Winter home preparation checklistBelow is a comprehensive checklist. Go through the tasks and check them off while preparing your home for the upcoming winter. The following section goes into greater detail on some of the more important and complex tasks, which are highlighted in bold. ☐ Tune up heating system ☐ Clear gutters ☐ Mulch leaves when you mow ☐ Winterize lawn mower ☐ Test sump pump ☐ Turn off exterior faucets ☐ Drain lawn-irrigation system ☐ Caulk around windows and doors ☐ Add insulation in attic and around roof to prevent ice dams ☐ Inspect chimney cap ☐ Sweep the chimney ☐ Add extensions to downspout gutters to divert water ☐ Inspect roof for damage – fix any roof damage ☐ Clear the roof of any debris ☐ Prune trees and shrubs ☐ Restock on essential items, like salt, ice melt and shovels
Tune up your heating systemFor around $100, you can hire a professional HVAC contractor to inspect your furnace or heat pump to ensure that your system will keep you warm during the coldest months. The contractor will clean and repair anything that is out of order, increasing its efficiency and saving you money on costly heating bills. Remember – act now, don’t wait. Because, as soon as the first cold snap hits, pretty much every heating specialist will be booked solid until warmer weather prevails. Look for a heating contractor that belongs to the Air Conditioning Contractors of America and employs technicians certified by the North American Technician Excellence (NATE) program. Whichever person you choose to hire should follow the protocol for ACCAs “national standard for residential maintenance” (or the QM, short for “quality maintenance”). This way, you know the contractor is reputable.
Test your sump pumpOften found in the basement or a crawlspace below the main floor, sump pumps help protect your home against floods or accumulating ground water. Testing your sump pump will ensure that your home is safe from water damage caused by melting snow. To test your sump pump, first locate the outside pipe that catches the water as it drains from the pipe. Inspect the pipe to ensure there is no debris causing a clog, and remove any if there is. Next, find the sump pump in your home, and slowly pour several gallons of water into the sump pit to see whether the pump turns on. Wait until the water drains from the crock to ensure that the pump also turns itself off. If the sump pump fails to run or shut off, you may need to hire a professional contractor to fix or replace it.
Prevent ice damsPesky ice dams are a part of life in snowy regions of the country, but they can be controlled, reduced and even eliminated in some cases, with proper insulation and venting. Ice dams form on the margins of your roof, forming icicles. When it’s below freezing, this isn’t a problem, but when the weather warms up, the melting ice can form pools of water that seeps under your roof’s shingles and into your home. Before winter comes is the best time to stop ice dams. Here are a few steps you can take:
1.Keep your roof coldWhen you heat your home, the warm air rises and travels through your attic, warming the roof outside and leading to potential water damage. To prevent this keep your roof cold by closing up attic bypasses. Most heat loss is caused by unblocked walls, gaps in drywall, as well as cracks around light fixtures, plumbing pipes, chimneys, access hatches and other ceiling penetrations. While air leaks can be tough to stop, it’s an essential problem to fix, not just because it keeps your roof cold, but it saves energy costs, as well. In the average home, about one-third of the heat loss is through the ceiling into the attic.
2.Add soffit vents and roof ventsAnother way to keep your attic cool is to install soffit vents on your roof. These will usher warm air out while drawing colder air in, cooling the attic. This process may require the help of an experienced home contractor, but the general rule of thumb is that you should add enough vents so their ventilating area is about equal to the area of soffit vents. It’s tough to ever have too much ventilation in an attic.
3.Analyze your attic insulationIf you’re trying to prevent ice dams, the insulation in your attic is a good place to start. In general, building codes require at least 12 inches of fiberglass or cellulose insulation. Consider updating to spray insulation, which is known to expand more tightly into tough-to-fill gaps. Other steps you can take to prevent ice dams this winter include:
- Push the snow off your roof after heavy snowfall
- Run a special ice-and-water adhesive barrier around the edge of your roof
- Install heated cables on your roof
Inspect your roofIf you can brave the height, climb up on your roof and give it a close inspection. Look for anything that could be damaged or hazardous, such as missing shingles, rust spots on flashing or exposed nails. These could be the start of a much larger problem once snow falls. These areas can create gaps in the roof and lead to water damage from melting snow. Here are some steps to take for DIY roof repairs:
- Any loose, damaged, or missing shingles should be replaced immediately. Check for popped nails that need to be hammered back in place. It isn’t that difficult or costly to repair shingles and caulk flashing – the cost is around $30 for both a bundle of shingles and roofing caulk, and it’ll take you about a half-day to make a few repairs.
- Reseal any metal and vinyl flashing around chimneys, skylights, and attic vents with caulk.
- Replace any vent boots or flashing that are showing signs of rust or deterioration.
- Additionally, check the chimney cap. Make sure it’s not missing or damaged, as well as appropriately installed, while you’re up there.
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