The fall Equinox is a good time of year to start thinking about preparing your home for winter, because as temperatures begin to dip, your home will require maintenance to keep it in tip-top shape through the winter.
Here are ten tips to help you prepare your home for winter:
1) Furnace Inspection
- Call an HVAC professional to inspect your furnace and clean ducts.
- Stock up on furnace filters and change them monthly.
- Consider switching out your thermostat for a programmable thermostat.
- If your home is heated by a hot-water radiator, bleed the valves by opening them slightly and when water appears, close them.
- Remove all flammable material from the area surrounding your furnace.
2) Get the Fireplace Ready
- Cap or screen the top of the chimney to keep out rodents and birds.
- If the chimney hasn’t been cleaned for a while, call a chimney sweep to remove soot and creosote.
- Buy firewood or chop wood. Store it in a dry place away from the exterior of your home.
- Inspect the fireplace damper for proper opening and closing.
- Check the mortar between bricks and tuckpoint, if necessary.
3) Check the Exterior, Doors and Windows
- Inspect exterior for crevice cracks and exposed entry points around pipes; seal them.
- Use weatherstripping around doors to prevent cold air from entering the home and caulk windows.
- Replace cracked glass in windows and, if you end up replacing the entire window, prime and paint exposed wood.
- If your home has a basement, consider protecting its window wells by covering them with plastic shields.
- Switch out summer screens with glass replacements from storage. If you have storm windows, install them.
4) Inspect Roof, Gutters & Downspouts
- If your weather temperature will fall below 32 degrees in the winter, adding extra insulation to the attic will prevent warm air from creeping to your roof and causing ice dams.
- Check flashing to ensure water cannot enter the home.
- Replace worn roof shingles or tiles.
- Clean out the gutters and use a hose to spray water down the downspouts to clear away debris.
- Consider installing leaf guards on the gutters or extensions on the downspouts to direct water away from the home.
5) Service Weather-Specific Equipment
- Drain gas from lawnmowers.
- Service or tune-up snow blowers.
- Replace worn rakes and snow shovels.
- Clean, dry and store summer gardening equipment.
- Sharpen ice choppers and buy bags of ice-melt / sand.
6) Check Foundations
- Rake away all debris and edible vegetation from the foundation.
- Seal up entry points to keep small animals from crawling under the house.
- Tuckpoint or seal foundation cracks. Mice can slip through space as thin as a dime.
- Inspect sill plates for dry rot or pest infestation.
- Secure crawlspace entrances.
7) Install Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
- Some cities require a smoke detector in every room.
- Buy extra smoke detector batteries and change them when daylight savings ends.
- Install a carbon monoxide detector near your furnace and / or water heater.
- Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they work.
- Buy a fire extinguisher or replace an extinguisher older than 10 years.
8) Prevent Plumbing Freezes
- Locate your water main in the event you need to shut it off in an emergency.
- Drain all garden hoses.
- Insulate exposed plumbing pipes.
- Drain air conditioner pipes and, if your AC has a water shut-off valve, turn it off.
- If you go on vacation, leave the heat on, set to at least 55 degrees.
9) Prepare Landscaping & Outdoor Surfaces
- Trim trees if branches hang too close to the house or electrical wires.
- Ask a gardener when your trees should be pruned to prevent winter injury.
- Plant spring flower bulbs and lift bulbs that cannot winter over such as dahlias in areas where the ground freezes.
- Seal driveways, brick patios and wood decks.
- Don’t automatically remove dead vegetation from gardens as some provide attractive scenery in an otherwise dreary, snow-drenched yard.
- Move sensitive potted plants indoors or to a sheltered area.
10) Prepare an Emergency Kit
- Buy indoor candles and matches / lighter for use during a power shortage.
- Find the phone numbers for your utility companies and tape them near your phone or inside the phone book.
- Buy a battery back-up to protect your computer and sensitive electronic equipment.
- Store extra bottled water and non-perishable food supplies (including pet food, if you have a pet), blankets and a first-aid kit in a dry and easy-to-access location.
- Prepare an evacuation plan in the event of an emergency.
By Elizabeth Weintraub, About.com Guide