October 7th, 2015
Fall is in full swing and winter is fast approaching. Many forget that taking a few simple winterization steps is a great way to save big on seasonal home repairs as well as keep you from having to file claims on your homeowners insurance. The following is a checklist of to-dos and things to look out for before settling into your cozy home for the winter:
1. The roof - Your roof is arguably the most important part of your home. It protects and shelters your family from winter's worst, but requires regular maintenance to keep in good condition. First thing's first: climb up and give it an inspection. You won't need any prior roofing knowledge to see if something looks awry. Loose or missing shingles are fairly obvious to spot, and should be fixed immediately. According to Pekin Insurance, any vents and their seals should also be thoroughly inspected to ensure air-tight quality. Birds and other critters will often attempt to nest in or under your home's roof vents, so it's a good idea to make sure that their covers are covered tightly and sealed to the roof with fresh caulk.
2. The chimney - In addition to shingles, you'll want to be sure that your chimney is unblocked and clean for winter use. The Family Handyman recommended cleaning your flue once a year, or after every 50 or so uses, and offered detailed instructions on how to properly clean your flue. A pro tip for chimney cleaning is to have yours cleaned and repaired in the springtime. This will help you avoid long waits for chimney sweeps making house calls.
3. Gutters - You'll want to clear these out before winter sets in. By late October, many gutters will be clogged with leaves and various fall debris. Winter brings snow, and snow needs to be able to melt and drain efficiently. Failing to give that snow a place to go could cause major roof and gutter damage, which could in turn result in major out-of-pocket repair costs in addition to potentially filing an insurance claim and raising your yearly payments.
"The space between windows, doorways and the surrounding siding should be no wider than a nickel."
4. Caulk, caulk and more caulk - The space between windows, doorways and the surrounding siding should be no wider than about the width of a nickel, according to Richardson via Kiplinger, a personal finance and business forecast publication. Caulk is cheap and readily available at your local hardware store. Pick up a tube and go around your windows and doors, sealing gaps and cracks as needed.
1. Reverse ceiling fans - This is a frequently overlooked yet very clever way to save your winter heating bills. Running the fan blades in a counterclockwise motion will push hot air down from the ceiling and around the rest of your home, instead of vice-versa. Many fans have reverse switches on the top of their main counsel, or inside their main plate. This can be extremely helpful for homes with high ceilings, and could save you big in the long run. Heating bills add up!
2. Air-tight attic - If you have easy attic access, it's never a bad idea to inspect for drafts. You'll want to check the attic flooring and also the attic walls which provide a barrier to the outside. Listen and feel for drafts, and seal up cracks as needed.
3. Home vacancy precautions - Many families escape the chill of winter by taking a vacation. If yours is flying south for the colder months, be sure to have a neighbor check on your home. Set automatic lights to make your home appear occupied, and consider hiring a snow removal service to keep your driveway clear. This will not only reduce the risk of theft, but also your liability if someone gets hurt on your property while you are away.