With fall’s transition between the seasons comes a transition for your home as well. That roof and those four sturdy walls need to protect you from winter’s fury, and there are several things you can do to help get ready.
1. Seal masonry surfaces: Apply a sealer to concrete driveways and walkways, brick patios and other exterior masonry. The sealer, available from paint stores and masonry supply retailers, prevents water from penetrating into cracks and crevices where it can freeze and cause serious damage.
2. Prepare your fireplace: Now is the time to get wood-burning appliances such as fireplaces and woodstoves ready for the season. Remove ash buildup; check screens and glass doors for damage; replace door gaskets as needed; and check doors, door latches, screen brackets, and other metal parts to be sure they are secure and operating properly. Check the condition of the exterior of the chimney or flue pipe, including the cap, and then clean the chimney to remove last season’s accumulation of soot and creosote. Consider having a professional chimney sweep service clean and check everything at least every other year.
3. Prepare humidifiers: Winter is a dry time inside your home, and many people choose to use a portable or central humidifier to put much-needed moisture back into the air. Now is the time to check your humidifier to make sure it’s operating properly, that all necessary plates and filters are in place, and that the system is clean and the water supply is correct. Check your operating and maintenance instructions for more information.
4. Check the gutters: Check and clean gutters to remove leaf and pine needle debris, and check that the opening between the gutter and the downspout is unobstructed. Look for loose joints or other structural problems with the system, and repair them as needed using pop rivets. Use a gutter sealant to seal any connections where leaks may be occurring.
5. Change your furnace filters: Replace your old furnace filter with a new one. While you’re at it, check the furnace for worn belts, lubrication needs or other servicing that might be required; refer to your owner’s manual for specific suggestions, and follow any manufacturer safety instructions for shutting the power and fuel to the furnace before servicing.
6. Install a carbon monoxide detector: As we close up our houses for winter, the chances of carbon monoxide poisoning from malfunctioning gas appliances increases substantially. If you have a fireplace, water heater, or other appliance that is fueled by propane or natural gas, fall is an ideal time to install a carbon monoxide detector — available from many home centers and retailers of heating system supplies. While you’re at it, consider also having a professional heating contractor come out and inspect all of the fittings and components on your gas appliances.
7. Check smoke detectors: Fall is a great time to check the operation of your smoke detectors and to change batteries. You should also consider installing additional smoke detectors outside each bedroom.
8. Close off foundation vents: Depending on the winter climate in your area, you’ll want to be thinking about closing off your foundation vents to help prevent pipe freezes. You can leave the foundation open for as many months as the weather remains mild, but close them off when the local forecasts begin calling for freezing temperatures. Once closed, you can leave them that way until it warms up again in the spring.
9. Check weatherstripping: Air leaks around doors and windows can rob your home of expensive heated air and create uncomfortable drafts that keep you feeling chilly. Check the weatherstripping around doors and windows, and replace any that are worn — retailers who specialize in doors and windows can fix you up with the proper replacement type for your situation. Now is also a good time to close up a few more air leaks by checking the condition of caulking around exterior door and window frames.
Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org.