Well, it happened again. After a sunny, warm autumn day, I go to bed with the windows cracked open and wake up to cold, drizzly rain and snow. It snuck up on me again, this wintery mix, catching me off guard with my water hose still attached to the faucet.
Actually, with the temperature forecasted to rise again this week into the high 60’s to low 70’s, we still have time to attend to some basic seasonal preparations for our homes to help us get through the windy winter in comfort. Aside from draining the hoses and cleaning out the gutters, here are Ten Winterizing Tips* for you to consider as the season changes:
- Furnace Inspection: If you have a forced air furnace or hot water radiators, it is a good idea to call a heating contractor to inspect and service your furnace or boiler for the season. Stock up on furnace filters and change them monthly. Consider changing your thermostat to a programmable model to help save on energy and heating costs. And, as a safety measure, be sure to keep all flammable items away from the area surrounding your furnace or boiler.
- Fireplace/Wood Stove: If your chimney hasn’t been cleaned in the past year or so, it would be a good idea to call a chimney sweep to remove built up soot and creosote that can cause chimney fires. Get your wood pile built up in a dry place away from the exterior of your home. Operate the damper to make sure it opens and closes properly, and check the mortar between the bricks. If any is missing, cracked, or loose, you will need to tuckpoint those areas.
- Check the Exterior, Doors and Windows: Inspect the exterior siding of the house for cracks and exposed entry points around pipes, vents and wires and seal them with an exterior grade caulk or putty. Weatherstrip around doors and caulk windows. Replace cracked glass in windows. If your home has window wells for a basement, protect them with plastic shields. Switch out summer screens with their glass replacements, and if you have storm windows, install them.
- Inspect Roof, Gutters, and Downspouts: Consider adding extra insulation to the attic to prevent warm air from creeping up to the roof, contributing to ice dams. Check the flashing around the roof for damage to ensure that water cannot enter.
- Clean out the gutters and use a hose to spray water down the downspouts to clear away debris. Leaf guards can be helpful on gutters and extensions on downspouts help to direct water away from the foundation of the house.
- Check the Foundation: Rake away all debris and edible vegetation from the foundation. Seal up any entry points to keep small critters from crawling under the house. Tuckpoint or seal foundation cracks. We all know that mice can sneak through the tiniest holes. Inspect the sill plates (the wood plates on top of the concrete or cinderblock foundation walls) for dry rot or pest infestation. Secure and cover crawlspace entrances and vents.
- Outdoor tools and equipment: you won’t be needing the lawnmower, anymore so drain the gas or add Sta-bil to the tank. Get your snow blower tuned up ‘before’ you need it. Think about getting yourself a new snow shovel, with a good strong blade. The ergonomic ones with the curved handle really are much kinder to your back. (I know, I have one and love it!) Clean up and store your summer gardening and yard equipment. Get the bags of ice-melt (paw-friendly) and sand ready.
- Smoke Detectors and Carbon Monoxide Detectors: Now is a great time to test these devices, and if you don’t have a Carbon Monoxide Detector and you have a fireplace, woodstove, or any other fuel burning appliance (i.e. furnaces, water heaters, cooking stove) in your home, you should seriously consider getting one. It is also a good time to buy a fire extinguisher (or recharge/replace an older or spent one).
- Prevent Plumbing Freeze-ups: Locate your water main in the event you need to shut it off in an emergency. Insulate exposed plumbing pipes. Drain and store garden hoses. Drain swamp cooler and air conditioner water lines. If you go on vacation, leave the heat on, set to at least 55º F.
- Landscape and Outdoor Items: Trim tree branches that hang too close to the house or electrical wires. Plant spring bulbs and lift bulbs that cannot overwinter (like my Grandmother’s gladiolas). Seal driveways, brick patios, and wood decks.
- Prepare an Emergency Kit: Have candles and matches/lighter handy in case of a power outage. Get the phone numbers for your utility companies in one place near your phone (or in your phone, as the case may be). Some folks could use a battery back-up for their computers and sensitive electronic equipment. Store extra bottled water and non-perishable food (that means pet food, too), blankets and a first-aid kit in a dry and easy-to-access location. Prepare an evacuation plan in the event of an emergency. Almost all of these items should also be included in a car emergency kit for winter driving.
Don’t let this week’s warmer temperatures and sunshine fool you. The cold and wind is coming, and soon. Get a jump on the season and start to do some of your winterizing while the weather is still warm, especially the weather-proofing and critter control. You’ll be glad you did.
Kheli Mason, The Handy Woman, LLC
With over 20 years experience in Home Maintenance and Repair, Remodeling and Building Inspection, Kheli started the Handy Woman LLC to be ‘not just your average contracting company’, but to also teach people how to take care of their homes by offering do-it-yourself coaching and how-to classes. Along with typical home repair and maintenance services, her focus is to help our elders age-in-place and teach women homeowners how to understand and care for their homes. For more information please call Kheli @ 303.999.5812 www.thehandywomanllc.com