Jan 2008 7

Winter Home Maintenance – Eleven Easy Steps to Prevent Disasters

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Winter is a challenging time for every house owner. Wheather conditions shift to extreme and below zero temperatures can permanently damage many components of your home. Take your time to go through the following checkpoints and fix smaller isssues. Not taking winter care seriously can lead to disasters - broken pipes being just one of them.


  • Roof - Many problems result from the accumulation of ice and snow on the roof. If the snow weight becomes considerable, it will melt on the roof's surface during sunny days - and freeze overnight. The melted snow can find its ways into cracks or between joints and expand them when frozen. Be aware of ice dams as well. Winter provides a good opportunity to visually check places for heat loss - there's likely to be a problem under areas where the snow melts the quickest. Be aware of these signs, but do not risk going on the roof yourself - leave it to a professional.
  • Chimney - If you have a chimney, inspect the mortar between the bricks for any sign of deterioration. If water gets into cracks, it can turn the mortar to powder when frozen. Repair suspect areas; the chimney may become unstable over time if ignored.
  • Furnace - The furnace plays an even more important role over the winter than at any other time of year. It's your responsibility to check the filters, the oil levels, motor belts and the exhaust flue (you can check it by removing the flue cap). Having regular maintenance checks by a furnace professional can keep your furnace operating safely and efficiently.
  • Clear Gutters and Downspouts - Watch out for ice dams or blocked drainage. Prevent these problems from occurring by removing debris and fallen leaves (part of your fall cleanup routine) from gutters and drainage areas. Installing gutter screens helps tremendously. Also check to make sure that the soil surrounding your house slopes downward, so all draining water will flow away from the foundation - the soil may settle, and it's a good idea to fill in low spots.
  • Safety - In winter, walking surfaces can become hazardous. Prevent injuries by purchasing rock salt to sprinkle over icy walkways, and place mats down on potentially slippery areas outside and in entryways.
  • Seal Air Leaks - You might be losing valuable heat if your home isn't properly sealed. Check your doors and windows for drafts; consider replacing old weather-stripping around doors, and using silicone gel to seal areas where appropriate.
  • Check your Heating System Filters - Clogged filters make air circulation difficult if not near impossible. This is especially relevant during the winter season; check and clean or replace filters.
  • Insulation - To prevent additional heat loss and guard against broken water pipes, wrap exposed pipes with insulating material. Purchase insulating covers to use for outdoor water faucets.
  • Test GFCI outlets - This type of outlet is mandatory near wet areas (bathrooms, kitchen) and provide protection against electric shock. These need to be tripped (tested) and reset once a month. If they do not tri[, have the outlet checked and repaired by a qualified electrician.
  • Clean the Windows - Expose and clean windows, particularly in sunny rooms. You will save on heating costs.
  • Tighten everything - Winter is a good time to focus on smaller interior repairs, as people tend to be indoors more. Check for anything that's not tight - be it doorknobs, appliance handles, floorboards or baseboard trims. Finish up those minor repairs - smaller fixes now may help you avoid larger fixes down the road.

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