Falling Into Winter: A Pre-Winter Home Maintenance Guide

The chill in the air tells us one thing; those snowy, icy days are just around the corner. Like winterizing your car, your home needs some TLC now, as well. Not to mention that old saying, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure". Hancock Home Inspections has put together the information listed below in an effort to assist you, the homeowner, with preparing your home for the long tough winter. Taking these preventative measures now will prevent a costly repair situation down the road.

  1. Seal any and all cracks visible in brick, concrete, asphalt, and siding. The freeze and thaw affect can speed up the deterioration of these areas.
  2. Caulk the outside of your home now while the caulking will still be pliable. A good rule of thumb is to caulk joints where different construction materials have been used. This minor little detail can reduce substantial heat loss, particularly in older homes.
  3. Check to ensure that all roof penetrations are properly sealed from inclement weather. These items include, but are not limited to: chimneys, plumbing stacks, roof vents, and skylights. Flashing will get old and roof mastic dries and cracks. It is easier to reseal these areas now, while the temperature allows sealant to be flexible and paints to dry and adhere.
  4. Weather-strip doors leading to the outside. Weather-stripping kits are available at most hardware stores. Don't forget the door leading to the garage. The bottom of all exterior doors should have a proper "sweep" or interlocking threshold. Windows should also be properly weather-stripped if they are older and air is allowed to infiltrate around the frame.
  5. Older windows are generally single glazed units. Check the glazing compound that holds the glass in place. If it is cracking or falling out it should be repaired. The best way to seal windows inside is by using the new "rope" caulking that comes in rolls. You can cut the lengths you need and reuse the rest next year. Now is also a good time to install storm panels or switch screen and window units.
  6. Regarding your outside electrical items. Change bulbs now. It is easier to do this in moderate temperature than in the middle of a winter blizzard. Outside plugs should have a ground fault interrupter duplex or circuit. This makes your holiday lighting arrangement a bit safer.
  7. While you are outside, look at those gutters. Once the leaves are done falling, clean those gutters. This helps prevent ice dams, which can cause damage to both interior and exterior wooden areas. Now is also a good time to ensure all downspouts are properly diverting water run-off away from the house. Install extensions and splash blocks are required. You may also desire to trim tree branches away from the roof to prevent problems this winter. But watch those power lines.
  8. Have your furnace or boiler checked and serviced by a professional technician. Failures to heat systems can occur any time. They can work fine one day and then not the next. Adjust the burners, change filters, clean and adjust the humidifier, flush the boiler, check for leaks, calibrate the thermostat, and check the heat exchanger. If you have metal ducts or pipes running through cold areas such as attics, insulate them so as to disallow condensation dripping back into the house. This will also allow your heat system to operate more efficiently.
  9. Make sure the damper on your fireplace is functional. Many older homes do not even have dampers. However, there are an array of different types on the market today that can be installed at the top of the chimney with long chains running to the firebox to properly control the operation. The exterior capping of our chimney should also be looked at and repaired if there is any cracking of the mortar, loose joints, or damaged brick.
  10. Drain your outside hose bib so that it will not freeze and possible burst inside the house.
  11. 1If your house has a crawlspace, close up the vents now. This will help protect any plumbing from freezing. Also make sure the access door fits snuggly. It is best to have your crawlspace area insulated.
  12. If you have a basement, make sure the basement windows seal tightly, insulate the perimeter of the subfloor with insulation batts. Seal any cracks in the basement walls. Also seal around any penetrations coming through the walls such as electrical, plumbing, and water lines.
  13. Insulate the attic. More so than any other items, this is important. It is relatively inexpensive and pays back high dividends in energy savings rather quickly. We recommend R-38. Doing this also lessens the potential for ice dams by holding the heat in the house and not allowing it to cause melting and freezing condition on the roof.
  14. If you are on a private sewage system, this is an excellent time to have the treatment tank pumped. Depending on your situation a good rule of thumb is to have the tank pumped every two years.
  15. Disconnect power to any central air conditioning and cover the unit for protection from the winter elements.

Taking a day or so now in the fall to perform pre-winter maintenance can save you a lot of headaches down the road. It is also a good idea to save records of repairs and maintenance should you ever sell your existing home. These type of records are vital to the new owner as well as provide a form of disclosure for you, the seller.