Winter weather can do nasty things to a house. Ice dams can peel away roof shingles and expose your roof to mildew and rot. Howling wind can slip through every unprotected crack, leaving you cold and shivering and driving your heating bill skyhigh. Protecting your house from winter weather is all about keeping the cold air out and keeping the air inside warm and toasty.
It’s not the cold temperatures that causes most winter damage. It’s the freeze-thaw cycle. Ice takes up more space than the same amount of liquid water. That means that any place where water can get in and freeze can crumble, break, or burst.
Start your exterior winterizing by cleaning out your rain gutters. Check all the joins. Remove any blocking clutter which could keep meltwater from running freely. Leftover water which refreezes will cause an ice dam to back up under your shingles. That leads to roof leaks.
While you are at it, check your shingles. Hammer down any loose shingles, and replace any which have eroded. Winter winds love to catch loose shingles and strip them away. If you spot any mildew, you can get rid of it with chlorine bleach.
If you have a deck, you should give it a thorough wash with a pressure washer and seal it regularly against the elements. A simple detergent should do just fine. In fact, it’s better to avoid chlorine bleaches, which can damage the wood. After the deck has completely dried, you should stain it and seal it. You don’t have to do this every year, but you should do it every other year if you want your deck to last.
Take a walk around your house and check the condition of the brick or siding, as well as all your windows and flashings. Also take a look at the state of your driveway. Are there any holes where water can get in? Does anything need to be painted or sealed? You may want to take the pressure washer to these as well.
Your furnace is your number one interior defence against winter cold, so get it checked before the real cold sets in. Change your air filter while you are at it. If you tie a blanket of fireproof insulation around your water heater, it will save on your water heating expenses.
If you have any water pipes which won’t be heated, they should be either insulated or drained of water. Drain outdoor hoses and turn off the outdoor water controls in your utilities room. If water in an unheated, uninsulated pipe freezes, you’re going to have a big mess on your hands.
Winter air is dry, but the warmer air inside your house can cause condensation all over your windows. To keep your windows dry, your furnace running well, and the mold from growing, you’ll need good air circulation. Check all your vents and get your chimney cleaned.
Don’t forget to check all your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Winter is when most fires and carbon monoxide poisonings happen. Your detectors should be checked and the batteries replaced every six months, and they’re easiest to remember when they’re part of getting ready for winter. Many fire departments recommend that you check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors when you turn your clock back in the fall, and again when you turn it forward in the spring.
On a cool, windy night, walk around the rooms of your house and check for drafts. Attics, doors, and windows are common culprits. Insulate anywhere that needs insulating. If you feel cold air coming in around doors or windows, make sure they close properly and add weather stripping as needed. A cold spot on a wall means insulation has slipped in that place. Drill a hole between the studs (watch out for electrical wiring) and plug it tightly with loose fiberglass insulation. You’ll save much more on your heating than this small repair will cost.
Older single pane windows are poor insulators. You probably don’t want to be replacing your windows just before winter, but fortunately there is a much cheaper alternative. A special transparent thermal shrink wrap has been developed that can be applied directly to window panes each winter. Just pull off the amount needed, stretch it over the window pane, and heat it with a hair dryer.
Winter can be the most wonderful time of the year. With these guidelines, you’ll be able to keep your hearth nice and toasty this winter.