Winter weather has already teased Iowa with an underwhelming snowfall in October, and it’s already gifted neighboring Nebraska with a few inches. This is a great reminder to prepare your home for the upcoming winter. Winterizing your home does not just help homeowners save money during the winter months, but it prevents costly damages caused by winter weather as well. Here are a few tips to winterizing your home this month:
Take some time to monitor your foundation—inside and out. Check for cracks, gaps between your foundation and ground or any other potential issues and repair them before the winter season rolls around. You would be surprised how tight of spaces mice and insects can squeeze through when their survival is on the line. Even if the cracks seem too small, the winter snow will eventually melt. This can cause leaks in the home through gaps in your foundation that will accelerate your home’s inevitable settling process.
Every exterior faucet/spigot/sillcock should have a shut-off valve within your home – use it to shut off outdoor water supplies and drain water from the faucet systems. This will prevent ice from forming in the pipes, expanding and causing future leaks or bursts. Contact your local water company or your favorite plumber if you’re struggling to locate your outdoor supply valve. Next, drain hoses attached to outdoor faucets of any remaining water and remove and store them for the winter. If you were able to shut off your outdoor water supply, open up outdoor faucets or sprinkler systems and let them drain the remaining water left in the systems. There will be a small amount of remaining water after this process, but the pipes will have enough room to expand and avoid cracks or bursts. Taking this a step further, you can purchase pipe insulators and faucet covers from local hardware stores to further prevent pipes from freezing during the winter months. Freeze-proof faucets can be installed as well. If you do discover a frozen pipe, do NOT use heat to solve the problem, but slower means to thaw the pipe instead.
Grab your ladder and pay your neglected roof a visit. Check for missing, loose, or overly damaged shingles, as well as corroded caulking and other problems that may worsen during the winter months. Crawl into the attic (be careful!) and check for signs of leaking or other water damage. It’s important to note that water damage might not be located directly underneath the leak, as water works its way along structure systems and through cracks. Many times the leak is actually several feet away from it’s landing spot. Leaves clog gutters and prevent your gutter system from effectively draining melting snow from the roof. If you do not have gutter guards, you must remove any debris by hand. Check out our previous blog for more how-to information. While you’re on the roof, trim away limbs hanging above. Snow is heavy and places more stress on the limbs, leaving them susceptible to snapping and damaging your roof.
Fireplaces are great for winter and probably the reason you installed one in the first place. Chimney clogging debris causes over 25,000 chimney fires to occur each year. Chimney brushes are available at most hardware stores, and removing flammable build up from a fireplace is as easy as burning a sweeping log.
Take a tour of your own house and check for gaps or cracks around windows and doors. Reseal these cracks and gaps around the windows, while doors will need additional repairs or a quick-fix draft snake. When in doubt, simply apply window insulation film around all of your windows—you won’t be opening them for a few months anyway.
Ice dams are a problem. Those icicles hanging off your gutters seem unproblematic, but random warms days in the winter turn them into a roof’s nemesis. During warm winter days, which occur frequently in the Midwest climate, the combination of heat from your home and climate cause the snow on the roof to melt. If there is a large, thick sheet of ice near the gutters, the newly created water will dam up, seeping under your shingles, damaging your roofing and causing leaks. The best way to prevent an ice dam is with a cold roof. Make sure your attic is properly insulated and vented so the heat from your home doesn’t cause the snow to melt on your roof. You don’t spend much time in your attic anyway, so heating it is a waste. You will appreciate the cost-saving benefits that come with a cold attic anyway.