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Tips For Homeowners

Fall Preparation Checklist For The Home

With the arrival of Fall season time to start thinking about conducting a thorough inspection before the season’s first cold snap hit’s as part of your winter preparation.

Give your home a once-over and tend to winter preparation tasks and repairs before the year’s first frost. Getting the exterior of the home ready for the cold winds, snow and ice is critical for keeping Old Man Winter out and keeping it warm and toasty inside. By being proactive, you’ll lower your energy bills, increase the efficiency and lifespan of your home’s components, and make your property safer.

 

Gutters, Roof, and Drains:

           ·          Here is something most people never think about: Take a close look at the soil around your foundation and make sure it slopes away from your house at least 6 vertical inches over 10 feet. That way, you’ll keep water from soaking the soils around your foundation, which could lead to cracks and leaks. Be sure soil doesn’t touch your siding.

           ·          Check for buckled, missing, damaged or warped shingles and replace, as necessary before you get stuck with a leak.

           ·          Check for deteriorated flashing at the chimney, walls, and skylights and around vent pipes. Rust on any of these is a large warning sign. Check the rubber boots around vent lines. Seal joints where water could penetrate, using roofing cement and a caulking gun.

           ·          Black algae stains are just cosmetic, but masses of moss and lichen could signal roofing that’s decayed underneath. Unsure, contact a professional. Always better to spend a little to save on a much larger headache later on.

           ·          Check the gutters and downspouts for proper fastening, and re-secure if loose or sagging. The weight of snow and ice can pull gutters off the house. Replace damaged or missing areas.

           ·          Clean gutters of any debris, clogged gutters can cause ice damming and expensive repairs. Make sure downspouts extend away from the house by at least three feet; six feet is what you really want to prevent flooding of the foundation and water damage from snowmelt.

           ·          If you find colored grit from asphalt roof shingles in your gutters, beware. That sand-like grit helps protect shingles from the damaging ultraviolet rays of the sun. Look closely for other signs of roof damage; it may be time for a roofing replacement.

           ·          Clean leaves and debris from courtyard and pool storm drains to prevent blockages.

           ·          Ensure all vents and openings are covered to prevent insects, birds, and rodents from getting inside to nest in a warm place.

 

Prevent Ice Dams:

In cold weather, heat escaping your home can melt and refreeze ice and snow on your roof, leading to ice dams. These block off drains, and let water and ice continually build up on your roof – and possibly under it – weakening your roof and putting your home at risk. To help prevent ice dams here are a few suggestions:

 

           ·          Insulate your attic - Your attic should have plenty of insulation to prevent too much heat transfer from your living areas to the attic. Check parts of the attic that may not be well insulated, like pipes and vents, chimney systems, light fixtures.

 

           ·          Ventilate your attic - If your attic wasn’t built with a ventilation system, contact a trusted professional or contractor about ventilating your attic before winter. Proper ventilation allows cold air into the attic, while the insulation seals heat in your living areas. This can help prevent warm air from melting ice on the roof, leading to possible damage.

 

Windows, Doors And Air Leaks:

           ·          Check all the weather stripping around windows and doorframes for leaks to prevent heat loss. Replace weather stripping, if necessary.

           ·          Replace all screen doors with storm doors.

           ·          Replace all window screens with storm windows.

           ·          Examine wooden window frames for signs of rot or decay. Repair or replace framing to maintain structural integrity.

           ·          Make a journey around your home’s exterior, sealing up cracks between trim and siding, around window and door frames, and where pipes and wires enter your house. Preventing moisture from getting inside your walls is one of the least expensive — and most important — of your fall maintenance jobs. You’ll also seal air leaks that waste energy.

           ·          Inspect windows for cracks, broken glass, or gaps. Repair or replace, if needed.

           ·          Check the insulation in basements and crawl spaces. Make sure the outer perimeter is insulated properly. Fill gaps with spray foam or caulk.

           ·          Insulate those exposed pipes. Any spaces in your home with exposed water line, you will need to insulate. Check the basement, crawl space, exterior walls and attic. This insulation will give additional protection from pipes freezing or bursting. This is also an energy saver, helping to keep water heating bills down.

           ·          Insulate that hot water heater. This is also an energy saver, helping to keep water heating bills down.

 

Lawn, Garden, and Deck:

           ·          Late fall is the best time to prune plants and trees — when the summer growth cycle is over. Your goal is to keep limbs and branches back from the house and electrical wires to prevent iced-over or wind-swept branches from causing property damage or a power problem. Ideally keep things at least 3 feet from your house so moisture won’t drip onto roofing and siding, and to prevent damage to your house exterior during high winds.

           ·          Aerate the lawn, reseed, and apply a winterizing fertilizer to promote deep-root growth come spring.

           ·          Ensure rain or snow drains away from the house to avoid foundation problems. The dirt grade — around the exterior of your home — should slope away from the house. Add extra dirt to low areas, as necessary.

           ·          Clean and dry patio furniture. Cover with a heavy tarp or store inside a shed or garage to protect it from the elements.

           ·          Clean soil from planters. Bring pots made of clay or other fragile materials indoors. Because terra cotta pots can swell and crack, lay them on their sides in a wood carton.

           ·          Dig up flower bulbs, brush off soil, and label. Store bulbs in a bag or box with peat moss in a cool, dry place for spring replanting.

