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Tips For Properly Preparing Your Home For Winter
Winter is coming. While this may not be something you’re excited for, it is the reality. Many homeowners fail to realize the importance of properly winterizing their home.
A homeowner who fails to properly winterize their home puts themselves and their home in danger of a variety of consequences. Depending on where your home is located, you may experience a very mild winter or you may experience a very harsh and cold winter.
If you live in an area that experiences colder temperatures and/or snow accumulation, it’s critical you know what steps to take to winterize your home.
Below is a guide on how to properly winterize your home, both the exterior and interior of your home. By following the steps below, you greatly increase the chances that you have any problems this coming winter.
How To Winterize The Exterior Of Your Home
It’s vital to properly winterize the exterior of your home. There are a variety of tasks that you should complete, prior to winter, to make sure you don’t have any problems during the winter months. Below are some of the most common exterior tasks to complete before the winter.
Inspect Your Roof
It’s very important before winter hits, that you inspect your roof. A proper roof inspection can provide “peace of mind” and also can help eliminate the chance of a costly repair.
The first decision that you need to make when it comes to a roof inspection is whether you will perform the inspection or you will hire a professional roofing contractor. Many homeowners don’t like even the idea of climbing a latter to get on their roof while others don’t mind at all.
If you decide to inspect your roof yourself there are certain things you should be on the look out for. It’s important you make sure that all the shingles are intact and securely attached. During the cold winter months, it’s not uncommon to experience high winds, which can ultimately lead to loose shingles being blown off your roof.
Additionally, if you decide to inspect your own roof, be on the lookout for holes or cracks in any of the flashing around your roof vents. Holes or cracks in roof flashing can lead to water penetration inside your home, so it’s important to make sure the flashing is solid and intact on your roof.
Roof issues are one of the most common home inspection findings in real estate and also can be one of the most expensive issues to fix, especially if not addressed immediately. Ensuring that your roof is in good condition is one of the most important steps to successfully winterize your home.
Prevent Ice Dams
Ice dams can create a very long list of problems for a homeowner. This list includes damaging gutters, damage to the walls and ceilings, and even mold. It’s extremely important when winterizing your home that you know how to prevent ice dams.
An ice dam is typically created after a heavy snowfall when the warmth from the attic/inside of the home raises the roof temperature above freezing, which melts the snow closest to the roof surface. Water from this melted snow then travels down the roof where it will freeze once it reaches a point beyond the roofs “warm point,” which is generally the last section of the roof, closest to the gutters.
The primary reason for ice dams is poor ventilation. When winterizing your home, be sure to check your attics ventilation as well as the insulation. The attic of a home, if properly vented and insulated should remain cold during the winter months.
If the attic in your home seems “warm” during the winter months, you need to address the situation before it becomes a problem. One of the most popular and inexpensive ice damming prevention tips is using a roof rake during the winter to remove the snow from the roof.
Clean Your Gutters
Before the winter hits, it’s important to clean your gutters. Clogged gutters are one of the most common culprits of water damage in a home. To properly winterize your home, it’s important to make sure your gutters are clear of leaves and debris from trees, such as small sticks. Depending on how many trees are in the vicinity of your home, it’s possible you may need to clean your gutters more than the recommended once a year.
One of the best methods to clean your gutters is to use a small plastic shovel to scoop the leaves and debris out of the gutters. Once you’ve cleaned the majority of leaves and debris from your gutters, use a garden hose to flush out any remaining leaves and debris. Be sure that the water your using to flush any remaining leaves and debris is draining properly.
If you decide that you don’t want to clean your own gutters, there should be several companies in your local area that perform gutter cleaning. The cost to clean your homes gutters generally will range between $75-$200, depending on the amount of gutters your home has and the height of your roof line.
Clean Your Chimney (If Applicable)
Another task to complete when you winterize your home is making sure your chimney is inspected and cleaned. A chimney is used most frequently during the cold winter months and it’s important to keep your home and your family safe, so be sure that it’s safe to use.
While it’s possible you can inspect and clean your own chimney, it’s suggested that you hire a professional. The reason it’s suggested to hire a professional is the fact that they have a trained eye to look for deficiencies in your chimney, which most homeowners do not have.
