Tips to Get Your Home Ready for Winter

Everyone knows to get out the sweaters, gloves and coats as winter approaches to prepare themselves for winter, but how do you prepare your home, townhouse, condominium, or even commercial building?

Cold temperatures, frigid winds, rains, snow, power outages are all things you should prepare your house for.

Whether you are a weekend warrior, or professional, here are some tips that may make your life easier in the winter.

  • Check the roof gutters, downspouts and extensions. All roof water, snow melt or rain needs to discharge at least 10-15 feet from the basement. Also, be sure to check them after snow to make sure the water can continue to flow away from the foundation.
  • How is the roof? Not only shingles, but flashings and boots around penetrations.
  • Is your heating system serviced and ready to go?
  • Did you disconnect the hoses and attachments from frost-free hose bibs outside and shutoff and drain non frost-free ones? You could prevent a significant leak and cost when Spring comes around.
  • How about saving some money? Attics are notoriously under insulated and that is money out the roof. If you don’t have at least an R-38 level of insulation, you are wasting money in heating and cooling seasons. We helped two homeowners last year, to get more attic insulation, and they saved $800 and $900 in heating oil costs last year. That is a bargain in both summer and winter!
  • More attic insulation is GREAT, but don’t block the ventilation. Blocked attic ventilation leads to ice dams and interior water entry. Most roofs are designed to have air flow from the soffit to the peak – thus soffit and ridge vents. If you block that air flow, ice dams build up at the eaves. Why? Snow lies on the roof and when the sun shines, it melts. Then it trickles down the roof surface and hits the overhang that has no heat below it, thus it freezes and forms a “dam”. After this happens a few times, the water backs up and gets through the shingles to the interior. Amazingly enough, the answer is to have a “cold” interior roof sheathing. That way, when the snow melts, it flows all the way off the roof, not just to the eaves where it freezes. No secretes, just good ventilation and good insulation to prevent warm interior air from warming the bottom of the roof sheathing.
  • Windows and doors. You hear all the advertisements, but what is really the best option? There are two factors to consider – the quality of the product and the installation. You can have the best product, but poorly installed or visa versa. Our recommendation is to get a good quality product and have it installed by a contractor with experience. Even a mid-grade product can surprise you with improved performance if properly installed. Get the manufacturer’s installation instructions and make sure they are followed. If you can’t afford window upgrades, use some of the many DIY plastic storm window kits.
  • Here is a simple one: do your flashlights, fire detectors and carbon monoxide detectors work? Do you have spare batteries?
  • Fireplace (even gas) or woodstove? Did you have it serviced in the last year? These items can be a life saver, but also a death trap if carbon monoxide is an issue or if a chimney flue fire occurs. Clean your chimney annually and service the appliances. You may even get friends (with no heat) visiting in a disaster.
  • Lucky enough to have a generator? When is the last time you exercised (tested) it? How about sump pumps? Make sure you have enough gas in your vehicles and stored for the generator to make it through a few days. Also have enough bottled water and food for a few days on hand.

Winters come and winters go. The key is to be prepared, whatever that means to you. Our buildings take the bulk of the abuse and whatever preparation we make in pro-active maintenance helps us all