Winter is hazardous not only to human beings and animals, but also to houses. The howling wind can tear away any shingle that is loose. Extremes of temperature cause stress to the structure. Snow can accumulate on the roof, adding more stress. Small animals may try to get in by squeezing through tiny openings, chewing through wood structures, and digging. Protecting your home from the elements and the critters is essential for your pocketbook and your peace of mind.
Inspect the roof, gutters, and walls
Before the first blast of icy air, take a walk around your house. Check for any loose shingles or shutters. Make sure gutters are clear of debris.
Have the roof checked for any trouble spots, such as loose shingles, leaks around skylights or vents, or other damage.
Keep garage doors closed to keep the house warmer and protect pipes inside the garage.
Check the trees
Trees can enhance the appearance and comfort of the yard and cut down on cooling costs during the summer. But if the tree weakens or has branches that grow over the roof, it can become a hazard during storms. Also make sure any trees on your property are not so close to the house that their roots may threaten the foundation.
Hire a chimney sweep
Before a fireplace or wood stove is used each year, it needs to be inspected by a qualified chimney sweep. Creosote can build up and cause a chimney fire, which will quickly destroy the dwelling. The chimney sweep should clean out any buildup and check for flaws such as cracks. He also will make sure the flue is operating properly. Ask your local fire department to recommend qualified sweeps in your area.
Have the sweep check to be sure a screen is properly installed to discourage any critters from taking refuge in this warm area.
Also install a carbon monoxide detector near any operating fireplace or wood stove. Change the batteries in your smoke detector and check to see that it is in proper working order.
Protect the pipes
Any pipes that run along outside walls or enter the house from the outdoors should be insulated to ensure they do not freeze during extremely cold weather. Do the same with pipes located in unheated areas. A broken pipe can quickly cause a lot of damage to your home. Also locate the shut-off valve so you can quickly turn off the water in case of trouble. Disconnect any outdoor hoses, drain and store them. Insulate the faucet with a styrofoam cap.
Insulate and protect windows and plug air leaks
Install storm windows or plastic coverings that are 4 mils thick to prevent cold air from seeping through the glass. Caulk around windows and doors. At the bottom of the door, install weather stripping.
On a windy day, check for drafts. Light a candle and stroll through you house. If the smoke drifts toward a wall or window, follow it to the leak. Repair any leaks with caulk or expanding insulating foam.
Have furnace and other combustion producing appliances checked
Your heating appliances need to be in top condition before the onset of winter weather. Have them inspected by a qualified technician to make sure they are properly vented and working well. Also change any filters at least once a month.
If you leave the house during cold weather, set thermostats no lower than 55 degrees. This will help ensure that pipes don’t freeze.
Extreme weather precautions
During a cold snap when the temperature drops below zero, it’s a good idea to open faucets to drip, which will help keep the pipes from freezing. Also open the doors under the sinks to let warm air circulate around the pipes.
Your home is probably the biggest investment you will ever make. Protect it by taking precautions before winter sets in.
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