Do Not Let Winter Catch You Unprepared

November 14th 2011
Do Not Let Winter Catch You Unprepared

West Coast winters can be unpredictable and when temperatures dip below freezing, it can cause countless problems for homeowners if you neglect some winter chores. Unfortunately, many homeowners wait until snow hits the ground before they take preventative steps to winterize their home. Ensure components such as external plumbing, home heating systems, chimneys, fireplaces, gutters, foundations and roofs are in fine working condition. Following a few seasonal tasks now can prevent costly damage later and avoid major inconveniences ensuring you have a safe winter season.

Fireplaces and Chimneys:

Before firing up your fireplace, one of the most important things you can do is have your fireplaces and chimneys cleaned and inspected by a professional for proper operation; including cracks, blockages (bird nests), leaks, or creosote buildup. Replace a damaged chimney cap or repair it if necessary. The cap keeps rain, animals and birds from entering into the chimney and keeps hot sparks in. If your chimney does not have a cap, consider installing one. Keep your roof clear of leaves and debris and remove any branches hanging above gutters, chimneys, flues or vents.

Inside the House:

Make sure the area around the fireplaces and furnaces remains clear of debris, decorations and flammable materials. If your fireplace has glass doors, leave them open when a fire is burning and always use a metal screen with a wood fireplace. Be sure all your heating equipment is serviced every year and is properly ventilated. Make sure air vents indoors and outdoors (intake, exhaust and forced air) are not blocked by snow or debris.

Ensure smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors are installed on every level of your home and the batteries are tested monthly. Replace batteries every six months.

Outside the House:

Winterize external plumbing systems: drain exterior water pipes and any pipes that run through unheated areas (such as a garage, crawlspace or unheated porch). If draining these pipes is not possible, wrap them with foam insulation or heat tape. Ignore this job and you could be faced with flooding, water damage and thousands of dollars worth of plumbing bills. The simple fact is water expands when frozen. If a water faucet freezes use a hair dryer to heat and the pipes to free the frozen area. Leave faucet set at a trickle to prevent freezing again.

Roof gutters should be cleaned every season after leaves have fallen from the trees. This will prevent freezing mass in gutters and opening the seams to leaks. Have outdoor pools drained and professionally serviced and pools and hot tubs must have heat or circulation pumps running to prevent freezing. Drain underground sprinkler systems.

Do not forget to have a snow shovel and ice melt on standby for when you need it.

This is also the ideal time of year to line up contractors since they book up quickly for the spring and summer months that are the busiest time for renovators; especially for kitchens, bathrooms, basements, painting, roofing and windows.

If you are going away for the holidays and intend to leave your home for an extended period of time, you will want to ensure you go over these tips before leaving for your vacation.