What are the most important steps to prepare your home in Fall, especially here in Minnesota, where it’s going to get mighty cold?
Take the time to protect your investment in your home. Read on for a few things you can do to get ready for the winter and help keep your home happy year-round.
Check your home’s heating system
Maintaining your home heating system can help it last longer. Since replacing a furnace or boiler is a big expense, that’s reason enough right there to bring on the maintenance!
In addition, it’s much better to find an HVAC problem in fall than it is to find your furnace doesn’t work on a frigid winter day (believe me, I have had this experience!!). Have your system inspected by a reputable HVAC contractor. In addition to making sure your heating system is ready to perform in cold weather, an inspection can keep it operating efficiently, which can save money on energy bills. Be sure to change your system’s air filters monthly, or according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
While you’re at it, think about purchasing a programmable thermostat. Having a programmable thermostat is completely worth the investment, especially once the the weather cools down. If you set your thermostat back while you’re away during the day, you could save up to 10% on your heating bill!
Paint, caulk and seal exterior wood
The wood trim around your exterior doors and windows is just a one-inch-thick pine board that deteriorates very quickly if not protected. Replacing this trim is expensive, and even professionals can struggle with making the repair look good. The best thing to do is to make sure it doesn’t rot in the first place, and that just means keeping it painted and caulked. This is a job most people can do themselves if they stay on top of it. Take the time to go around your home and make sure that none of the caulk is cracking and your paint is not chipping and flaking away. If it is, scrape away the bad paint or caulk and apply fresh.
Though your deck is made of treated or rot-resistant wood, it still needs protection. You don’t need to stain and seal your deck every year. Check it by simply pouring some water on it. If the water beads up, you’re good. If the wood absorbs the water, it’s time to clean and seal your deck.
This is also a good time to check windows & doors for leaks. If your windows are not sealed properly, your home could lose lots of heat, causing your gas and heating bills to spike.
Clean your gutters
Once the leaves are pretty much off the trees, it’s time to clean those gutters. When your gutters back up, they overflow, and when they overflow, that water runs down your home, speeding up the deterioration of your exterior. It can also lead to deterioration of your foundation, water infiltration in the basement and to settling under your concrete porches and walks. Take out your ladder, and clear out any leaves, branches, or debris from the gutter. This is also a job you can easily hire out.
Seal masonry and hard surfaces
If you have a concrete patio, driveways or walkways, make sure they’re protected. Occasionally apply a concrete sealer to all of your flat exterior concrete surfaces. All concrete flatwork eventually develops cracks. Good masons strategically place control joints in your concrete to try to ensure cracking is limited. Take the time to inspect your concrete and fill in any cracks before you apply sealer so that water cannot get in and freeze over the winter. This will help your expensive concrete work to last a long time.
If you have an asphalt driveway, now is the time to think about resealing that as well. It’s not very expensive to have a company come and give it a quick spray of sealer, or you can simply buy a bucket of sealer and roll it on yourself. If your driveway has developed cracks, patch them before sealing.
Drain your exterior faucet and store the hose
Your outside water faucet is completely unprotected from the elements. It will freeze over the winter, and bad things could happen. Take the time to do a basic drain of the line. Simply shut off the water valve to your outside spigot, then go outside and open the exterior spigot valve and let the water drain out. You don’t have to get every drop. Now if the water in there freezes, it has plenty of room to expand without breaking pipes or seals. Leave the water shut off to the faucet until you need to put the hose back out next spring.
Check your drainage
Make sure the soil around your foundation hasn’t settled, creating areas for water to pool at your foundation. If you find a low spot, simply fill it in with some soil. Then go around and check your rain gutter downspouts. Make sure water is getting moved away from the home. Add downspout extenders if necessary. Saturated soil around a foundation can create real problems as it freezes and thaws during the winter months.
Have your chimney cleaned and inspected
It’s best to do this before cold weather (and the urge to light a fire) hits. The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends that open masonry fireplaces be swept at 1/8” of sooty buildup, and sooner if there is any glaze present in the system. If you have any doubts about whether your chimney needs cleaning, ask a professional. Common recommendation is that a fireplace & chimney should be cleaned and inspected every 50 burns.
Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
Winter is the time most house fires happen. It’s the time of year when we’re blasting the furnace and building fires. We are also much more likely to have our home closed up tight, so carbon monoxide is more of a hazard. Check all of your smoke detectors to make sure they are working and that they have good batteries. If you don’t have carbon monoxide detectors, consider getting some. They are simple to install and operate. An HVAC inspection will also ensure your furnace and water heater are properly vented, which is the most likely source of carbon monoxide.
Now you’re going to feel ready for the Minnesota winter. Sit back and enjoy your warm, well-maintained home!
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