If you’re planning on selling your home in the near future, another great reason to hire a professional to clean your chimney is because many buyers will make their purchase offer contingent on a satisfactory chimney inspection.
Winterize Your Central Air Conditioner
If your home is equipped with a central air conditioning unit, it’s important you properly winterize it. Central air conditioning is a great feature to have in a home but also can be fairly expensive to repair in the event it’s not properly winterized.
The first step to properly winterizing your central air conditioning is to make sure all debris is cleared away from the unit. This includes all sticks, leaves, and bushes.
Next it’s suggested that you cover the unit with a piece of wood that is large enough to cover the top of the unit. This is to help eliminate the chance that debris, leaves, or even worse, icicles fall inside the unit which can create damage.
Finally, if your central air conditioning unit has an electric box next to it, you should ensure it is switched to the off position. Many people believe you should cover the entire unit, which is not necessary and actually is not suggested. Covering the entire unit can trap moisture inside which can lead to problems with the unit.
Once these three simple steps are completed, you’ve successfully winterized your central air conditioning unit.
Winterize Your Lawn Tools
Since you won’t be needing your lawn tools during the winter, such as a mower or weed trimmer, it’s suggested that you properly winterize and store your lawn tools. If you happen to have electric powered lawn tools, your task will be pretty easy, since all you need to ensure is that your tools are kept in a dry area.
If your lawn tools are gas powered, to properly winterize them, you should add some fuel stabilizer to your tools. Similar to the electric tools, you want to make sure your gas powered tools are stored in a dry area. This will help increase the chances that your tools will start up with ease in the spring.
Put Away Lawn & Patio Furniture
Lawn and patio furniture is designed to be pretty durable. This doesn’t mean that all of your lawn and patio furniture should remain outside all winter long and endure the elements of winter.
As you winterize your home, it’s important you put away lawn and patio furniture that should absolutely not remain outside. Furniture that is made out of aluminum can generally remain outside. Furniture that is made out of softwoods such as pine or cedar need to be stored in a dry area to prevent damage.
This is also a great time to clean and wash your lawn and patio furniture so you don’t have to waste your time once the spring weather arrives. Before you attempt to clean and wash your lawn and patio furniture, make sure you have a general idea on how to clean your outdoor furniture, since using the wrong cleaner can damage your furniture.
Take Care Of Your Landscaping
A harsh winter can cause a number of issues for your landscaping. Another task to perform when you winterize the exterior of your home is to properly take care of your landscaping.
One of the first decisions you should make is whether you will have your lawn treated prior to the winter. There are many products available at your local hardware store for winterizing your lawn that can make a big difference on how your lawn looks after a long, cold winter.
It’s also important to winterize your shrubs and bushes. It’s suggested to prune your shrubs and bushes in the late fall or early winter season. Properly pruning your shrubs and bushes will increase the amount of oxygen they receive which will ultimately lead to a healthier growth come spring time.
Landscaping that is properly winterized will look considerably better than one that is not. Since great landscaping is a feature that many home buyers are looking for when purchasing a home, it’s important to take care of your landscaping when winterizing your home.
How To Winterize The Interior Of Your Home
Many homeowners don’t realize some of the interior tasks that should be done prior to the winter season. A homeowner who neglects the interior of their home when winterizing is potentially costing themselves lots of hard earned dollars. Below are some of the most important tasks to complete when you winterize the interior of your home.
Check For Drafts
One of the most frequently asked questions from potential home buyers relates to a homes utility bills. Did you realize that your homes utility bills maybe much higher than they should be during the winter months because of drafts?
One of the most important tasks to complete when winterizing the interior of your home is to check for drafts. The most obvious places to check for drafts inside your home are the windows and doors. There are other areas in your home though that maybe producing drafts that could be costing you hundreds of extra dollars in utility bills. In addition to your windows and doors, be sure to check your homes knee walls, plumbing vents, furnace ducts, and attic openings for drafts.
The most common solution to fix a draft in your home is by installing weatherstripping. There are many different types of weatherstripping that can be used to prevent drafts in your home. Properly installing weatherstripping in your home is a great way to reduce drafts in your home during the winter months and a step in the right direction to saving you money on your utility bills.
