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Pre-winter Checklist for Homeowners

winter-prep-homeownersExpecting snow and ice this winter? If so, this fall checklist is designed to help you get your home ready for winter. The key is to act now before temperatures dip and snow and ice become a reality.

  • Protect your outdoor pool each fall by thoroughly cleaning it, blowing water out of the pipes, and adding winter chemicals before it gets cold. With the right equipment, homeowners can winterize their own pools. However, failure to close your pool properly can lead to cracks or rips in the lining, frozen plumbing, and algae blooms that are hard to clean come spring. Likewise, in cold weather climates, water must be blown out of the pipes of irrigation systems. This can be done using an air compressor. Water that sits in pipes can freeze and cause a build-up of water pressure that can cause cracks and damage to back-flow devices. When in doubt, hire professionals for these services.


  • HVAC experts share that nearly three-quarters of their no-heat calls in the winter result from a lack of maintenance. Whether you have a furnace or boiler, regular cleanings and maintenance checks can prevent problems and extend the lifespan of your system. Annual checkups are designed to keep your system running at peak efficiency. This can reduce your energy costs and help to maintain good air quality in your home. Regular inspections can uncover potential problems such as blocks or leaks that can suddenly leave you without heat or in need of expensive repairs. Note that some states have licensing requirements for HVAC contractors to protect consumers.


  • Examine your home’s exterior for needed repairs. Look for key places where heat may be lost during the winter. For example, a window draft may be resolved by replacing the seal, potentially saving you money on your energy bill. Check your home for loose shingles or siding and malfunctioning gutters. If the gutters are clogged, clean them to prevent ice dams come winter. Should a major problem be uncovered that is not within the budget, such as the need for an entire new roof, check to see if a professional temporary repair can be performed. Problems left untreated can potentially escalate with cold weather and increase repair costs down the road, so it’s important to address problems as soon as they are identified.


  • Fireplaces are excellent sources of heat in the winter, but they may pose potential danger. For this reason, check that the fireplace is in safe working condition before use. Per This Old House, chimneys are involved in 42 percent of all home-heating fires. Thus, it’s a no-brainer that chimneys should be regularly inspected for cracks, obstructions, and for loose mortar or flashing. The liner should also be checked. Since climbing on the roof can be dangerous, it’s often best to leave the job to a professional. In addition, chimneys should be swept at least once a year and prior to winter use. This action removes soot and debris and is a good preventative measure.


  • Before freezing weather occurs, outdoor faucets should be turned off and drained to prevent problems with the pipes. Simply turn off the inside valve to shut off the water to your outside faucet. Then, open the outdoor faucet to drain the water. Remember to disconnect and drain your hoses before storing for the winter. Newer homes are generally fitted with frost-free faucets which utilize newer technology to keep the water line inside the house or building to prevent freezing. This may allow you to leave the water on year-round. However, older homes may lack a shut off valve and a frost-free faucet. In that case, it’s a good idea to call your plumber to have your faucet evaluated to prevent future issues.


  • Secure items in the yard, including outdoor furniture you will not use off-season. Store fabric cushions indoors to prevent mold and discoloration. Cover or store vulnerable furniture such as wrought iron to prevent rusting. Glass top tables and furniture with mosaic tiles should be stored in a shed or indoor space, out of the elements, to prevent damage. Do not leave furniture under trees with large branches that may become weighted with snow and ice and come tumbling down. Bring in outdoor potted plants before the frost. Make sure your gas grill is properly covered.


  • Rake leaves and winterize your lawn. Treatment depends upon what type of grass you are growing. The process of fertilizing the lawn each fall provides the roots with nutrients that help the grass to return each spring. A walk behind or motorized spreader can make this job easier by evenly distributing the fertilizer. Avoid using more product than the directions call for, as too much fertilizer can harm the lawn. In some cases, it may also be desirable to aerate and over-seed the lawn with cool weather grass seed before the first frost. Cool weather grasses are those which thrive in places with cold winters and hot summers. It’s important to water the lawn after seeding.


  • Check your winter inventory and stock up early on supplies such as snow shovels, rock salt or pet-safe deicers, and more. It’s also a great time to tune-up your snowblower and to make sure it is fully operational. This includes checking the tires, examining the scraper blade and other parts, removing dirt and grime, changing the oil and adding fuel if required. In doing so, you will be fully prepared to face icy challenges should they come your way this winter.

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