|  December 22, 2017

I get a lot of questions from people about home maintenance, immediate problems they have, past problems and prevention recommendations.  Many times these questions are around a recent catastrophic event like a basement that flooded.  A common connection is that many of the questions are seasonal. So here are some tips for preparing your home for winter weather.

Check to make sure your attic access hatch is insulated. No insulation on your attic access hatch is a Huge energy waster and really increases your chances of ice dams forming on your house during a deep snow. Fortunately the solution is typically easy if you have a drywall or plywood attic access hatch. Cut a piece of 10”-12” thick fiberglass insulation to the size of the attic hatch. Glue (with construction adhesive) the insulation on to the attic side of the hatch. Set something heavy on the insulation while the glue dries to assure a good bond. Remove the weight and reinstall the hatch. You can also accomplish this using high insulating value rigid foam insulation in place of fiberglass. The foam can be cut with a utility knife or common hand saw.

Check the insulation in crawl spaces and unfinished portions of your basement.  You are looking to see if insulation has fallen away from the foundation or from the floor joists.  A “break” in the insulation barrier can lead to cold floors, increased energy cost or worse a frozen water pipe when temperatures take a dive.

Does your furnace ductwork have dampers that are labeled summer-winter? If yes then don’t forget to adjust the damper to winter position. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Ask your HVAC tech the next time your system is serviced or call/email me for a quick explanation (I don’t want to be too wordy here).

Replace or clean heating/cooling system filter. This should be done monthly as a normal maintenance program.

Disconnect your outdoor hoses from the hose bibs. Turn off the water supply to the outdoor hose bibs and be sure to open the little bleeder valves on the side of each shut off valve to release the water remaining between the valve and the outdoor hose bib.  Don’t forget to open the outdoor hose bib to allow water to escape.

Here’s a simple one: Make sure your windows are closed snugly and then lock the latches. Most latches force the window sashes against the sill and head which can significantly reduce heat escape.

If you have storm windows or vinyl replacement windows inspect and clean the weep holes that allow rain water to drain from behind the storm/replacement window to the exterior. Water build up here often times rots out window sills. I have seen it so extensive that the water rotted framing in the walls below the windows.

Start your gasoline powered snow blower and generator now to make sure they will run when needed. When the winter season is almost over make sure that the gas in these machines has fuel stabilizer added and that you run the machines long enough to get the stabilized fuel into the engine.*

Once that the leaves have finished falling check and clean gutters and downspouts if needed.  I know many people who blow the leaves off their roof and out of gutters with their leaf blower. If you have screens on your gutters – blow the off the screens.

Make sure the splash blocks at downspouts are directing water away from the house. If we get a lot of snow this winter be sure to shovel a path through the snow so that water from the downspouts can run away from your house when the melt begins. The idea here is to give the water from snow melt an easy path away from your house to minimize the risk of it backing up and flowing into your basement.

Does water from your sump pump flow away from your house after the pump runs? Make sure this water has the same opportunity to flow away from the house as does rainwater (see above).

Don’t forget about your chimney. Visually inspect your chimney for cracks. You can check up high using binoculars.  If you have a wood or gas burning fireplace have your chimney cleaned and inspected by a professional. I suggest finding a CSIA certified chimney sweep to inspect/recommend chimney maintenance. Have you looked closely at your chimney after the earthquake from several years ago?

Clear debris off of exterior stairwell and window well drains to reduce the possibility of flooding during heavy rain or snow melt.

Check to see that exterior window well covers are secure from being blown away in strong winds.

Take a couple minutes to look under sinks and around toilets for signs of leaks. Slow leaks often show up as big repairs when un-noticed for a long time.

Trim tree limbs that could break off in a heavy snow damaging your roof, car or deck.

Trim bushes away from wood trim on your house.  The leaves on bushes hold moisture and block sunlight from drying your wood trim. Constant contact of moist bushes on wood trim accelerates wood rot and potential expensive repairs.

Clear bushes and debris away from your outdoor heat pump unit. You don’t want snow weighing down bushes and branches that will interfere with your heat pump operation.

Remember to keep at least a 2’ clearance space of accumulating snow around your outdoor heat pump during heavy and or blowing snow. See our blog “Tips to Help Your House Survive a Big Snow”.

If we get a big snow this winter: Make sure you keep snow away from high efficiency gas water heater/furnace exterior fresh air intake and exhaust. The idea here is to prevent the system from failing due to lack of sufficient oxygen AND to prevent carbon monoxide from the exhaust from entering your home. Don’t forget to keep your dryer vent exhaust clear from snow too.

Summer outdoor equipment.  Be sure to put fuel stabilizer in the gas that you use to fill your lawn mower/weed wacker the last time you mow in the fall. This way as you finish out the mowing season your fuel left in the lawn mower/weed wacker etc.  over the winter won’t gum up making it difficult to start in the spring.*

*Why add fuel stabilizer? In our area, gas stations are mandated to provide/sell gasoline with a minimum 10% ethanol content. Over an extended period of non-use gasoline & ethanol in fuel tanks can separate. The result is a gummy substance that will clog your small engine’s fuel delivery system preventing it from starting. Fuel stabilizer when properly used can prevent the system from clogging.

Have questions or comments or criticisms? Feel free to contact me.