November 2, 2013
Regardless of where you live, the cooling temperatures of fall is a great reminder to start preparing your home for the unpredictable winter weather ahead. While winter preparation is not the most glamorous job, the benefits of protecting your home and investments can help lower your utility bills and provide some peace of mind for the season ahead.
Proactively prepare your home for the winter following the guidelines below – which can mostly be accomplished in one dedicated weekend.
Windows & Doors
Clean windows using a commercial cleaner, like Windex Outdoor Window & Surface, or make your own solution using an all natural cleaning recipe.
Check windows and doors for leaks, cracks, and worn or damaged caulking / weather stripping.
Applying caulk and weather stripping to doors and windows is an easy do-it-yourself project that prevents cold air from leaking into your home and warm air from leaking out.
Apply a permanently waterproof, 100 percent silicone caulking, like GE Silicone II Window & Door Caulk to seal any drafts on fixed surfaces. Unlike acrylic caulking, silicone is flexible and resistant against shrinking and or cracking.
Apply weather stripping to any surface where there is a fixed and movable component, like around a door. It prevents drafts by filling in the gaps and spaces between the frames and movable parts. Weather stripping is available in a variety of materials including foam, rubber, vinyl, and felt. Choose a material that will stand up to the wear and tear of the location and able to withstand the friction of the door/window. The weather stripping should seal well when the door or window is closed, yet allow either to open freely.
Lock all windows as this creates an airtight seal.
Open window treatments during the day to allow in the warmth and heat from the sun - and close the treatments at night to retain the heat.
Consider placing draft stoppers, like the Twin Draft Door & Window Guard, at the base of doors and windows to further keep out drafts.
Roof and Foundation
Inspect the roof for worn, damaged or missing shingles and make any repairs as necessary. Inspect all of the flashing to ensure it is in good condition and properly attached to the home. Flashing provides a moisture barrier around areas like the chimney and vents. Repair any minor damage area where water can penetrate with sealant and replace any badly damaged flashing all together. Rake debris and vegetation away from the homes' foundation.
Inspect the foundation for cracks and damage and all areas where wires and pipes enter the home. Minor damage can be repaired by filling in the area with caulk or sealant.
Gutters and Downspouts
Clean gutters of any built up debris. There are some cleaning kits on the market, such as the Gutter Getter designed to help make the process a bit easier by cleaning up to 14 feet of gutter at a time and hitting hard to reach spaces where a ladder cannot be placed.
Consider installing Gutter Guards to prevent leaves and debris from entering and blocking the gutters. While gutter guards do not provide foolproof protection and still need monitoring, they do reduce the frequency of cleaning and blockages.
Consider installing Downspout Baskets or Screens. These are easy to install and keeps leaves and debris from entering and clogging the downspouts and underground drainage systems.
Install Downspout Extensions to divert water away from the homes foundation. Water should be drained at least 5 feet away from the foundation and ideally the grade of soil around the home should help aid in slopping the water away. Over time though, the soil can become compressed causing a need for a downspout extension. Keep in mind long extensions can become loose and knocked off so if they are already installed, be sure to check these areas for correct performance.
Lawn and Garden
Drain and remove outdoor hoses. Store them in the shed or basement to prevent cracks and damage from freezing temperatures.
Turn off outdoor water supply at the shut-off valve, then turn on all of the outdoor faucets to drain any water. Note: each outdoor faucet should have its own shut-off valve, usually located inside the home.
To further protect the outdoor hose bibs and faucets, inexpensive insulated covers, like this Outdoor Faucet Cover, can also offer some additional protection against freezing.
Trim weak, damaged and overgrown branches around the home and driveway - preventing property damage caused from ice, snow, and winds.
Move potted plants into a shed or basement to protect the pots and help insulate the roots of planted perennial plants.
Cut back withered garden perennials and bulbs to the soil and cover with a layer of mulch. This will ensure the plants energy is spent developing a strong roots system and insulate the roots from freezing.
Dig up tender flower bulbs and tubers that cannot survive in the colder weather. Brush them off and allow them to dry. Label and store the bulbs in paper bags or boxes and store in a cool darkened area. Bury tubers in containers filled with sand, peat or perlite to prevent them from drying out completely.
Outdoor Tools and Equipment
Thoroughly clean outdoor garden tools, removing any dirt on the metal surfaces. Once cleaned, lightly coat the metal surfaces with oil, such as WD-40 to prevent rusting. Protect the wooden handles from drying and splintering by coating them with linseed oil. Store tools in a dry location.
Rinse and drip dry fertilizer / pesticide spreaders before storing them away. Dispose of unused pesticides and chemicals according to the label directions.
Drain or use up left over fuel from the lawn mower. Clean matted grass, mud and debris from the machine and lubricate the surface according to the manufactures specifications.
Be prepared for the first snowfall by gathering Snow Shovels, Ice Choppers, and Ice Melt and placing them in a spot for easy winter access.
Clean any decking thoroughly to remove any debris, paying close attention to the spacing between the deck boards. Debris caught between the deck boards is ground for mildew and mold growth. Re-apply a water protectant stain or finish to protect the decking from the cracking, splintering and warping effects of winter weather.
Clean, dry and protect outdoor furniture with Outdoor Furniture Covers or simply store the furniture indoors.
Store patio accessories that are loose or can be removed, like umbrellas, patio cushions and hammocks. Inspect and/or install outdoor lighting.
Heating and Furnace
Turn on the furnace, early in the season, to ensure it is in proper working condition - before you actually need it to be.
To keep your heating (and/or cooling) systems in top shape, have them professionally serviced once a year. Maintenance includes inspecting, cleaning and lubricating the furnace, as well as replacing any worn or frayed belts.
Clean or replace the air filter in the furnace at the beginning of the heating season. Continuously used filters should be checked on a monthly basis and replaced every three months - or sooner if they appear darkened or clogged.
Consider replacing the old-style fiberglass filters with Pleated Filtrete Filters. These high efficiency filters contain a built in electrostatic charge which causes the filter to act like a magnet capturing both large and small particles, such as dust, pollen, mold spores, pet dander, smoke, smog and bacteria.
Consider replacing an older thermostat with a newer Programmable Thermostat model. Programmable thermostats allow the user to tailor heating and cooling systems to their own schedule, such as when sleeping at night or away from the home during the day. Many models come with additional features like touch pad displays, Wi-Fi programming, vacation settings and indicators which signal reminders to change the filters.
Following these steps will help ensure your home is ready for the coming winter months. For more tips on prepping your home for cold weather check out True Value’s project guide.
I was one of the bloggers selected by True Value to work on the DIY Squad. I have been compensated for my time commitment to the program as well as writing about my experience. I have also been compensated for the materials needed for my DIY project. However, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments.