Are you getting tired of raking leaves yet? I know we are… it’s been a windy few weeks and as the trees grow bare, there’s some important work that needs to be done to help your home weather the upcoming Indiana winter.
Just like you bundle up to face the cold with gloves, scarves, hats, snow boots, wool socks, and coats, your home needs a variety of protective elements, too. From exterior fixes and repairs to interior upkeeps, to maintain a toasty, cozy place for you and your family this winter, follow these guidelines to ensure your home is a warm oasis amidst the chills of winter.
- Clean Your Gutters – Gutters go unnoticed most of the time, but if you ignore them for too long, allowing debris, dirt, and small animals to build nests in them, you’re setting yourself up for potential damage come winter. If gutters are clogged, when snow begins to melt, it has nowhere to drain, so it will filter back into your home. Clear out your gutters early so when storms and ice come, your home will be ready.
- Prevent Ice Dams – Similar to clogged gutters, when you have small air holes or leaks and cracks in your attic space, this can lead to the formation of ice dams. Ice dams occur when the warm air from your home escapes from the air leaks in your attic, creating a warmer layer on the roof which causes snow to melt and drip. However, once this water reaches the colder patches of your roof, it will freeze again, causing ice dams. These formations can cause water damage to your attic, ceilings, and roof if your home isn’t properly insulated. Be sure to check your attic or top floor’s insulation to make sure it’s intact and strong, and also check your shingles and roof for cracks, bald spots, or missing asphalt that can lead to leaks.
- Get Ready for Water – Winter brings snow, snow melts, and water forms. Take care of the foundation and surrounding areas of home by attaching extensions to your downspouts from gutters. A three to four foot extension will divert water away from your home, allowing the ground to remain dry near your foundation. This prevents seepage into your walls and basement.
- Check Your Roof – Beyond the prevention of ice dams, checking your roof’s status will keep your home safe all winter long. Look for missing shingles, wear and tear, cracks, warping, and even small holes. These can contribute to deterioration throughout the winter, which can cause air leakage and seepage, water damage, and increased use of energy. To withstand winter, your roof needs to be intact, in shape, and ready to take on whatever types of storms the Midwest will throw at us.
- Check Your Heat – Before the blizzards and blustery winds begin, call a technician to check your heating system. For a small fee, you can make sure your furnace or heat pump is performing up to par, check carbon monoxide leakage, and make any necessary repairs in time for winter. Plus, the sooner you act, the more likely you’ll be able to have an inspector come quickly. Waiting until mid-winter means you’ll be one of many in line for heating services. TIP: Most HVAC companies have cost-effective maintenance contracts where they schedule these regularly.
- Chimney and Fireplace Inspection – Nothing beats coming in out of the snow to a roaring, toasty fire. But it’s important to have a professional in first to inspect the chimney and flue, clean them, and make sure there’s no damage or blockages.
- Check Carbon Monoxide Detectors – If you have a gas furnace, it’s important to make sure your CO detector is working properly, in case of a leak. There’s usually a button on the detector, to test it. If it doesn’t beep, or doesn’t beep loud enough,, try changing the batteries, or replacing the detector.
- Reverse Your Ceiling Fans – When it comes to staying warm, you’re probably not thinking about turning your fans on for winter. However, when you reverse the flow of ceiling fans—many models now come with switches to do so—the fan helps control warmth within your home. Since hot air rises, the reverse flow of the fan pushes warm air down, helping keep rooms at comfortable temperatures. You may even be able to turn down your thermostat with the continuous circulation of warm air.
- Seal Up Your Home – If you’ve noticed a couple of mice in your home or a prevalence of spiders/insects in the same area, there’s a chance you have some cracks in your home between the foundation and siding. These openings will not only allow pests to enter your home but also cause drafts and cold spots during winter, possibly even allow moisture to develop. To prevent damage, use outdoor caulking to seal these small areas shut so you won’t have to worry come winter. Most chalkings are easy to use and start out as a pliable foam and harden once in place. You can also use caulking to seal doors and windows that have space between them to ensure the best insulation for your home. TIP: Pest control companies will often inspect for you and provide a plan to protect your home.
- Get Ready for Frozen Pipes – Turn off all your outdoor faucets so water can’t build up in them. Disconnect all hoses from faucets, drain and store those in a shed or basement so they don’t crack with cold temperatures, and then allow your faucets to drain off excess water. Not doing so can cause water left in pipes to freeze and burst, which will be an expensive repair and can cause serious damage to the bones of your home. Insulate pipes that are exposed throughout your home to prevent freezing. And if you go on vacation, do NOT turn off your heat… just set it nice and low so that you don’t risk a broken frozen pipe while you’re sitting in the sun somewhere!
- Protect Outdoor Furniture – If you have any wood, plastic, or wicker furniture outdoors, clean it off and store it in the garage, shed, or other indoor space for the winter, as snow can damage it. Cushions and patio umbrellas should be stored as well. Metal or teak furniture can stay outside, but still clean it thoroughly, and cover it in a tarp to shield it from the elements.
- Hang Your Christmas Lights – We’ve all seen Clark Griswold trying to get his Christmas lights working in the dead of winter. Get your holiday decorations and lights strung now before you have to worry about slipping and sliding off your roof or ladder!
Do you have a shovel? Salt for melting the ice? Ice scraper? Telescoping rake for the roof? How about a space heater? Make sure you have all the tools you’ll need to get you through the winter, and that they’re all in good working condition. Winter weather is always unpredictable, so stocking up on these essentials now will prevent you from having to make a panicked trip later.
As Midwesterners, we’re used to the crazy winters each year, but it’s always a good idea to brush up on what you can do to protect your home come winter so the hardest job you’ll have is brushing off your car.