           ·          Turn off that irrigation system. Even buried irrigation lines can freeze, leading to busted pipes and broken sprinkler heads. Make sure you turn off the water to the system at the main valve, shut off the automatic controller, open drain valves to remove water from the system, remove any above-ground sprinkler heads and shake the water out of them, then replace. If you don’t have drain valves, then hire an irrigation pro to blow out the systems pipes with compressed air. A pro will make sure the job is done right, and to ensure you don’t have busted pipes and sprinkler head repairs to make in the spring.

           ·          Remove any attached hoses and store them away for the winter to prevent cracks, preserve their shapes, and prolong their life. Wrap outside faucets with covers to prevent water damage. Do not forget to drain your hoses as well.

           ·          Use the shut off valve on exterior faucets. Drain water from outdoor pipes, valves, and sprinkler heads to protect against pipe bursts.

           ·          Inspect decks for splintering, decay, or insect damage and treat, if needed, to prevent further deterioration over the winter.

           ·          Clean leaves, dirt, and pine needles between the boards of wooden decks to thwart mold and mildew growth.

           ·          Inspect outdoor lighting around the property. Good illumination will help minimize the chance of accidents on icy walkways at night.

           ·          Check handrails on exterior stairs to make sure they’re well secured.

 

Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning:

           ·          Inspect the firebox and flue system with a flashlight. Ensure that the flue is clean of any birds’ nests, branches, leaves, or other obstructions. Over all make sure there is no soot or creosote and that there aren’t any cracks or voids that could cause a fire hazard. You should see daylight at the top of the chimney. Check the fire box for cracked or missing bricks and mortar. If you spot any damage contact a professional to come out.

           ·          Check fireplace for drafts. If it’s cold despite the damper being closed, the damper itself may be warped, worn, or rusted. Consider installing a Chimney Balloon into the flue to air seal the area tightly.

           ·          Check your fuel, make sure you have your fuel storage tank topped off and ready to go.

           ·          Make sure your furnace (once a year) or HVAC (every two years) is checked and tuned up.

           ·          Turn your thermostat to heat; push the temp up (just for testing). Listen for your system to turn on and check that warm air is coming from the vents that the pipes are warming up. If it seems that it is taking longer or not the same as the past you can take a look and see what is going on. Not to comfortable with that, contact a qualified HVAC company.

           ·          Clean or replace the air filter in your furnace for maximum efficiency and improved indoor air quality.

           ·          Clean your whole house humidifier and replace the evaporator pad.

           ·          Bleed valves on any hot-water radiators to increase heating efficiency by releasing air that may be trapped inside.

           ·          Check that smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are in working order.

           ·          Remove air conditioners from windows or cover them with insulated liners, to prevent drafts.

           ·          If you have an older thermostat, replace it with a programmable unit to save on heating costs.

           ·          Install foam-insulating sheets behind outlets and switch plates on exterior walls to reduce outside airflow.

           ·          Make sure fans are switched to the reverse or clockwise position, which will blow warm air down to the floor for enhanced energy efficiency and comfort.

           ·          Flush a hot water heater tank to remove sediment, and check the pressure relief valve to make sure it’s in proper working order.

           ·          Examine exposed ducts in the attic, basement, and crawl spaces, and use a sealant to plug up any leaks.

 

Test Your Sump Pump:

           ·          Slowly pour several gallons of water into the sump pit to see whether the pump turns on. You should do this every few months, but especially after a long dry season or before a rainy one. For more complete instructions for testing and maintenance, check your owner’s manual. Most sump pumps last about ten years, according to American Insurance Institute.

 

Tools and Machinery:

           ·          Bring all seasonal tools inside and spray them with a coating of lightweight oil to prevent rust.

           ·          Weatherize your lawn mower and weed whacker; cleaning off mud, leaves, grass, and debris. If you’re not familiar with fuel stabilizer, get to know it. If your mower sits for months with gas in its tank, the gas will slowly deteriorate, which can damage internal engine parts. Fuel stabilizer prevents gas from degrading. Add stabilizer to your gasoline can to keep spare gas in good condition over the winter, and top off your mower tank with stabilized gas before you put it away for the winter. Run the mower for five minutes to make sure the stabilizer reaches the carburetor.

           ·          Another lawn mower care method is to run your mower dry before stowing: When the mower is cool, remove the spark plug and pour a capful of engine oil into the spark plug hole. Pull the starter cord a couple of times to distribute the oil, which keeps pistons lubricated and ensures an easy start come spring. Turn the mower on its side and clean out accumulated grass and gunk from the mower deck

           ·          Move your snow blower and shovels to the front of the garage or shed for easy access.

           ·          Prepare the snow blower for the first snowfall by changing the oil and replacing the spark plug.

           ·          Sharpen ice chopper and inspect snow shovels to make sure they’re ready for another season of work.

           ·          Make sure you have an ample supply of ice melt or sand on hand for steps, walkways, and the driveway.

 

Avoid The Rush:

           ·          Don’t wait for the first winter storm to restock cold-weather essentials, such as salt, ice melt or that shovel.

 

 

Lastly one that just needs to be said make sure you’re prepared for outages. Electrical, heating, storms and more happen and it seems to get worse every year. Here is link with great information: https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/index.html.

Have you found issues or problems? Need some work done to correct or improve things?

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