Keeping your home warm, dry and free of pests over Winter will help you save money on future repairs and energy bills, however, this requires some regular maintenance.
Making any necessary changes or repairs in the Fall can really impact your energy bills and ensure that your home is protected from unwanted moisture, heat loss or intrusions by pests. The first place to start is with unwanted moisture.
- Keeping your foundation drainage at the proper angle, 10 degree grade going from the house to about 6 ft out, is going to help prevent water entering the basement level. Make sure drain pipes extend far enough away from foundation to prevent water flowing near foundation. Make sure your drain pipes are firmly connected and made of solid metal, not plastic – which tends to crack and leak in Winter.
- Keeping your gutters clean and free of twigs, leaves or other debris will prevent the buildup of ice dams and keep water flowing to your downspouts and drain pipes. While you are up there looking at your gutters, you might consider getting gutter covers, to prevent you having to clear them constantly, and, while you are at it, check the soffit and fascia to ensure there are no holes critters could use to enter your home.
- Inspecting your roof while you are up on the ladder and performing any necessary repairs prior to the first snowfall will save you potential leaks into the attic as well. Replacing missing shingles or any shingles that are curling or cupping will ensure there are no gaps in your roof coverage.
- Repair any gaps in the foundation and get some appropriate caulk or foam to fill in any cracks to prevent loss of warm air, moisture or pet intrusion. Any good hardware or big home store will carry a variety of caulk and seal for different types of stucco, siding or wood to help you close those gaps. Expansion foam or the right caulk will help you close any holes and keep your home snug. Especially check for locations around the home with potential for pest intrusion, like front and rear steps and entryways, and use some expansion foam to close off gaps or small entry points.
- Seal doors and windows with appropriate caulk or silicone sealant to close any air gaps. Make sure there is no air loss around doors and windows.
- Chimneys often can develop a layer of creosote inside which needs to be cleaned if you plan on burning more fires over the Winter. Chimney fires are often a result of not cleaning out the old creosote. You cannot count on specialty logs, which claim to burn creosote, to fully prevent chimney issues. Checking your chimney will ensure it is still in working order as well. Some chimney issues can cost in the thousands, at which point it might make sense to install a gas insert rather than repair the chimney. A gas insert has its own chimney inserted, making repairs on the inside of the original chimney obsolete in some cases. Also, make sure the exterior of the chimney is in good shape as well, as, this will prevent animals from getting into the home.
- If you have an outdoor pool and you don’t drain the water, you will want to Winterize the pool to ensure you will have it to use again in the following Spring/Summer months. Clean the filter, replace the cover after doing any necessary water treatment and follow the installers guidelines. Make sure to check the cover to ensure no pests can enter.
- Make sure all the exterior vents have proper covers to allow for ventilation but also prevent pest intrusions. Most pests look for warm air entryways into a home and you will want to use a screen small enough to allow the flow of air and to prevent smaller critters from having access. Clean these screens to prevent a buildup, especially the dryer vent which tends to collect lint.
- All water hoses should be disconnected and drained and stored properly. Turn off water to all exterior hoses and drain them to be sure they won’t freeze and burst water pipes during Winter. If possible, install a freeze proof water faucet on the exterior
- Plants and shrubs vulnerable to the Winter blasts should be wrapped or covered with some type of covering, such as Burlap, to prevent the loss of expensive landscape plantings, as this will give them a warmer layer to buffer them throughout the cold weather season.
- Cut back or prune any trees, shrubs and hedges during the Fall, especially any plants touching the home or roof as this is best done in the Fall or early Spring before the branches can sprout again. Keeping plants from touching siding or roofs can extend their life.
- Properly store all yard accessories and cover or store lawn furniture to extend their life. Store hoses and tools away from the weather and winterize any gas-powered tools.
- Check your attic to make sure you have tight seals to the vents from kitchen and baths to your roof, and, ensure you have sufficient amount of batting or insulation material.
- Replace old furnace filter and have extras on hand to change appropriately.
Most hardware or large home stores have supplies and great options for helping you to keep your home maintained at any season. Taking the time to do these fixes and maintenance items can save you time, trouble and money in the long run.
Written by Claire Bastien for FindYourMinnesotaHome 2021