uses for it click HERE for the blog post “17 Ways to Master Expanding Foam Insulation”.

Hoses, Water Pipes & Facets

A garden hose that freezes can actually burst an interior water pipe.  Freezing water causes expansion and increased pressure through the whole plumbing system. All hoses should be unhooked and stored away before the first hard freeze is forecast. Be sure and place a faucet insulator over the spigot after draining the faucet

Insulating the pipes under your home in unheated areas, will not only insure that they don’t freeze but will also allow warm water to flow more efficiently throughout the house during the colder months. This is a very easy and inexpensive fix that any homeowner can accomplish. Merely purchase some foam pipe insulation and wrap the pipes securing it with duct tape.

Emergency Kits

Finally, as you work through the winterizing projects on your list, remember to stock up on the things you will likely need in bad weather. Ice Melt, Snow Shovels and Tarps are the first items we stock that run out in anticipation for a winter storm.  We previously posted on our blog HERE about emergency kits for Earthquake preparedness and many of the items will work perfectly in case of a strong winter storm.

As Russell Wilson once said, “the separation is in the preparation”.  For your sake, I hope the preparation provides a warm layer of separation from the elements while you enjoy a good book and some hot chocolate.

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