Preparing for winter is an important part of your annual home maintenance routine, even in mild climates like Virginia. To help you keep your home snug and dry this winter here is a handy checklist.
Before the First Frost
Preventative maintenance is key to preparing your house for winter. Before the first frost you should make sure to check:
A fresh load of snow can weigh up to 3 pounds per square foot, however wet snow can weigh up to 21 pounds per square foot. If your roof is in good condition it should be able to stand up to the extra weight, but it is still a good idea to check your roof at least once per year. The last thing you want is to discover there is a problem with your roof after the damage is already done.
You should have your roof assessed by a professional each year, and the fall is an excellent time to have that done. This will help ensure that any problems can be remedied before winter arrives. Damaged roofs can be susceptible to mildew and mold problems, which can be tricky to fix once they occur.
You should also be assessing your attic and its insulation. Standard requirements state that all homes must have at least 12 inches of insulation, but pests and other problems can damage your insulation and reduce its effectiveness. You should make sure that your attic is properly insulated and ventilated so that any snow that does gather on your roof won’t melt and form ice dams.
While you are assessing your attic make sure you keep an eye out for any signs of water damage. This could indicate that your roof has a leak, and can lead to a wide variety of moisture-related problems. If your roof does have a leak make sure you get it repaired as soon as possible so that you can minimize damage.
Make sure your downspouts are securely fixed to the side of your home. Loose downspouts can leak or become unattached, allowing water to flow freely from your rain gutters. Be sure to reattach any downspouts that are sagging or loose.
Your Rain Gutters
Clogged rain gutters can cause a wide variety of problems, including ice dams. An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms along the edge of your roof and keeps water from properly draining off of your roof. As the water collects behind the dam it can end up leaking into your home. These leaks can cause extensive damage to your ceiling, walls, and insulation.
Before the first snowfall, you should make sure your gutters are free of debris such as twigs and leaves. If you find that your gutters are regularly getting clogged you may want to consider investing in a Care-Free Gutter Guard.
Cracked or damaged siding may not be able to effectively keep water out of your home. If water is able to collect underneath your siding it can cause mold and mildew problems. Most of us don’t check underneath our siding as regularly as we should, so small problems may go unnoticed until they become big problems. Even a little bit of water can cause extensive damage, and be costly to repair.
If your home has a fireplace you should be checking it twice per year: Once in the fall before winter comes and once in the spring. A blocked firebox or chimney can allow carbon monoxide to build up in your home, and may even cause a fire.
You should also check to make sure your fireplace isn’t drafty. If your fireplace is cold even when you close your damper it may mean that the damper is warped, worn, or rusted.
Your Air Conditioning Unit
To help keep your air conditioner running smoothly, and extend its life, you should make sure to clear away any leaves or other debris from its vents. Before the first snowfall you should make sure that your air conditioning unit is covered since this will prevent snow and ice from building up on top of it.
Your Windows and Doors
Worn out or cracked window seals can allow moisture into your home, causing problems such as wood rot, mildew, mold, and warping. They also allow heat to escape from your home, increasing your heating bill.
Fall is also a great time to change out your door and window screens for storm doors and windows. When you are changing these items out take a few minutes to make sure none of your doors, windows, and screens are undamaged.
You should also check and see if your windows have weep holes. These holes, which can be found on sliding windows, are designed to let rainwater drain away instead of collecting in the bottom channel. However, these holes can become clogged with bugs, leaves, and other debris. If this happens water may collect in the channel and spill over into your home.
A burst pipe is every homeowner’s worst nightmare. Once the weather drops below freezing even a small drip can put your pipes at risk, so it is important that you make sure your pipes are leak free and properly insulated before winter comes. If your home has any outdoor taps you should also make sure that there are disconnected and drained before the temperature drops.
You should always make sure that the temperature in your home never falls below 55 degrees. If you are planning on travelling during the winter you should ask a friend, family member, or trusted neighbor to periodically check on your home. That way if any problems do arise you can address them right away instead of coming home to a big problem.
A small crack may not seem like a big deal, but a cracked foundation may be an indication fo a much bigger problem. It is important that you assess your foundation at least once per year, and make a note of any damage that you find. A crack in your foundation may indicate that the ground beneath your home is shifting, which can put a lot of strain on your home.
Cracks can also allow water to seep into your foundation and damage your base or foundation. This happens because as water freezes it expands, making the crack bigger and increasing the chance of secondary damage occurring.
Your Driveway and Sidewalk
Cracks in your driveway or sidewalk are more than just unattractive, they may also be an indicator of more significant problems. Cracks may occur because the concrete or asphalt near your home has begun to sag, which may suggest that the soil beneath your home is beginning to erode.
Sidewalks and driveways that have begun to sag and crack may also inadvertently funnel water towards the foundation of your home or garage, which can cause a variety of different problems.
Slippery sidewalks and driveways can be dangerous, so it is important to check your handrails before things get icy. Make sure your handrails are sturdy and well anchored so that they can help prevent falls.
Your Outdoor Lighting
As winter progresses the days get shorter and shorter, making it tricky to see icy patches on sidewalks and driveways. Good outdoor lighting can help illuminate slippery patches and prevent falls. Check your outdoor lights, and consider investing in ones that are motion activated or can be programmed to come on automatically after dark.
Large trees are a beautiful addition to any home but during winter their overhanging limbs can be a potential hazard. Heavy wet snow can weigh down branches and cause them to break. If your trees have limbs that hang over your home or power lines be sure to trim them back before it starts to snow.
Throughout the Winter
Once winter has officially begun it is important to stay on top of everything. Make sure you are regularly:
Watching for Pests
Everyone wants a nice cozy place to call home in the winter, and that doesn’t just mean people. Mice, squirrels, rats, and cockroaches will happily take up residence in your home if you let them. To help prevent unwanted guests from making themselves at home you should regularly check your home for any signs of pests. To keep these unwanted guests out you should also patch any cracks or holes that pests could take advantage of.
Clearing Your Vents
When your vents become clogged it makes it difficult for your heating system to effectively regulate the temperature in your home. When winter arrives snow and ice can cause blockages, and cause moisture to build up in your home. Moist areas are breeding grounds for mildew and mold, which can cause a wide variety of problems.
Keeping Snow Away from Your Foundation
When clearing your sidewalks and driveway avoid piling snow near the foundation of your home or garage. Instead, choose a spot on your property that will ensure water drains away from your home and flows down the drain instead.
Keep Your Roof Clear
To help reduce strain on your roof and prevent ice dams from forming it is important to keep your roof clear. While a few inches of fluffy white powder won’t cause much harm wet heavy snow should be removed as soon as it is safe to do so.