Although it is hard to let go of the carefree days of summer, when the autumn season arrives, it is time to leave Margaritaville and begin to think about the oncoming winter weather. Autumn is a sneaky season with weather: it starts as the continuation of summer, and then quickly turns to, "Hey, it's cold! What happened?", in what seems like an instant! So, once those flip flops are away, it is a great time to inspect your house and make any necessary repairs. Routinely inspecting your house enables you to catch those small repair items long before they become big problems. Starting early gives you the benefit of working in the nice weather and a chance to make any necessary repairs before they become an emergency. When you are finished, you will feel satisfied knowing that you have prepared for winter, protected your house, saved money, and stayed warm. The following are a few items to consider:
- Roof – If your roof is leaking, you have a problem! Check for missing or damaged shingles and the flashing around the chimney. Always exercise caution when you are on a roof! For a limited investment, it makes sense to have a qualified roofer perform the inspection.
- Gutters – Gutters and downspouts do not work if they are filled with leaves and other debris. Check your gutters to confirm they are clear and properly attached to the house. Non-functioning gutters are one of the leading causes of water entering a house. Have high, hard-to-reach gutters professionally inspected.
- Missing Paint – You should sand, prime, and paint any wood surface where the paint is peeling or missing. A preemptive measure can save you from having to replace the wood later.
- Windows – Inspect the caulk between your window frame and siding to ensure that the caulk is still pliable and does not have any cracks. If any gaps exist, remove the old caulk and apply an exterior silicone caulk to fill any gaps. Check that all windows have a tight seal. If there are any gaps, apply weather stripping to create a seal. Previously installed weather stripping may need to be replaced as it loses its elasticity.
- Doors – Check that the sweeps under your doors are in good condition and operating properly. A broken sweep or a sweep that needs to be adjusted will permit both cold air and water to enter under your door. Additionally, check the weather stripping around your door to ensure that it has not compressed or is otherwise compromised. The stripping should create a seal around your door that prevents cold air from entering your home. Inspect the caulk between your door frame and the house to ensure the caulk is still pliable and does not have any cracks. If any gaps exist, remove the old caulk and apply an exterior silicone caulk to fill any gaps.
- Outside Water Faucets – Outside faucets need to be drained to prevent water that is trapped inside from freezing and cracking your faucet. To drain the faucet, first turn off the water supply to the faucet from the shutoff valve inside the house. Then, open the faucet to let any water drain. Finally, open the drain cap on the side of the shutoff valve to drain any remaining trapped water into a small container. When the faucet has been fully drained, tighten the drain cap and close the outside faucet.
- Clean Chimney – If you are heating your house with gas, oil, coal, or wood, your chimney needs to be both inspected and cleaned annually. A dirty chimney is dangerous! It can cause carbon monoxide to back draft into your house or create a chimney fire. Do not take a chance: have a professional chimney company inspect and clean your chimney before you start the winter season.
- Garden Hoses – Drain all water from the garden hose, and roll up and store it in a shed or garage. Remember, gravity is your friend when draining the hose, so fully extend the garden hose down a slope and roll the hose up from the high side. The water will drain from the hose as you roll it up.
- Outside Furniture – Protecting your outside furniture from the winter weather is a great way to prolong the furniture’s useful life. Before storing, give it a good cleaning to remove dirt and pollen. A light power washing and some mild soap should make it sparkling clean. Lubricate any moving joints to ensure that your chair rocks next spring.
- House Screens – Remove your screens, clean them thoroughly, and then store them for spring. There is no reason for your screens to endure the winter. If available, a power washer quickly removes pollen and dirt from your screens.
- Driveway – Fill any cracks in your driveway with driveway crack filler to prevent winter freeze damage. Winter’s freeze/thaw cycle can be the death of your driveway. When the water settles into the driveway cracks and then freezes, it causes the cracks to open wider. Over time, this cycle will cause your driveway to fail.
- Batteries - Replace batteries in both your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Life is too precious; never wait until your battery is out of charge.
- Hot Water Heater – Flush five to ten gallons of water from the bottom of your hot water tank. This prolongs the life of your hot water heater by keeping the heating elements free of calcium and other mineral deposits. To flush the tank, attach a hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the tank and discharge the water either into a bucket or directly outside your house. The water in your tank is hot; be very careful not to burn yourself!
- Heater – Your heater is arguably the most important piece of equipment in your house; take care of it!
- Have your heater serviced before winter starts to assure proper and efficient operation.
- Change the air filter.
- Check the air returns for dirt build-up.
As you can see, preparing for winter does not need to be difficult or stressful if you start early. The key is not to procrastinate: if you wait too long, it may be too cold or too flat out miserable to make a repair. Take care of your home - it is the investment of a lifetime!