Keep your Midwestern home free from damage by preparing for the constant cycle of freezing and thawing that occurs throughout fall and winter. Certain home maintenance tasks should be completed each season to prevent structural damage, save energy, and keep all your home’s systems running properly. Here are the major issues you should be aware of and critical tasks you should complete:
- Disconnect hoses from outside faucets: This keeps water inside the hose from freezing and splitting the casing, and it also allows the pipes inside the wall to drain completely so that water doesn’t freeze and crack them. Most outside spigots now are self-draining, but if you have an older home, you may have to manually turn off the valve inside the house to shut off the water so that it drains completely, which is usually located in the basement. Failing to complete this task could result in a frozen/ruptured water line…so not fun!!!
- Drain Your Lawn-Irrigation System: Call in your professional to do this job. Your sprinkler system service provider can have this done in no time at all and they’ll guarantee their work. Draining sprinkler-system pipes will help avoid freezing and leaks.
- Seal coat blacktop driveways: The heat of summer may cause asphalt to expand and crack. If these cracks aren’t repaired, water can seep into them and freeze and will eventually widen the cracks. Eventually, big chunks of asphalt will break off and the repairs will become more difficult and costly. Taking care of your asphalt when the issue is smaller will save on your pocket book!
- Clean your gutters: Being in the Midwest, this task is especially crucial because of freezing and thawing. If your gutters are clogged with debris, standing water that eventually freezes can force its way up under the roof shingles or into the eaves, which introduces moisture that can eventually rot the roof decking. Trapped ice and frozen debris can also bend your gutters so that they don’t drain well, or even pull them away from the house. YIKES!!! And let’s not forget our spring thaw and re-freeze cycle…clogged gutters could mean water in your basement during heavy spring rains…that’s just plain awful.
- Mulch Leaves When You Mow: Mow your leaves instead of raking them…soooo slick! The trick is to cut the leaves, while dry, into dime-sized pieces that will fall among the grass blades, where they will decompose and nourish your lawn over the winter. It’s like free fertilizer!!! Use your lawn mower without its bag, and optionally swap the cutting blade for a mulching blade. (Psst – The process may take several passes!)
- Prepare to Store Your Mower: As the mower sits through the winter, fuel remaining in its engine will decompose, “varnishing” the carburetor and causing difficulty when you try to start the engine in the spring, or so my husband tells me…I don’t touch the lawn mower! If you’ve added stabilizer to your fuel to keep it fresh longer, then fill the gas tank to the top with more stabilized fuel and run the engine briefly to allow it to circulate. If not, wait until the tank is nearly empty from use and run the engine (outdoors) to use up the remaining fuel. Check your mower’s manual for other cold-weather storage steps.
- Schedule your annual furnace checkup: Have a professional technician inspect your furnace to be sure the system is clean and in good repair, and that it can achieve its manufacturer-rated efficiency. The inspection also measures carbon-monoxide leakage. Taking care of this before it gets cold out may prevent a drastic challenge in the future that could leave you without heat on a record cold day. Don’t forget to change your furnace filters MONTHLY!!!
- Make sure deck and porch boards are secure: Loose or warped boards are hazardous. Prop up low spots with wooden shims and fasten loose boards with galvanized deck screws.
- Reverse Your Ceiling Fans: If your ceiling fan has a reverse switch, use it to run the fan’s blades in a clockwise direction after you turn on your heat. Energy Star says the fan will produce an updraft and push down into the room heated air from the ceiling (remember, hot air rises). This is especially helpful in rooms with high ceilings and it might even allow you to turn down your thermostat by a degree or two for greater energy savings. Ceiling fans are a great way to keep the temperature of your home more regulated on all levels.
- Prevent Ice Dams: If your home had lots of icicles last winter — or worse, ice dams, which can cause meltwater to back up and flow into your house — take steps to prevent potential damage this year. A home-energy auditor or weatherization contractor can identify and fix air leaks and inadequate insulation in your home’s attic that can lead to ice dams. Seek a professional’s expert opinion and be pro-active!
- Hit the Roof: Well….not literally however, you should take a peek at your roof closely with binoculars. Look for damaged, loose or missing shingles that may leak during winter’s storms or from melting snow. If need be, hire a handyman or a roofing contractor to repair a few shingles before the snow falls. Don’t forget to check and repair breaks in the flashing seals around vent stacks and chimneys, too. Prevention, prevention, prevention!!
- Caulk Around Windows and Doors: Even I can do this one! If the gaps between your siding and window or door frames are bigger than the width of a nickel, you need to reapply exterior caulk. (Don’t forget to check the joints in window and door frames, too!) Silicone caulk is best for exterior use because it won’t shrink and it’s impervious to the elements. Add weatherstripping as needed around doors, making sure you cannot see any daylight from inside your home. Simple ways to keep the chill outside where it belongs!
- Test Your Sump Pump: Slowly pour several gallons of water into the sump pit to see whether the pump turns on. You should actually do this every few months however it’s especially important to do this after a long dry season or before the start of a rainy one.
- Call a Chimney Sweep: When was the last time you had your fireplace/chimney cleaned?! Before you burn the Yule log, make sure your fireplace, or any heating appliance burning gas, oil, wood or coal, chimney and vents are clean and in good repair. That will prevent chimney fires and prevent carbon monoxide from creeping into your home. No one wants their cute little quaint fire to turn into a freakin’ catastrophe!
- Restock Winter Essentials: Seriously, people…don’t wait for the first winter storm to restock cold-weather essentials, such as salt or ice melt. If you know you’re going to need a new snowblower and/or additional shovels, go pick them up right NOW! We’re in the Midwest…it could snow tomorrow!!!! (While you’re at it, grab a sled or two for the kiddos!)
I hope you find these simple tips helpful! Please let me know how I can be of service to you or your friends and family. If you’re needing assistance in finding your next home, you may start your online search right HERE.
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