By Shannon Roxborough
With Rochester’s seasonal chill starting to creep in, giving your home some routine maintenance is a great way to keep large repairs at bay over the cold-weather seasons. Here’s a multi-step plan for prepping your house before Old Man Winter comes knocking:
Clean the Gutters
When handling leaf clean-up, don’t forget that many falling leaves get trapped in the gutters Gutter debris can clog the channel and spouts, causing overflow when the autumn rain starts. Use a ladder or cleaning tools that match the height of your gutters (or your accessibility). To avoid having to repeat the cleaning after the foliage drops, take time to trim any low-hanging tree branches near the house.
Lengthen Downspout Kick-Outs
If the bottom of your gutter downspouts are too short, fall and early winter rains can cause water to pool near your home’s foundation. That water can then infiltrate the foundation, finding its way into your basement and wicking up into your walls—attracting insects and causing rot or deterioration. Look for telltale signs like damp basement walls, wet spots on the basement floor or cracks in the foundation after a rain or widening cracks in the foundation. Solution: Attach a flexible downspout extender to direct water a minimum of 10 feet from your home’s foundation.
Prep Outdoor Furniture
Clean your outdoor furniture and allow it to dry in the sun. If you see any rust, cracking or chips on the surface, spray paint pieces with a high-quality outdoor paint for metal, wood or plastic. Buy a storage tarp at your local hardware or home improvement store to cover any furniture that is stored outside over the winter.
Beef Up Insulation
If the tops of the joists (wood framing that runs across the floor and ceiling of your attic) are visible, you need more insulation. Add a layer or two of fiberglass batt insulation with a high R-value. If you have existing insulation in place, closed-cell spray foam or blown-in fiberglass or cellulose is the best way to fill any remaining gaps or crevices.
Clean Cooling Appliances
If you have ceiling fans, change their rotation to clockwise to force warm air downward (there is usually a switch on the base to do this), and while you’re up there, dust and wipe down the blades with a damp or tacky cloth. Remove window air-conditioning units, vacuum the coils and filters and store the unit(s) in a cool, dry place, being sure to cover them to keep out dust and bugs.
Check the Furnace
If you haven’t already done so, schedule your annual furnace maintenance call—before it’s time to star using it. Be sure to change air filters and keep an eye out for leaks around the furnace.
Flush the Water Heater
Sediment build-up in the hot water tan can keep your heater from operating at optimum levels. Flush the annually to drain out gunk. Before starting, shut off the heater, let the tank cool, then turn off the water supply. Release the water into a floor drain or bucket until it runs clear.
Look at Your Power Supply
Your home’s electrical system is one of the most overlooked potential hazards, check for loose outlet covers and receptacle boxes. Also be on the lookout for scorch marks around and on the ends of plugs and in the breaker box, telltale signs of dangerous arcing. Plug a lamp or blow dryer into GFCI receptacles and push their test and reset buttons to make sure they turn on and off properly. Finally, install new batteries in all the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
Call a Pro
If you’re not comfortable tackling any specific maintenance or repair job, get professional help. A qualified home inspector can tell you exactly what’s going on and a competent contractor can address any issues.
Other Tasks to Perform:
- Inspect the roof and chimney for cracks and damage.
- Close or install storm windows.
- Remove hoses from spigots and drain and store them indoors
- Test the snow blower and have it professionally serviced (if necessary)
- Check windows and doors for weather-tightness and install weather stripping where needed.
- Set traps or call in an exterminator for any problems with rodents and other critters
- Dust blind and vacuum upholstery and curtains throughout your home
- Clean kitchen and bathroom cabinets and throw out expired food, medicine and cosmetics
Shannon Roxborough is a widely published freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in numerous national magazines, newspapers and websites. An avid home improvement enthusiast, he has more than a decade of DIY experience and previously ran a property maintenance business.