Clean & Check Alarms & Detectors
Since during the winter months your home will remain closed up, it’s important that your homes smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are clean and working properly.
Making sure the covers of your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are clean is important to ensure they are functioning properly. A smoke alarm that has built up dust may not function like it should. Cleaning the covers can be simply done by using a wet rag or paper towel and wiping down the covers.
It’s also critical that your homes smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are working properly. Most alarms and detectors come with a “test” feature that allows you to make sure they are functioning properly. It’s suggested that you replace the batteries on your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors prior to the winter season unless they are hard wired and don’t require batteries.
Tune-up Your Homes Heating System
Another major component of a home is the heating system. The importance of a properly working heating system during the winter months cannot be under estimated. When meeting with homeowners who are thinking of selling their home, I recommend they have their heating system cleaned and inspected as one of the things to do before listing their home for sale since it is such an important component of a home.
As you winterize your home, it’s critical you have your heating system tuned up by a professional. The cost to have a heating system cleaned and inspected is normally around $100.00, which is a minimal expense when compared to the importance of having a functioning heating system during the cold winter months.
It’s suggested that you change the filter on your heating system frequently. To save a few dollars, buying your own filters and replacing it on your heating system is fairly easy. Refer to the manual for your heating system which generally will have step by step directions to replacing a filter.
Test Your Thermostat
Last winter while selling a vacant home in Rochester, NY, the homes thermostat wasn’t working properly which led to the pipes freezing because there was no heat in the home. As you can imagine, the homeowner was less than thrilled.
A very important step as you winterize your home is to make sure your thermostat is working properly. Before testing your thermostat, make sure you replace the battery, if applicable.
There are many thermostats available now as well that are not battery operated, which is preferred. Many of the non-battery powered thermostats can actually be monitored while away from your home.
One of the most popular thermostats is the Nest, which is able to be controlled via a smart phone. This can come in handy if you’re traveling on a vacation during the winter months or happen to be selling a home from long distance.
Reverse Ceiling Fans
Many homeowners don’t realize their ceiling fans are able to be set in different directions. Most ceiling fans have a setting for the warmer months and the colder months.
It may seem silly to use a ceiling fan during the winter months but doing so can actually save you money on your utility bills. While you winterize the interior of your home, make sure your ceiling fans are set in the clockwise direction. By doing so, this will create an upward airflow which will decrease the amount of time it takes for the heat to rise and heat your home, which reduces the amount of time your heating system works.
Experts suggest that you set your fan speed on low, otherwise, you can create additional drafts in your home.
Knowing how to properly winterize a home is very important if you live in an area where you experience colder temperatures and snow accumulation. The above tips on how to winterize your home should increase the chances that your home doesn’t experience any issues or problems during the winter.
Many of the above tips on how to winterize a home also can apply for those in warmer climates as well, such as inspecting your roof. Bottom line, don’t wait to winterize your home, otherwise you maybe facing significant damages and home repairs.
Other Resources For Winterizing A Home
Are you in the process of winterizing your Rochester, NY home? If you’re thinking of selling your Rochester, NY home this winter, be sure to complete the above tasks to ensure your home is properly winterized! If you’re unsure whether selling your home during the winter in Rochester, NY is a good idea or not, contact me, as I’d be happy to analyze your situation and help you determine whether selling during the winter makes sense or not.
About the authors: The above article “How To Winterize Your Home” was provided by the Keith Hiscock Sold Team (Keith & Kyle Hiscock). With over 30 years combined experience, if you’re thinking of selling or buying, we’d love to share our knowledge and expertise.
We service the following Greater Rochester NY areas: Irondequoit, Webster, Penfield, Pittsford, Fairport, Brighton, Greece, Gates, Hilton, Brockport, Mendon, Henrietta, Perinton, Churchville, Scottsville, East Rochester, Rush, Honeoye Falls, Chili, and Victor NY.
Visit our website at www.HiscockHomes.com.
© 2015 – 2016, Kyle Hiscock. All rights reserved.
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