While snow has already arrived in some parts of the country, it’s still not too late to do some important maintenance to prepare your home for winter.
One thing is certain: the deep freeze can create can wreak havoc on your property without some preparation. The Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ILCR) reports some winter storms have cost Canadians more than $5.4 billion to recover from damages.
The good news is many of these tasks you can do yourself. Others may require a professional. The Insurance Bureau of Canada and other experts recommend the following maintenance:
OUTSIDE THE HOUSE
- Trim the trees – Focus on trees with dead branches and ones close to your home, garage, vehicles, and sheds. If there are dead trees or large branches that may break under the weight of snow or ice, call in an arborist.
- Turn off outside water– Protect your outdoor plumbing since it’s one of the first things to freeze. Drain your irrigations system and sprinklers. Remove and drain your hoses and store them for the winter.
- Check caulking/weather stripping– Inspect your windows and sills to see if it’s damaged, dried out or if gaps have formed. A good caulking gun to do the repairs makes all the difference!
- Plug holes– If you see holes and cracks on the outside plug them with steel wool or a pest-blocking foam to discourage vermin.
- Clean gutters – Remove debris, leaves, and dirt from your eavestroughs and downspouts. This allows melted snow to drain freely. Have someone with you when using a ladder. If you don’t feel comfortable doing it, hire out the task.
- Avoid ice dams– When an ice dam forms near the edge of your roof, it holds back the snow and meltwater above. The trapped water can leak into your home causing damage within walls, ceilings, and soaking through insulation. A warm roof is often the issue and the solution to the problem may be inside. If you notice this type of damage, it’s time to call in a contractor.
- Get organized – If you haven’t put away that patio furniture, do it now. Make sure you cover your air conditioner condenser outside with a tarp or cover to protect it from debris. Clean and stow your lawnmower. Organize what you need for winter in the garage or shed – for example, shovels, snowblower, and salt/salt alternatives. While you’re at it, have the outdoor extension cords ready for the Christmas lights!
INSIDE THE HOUSE
- Check your furnace/heat sources – Ensure your furnace, wood stove and any other heating sources are in good working condition. Have them inspected, maintained, and cleaned. During the heating season, clean or replace furnace air filters each month.
- Sweep the chimney -If you burn wood, use a flashlight to check the inside of your chimney for cracks or gaps in the brick, animal nests or other problems. Consider having your chimney inspected or burning a special chimney sweeping log (available at hardware stores) that will help remove buildup over time.
- Inspect smoke/carbon monoxide detectors – Batteries should be replaced every six months. Check the manufacture’s date on the units. Smoke detectors should be replaced about every 10 years and carbon monoxide every 5-7. Don’t skip this step – it could save your life!
- Clean your electric baseboards - Ensure coils are free of debris and pet hair. Blow off any dust with compressed air. Make sure no curtains, drapes, bedding, or furnishings are in contact with the heater.
- Look for signs of roof stress – Check for water leaks inside the house that appear to start from the ceiling or attic openings. See if you spot any changes to drywall – cracks can indicate bigger problems. Another sign is doors that may not close properly or are jammed. If you notice these now or during the winter, call in the pros.
- Deal with drafts - Check sealing around windows and doors for air or water leaks. If you find them, there are several weather stripping options available. Consult your local building centre.
- Wrap exposed pipes – Pipes in unheated areas of the home can freeze quickly – breaking and causing major damage. Inspect your crawl space, attic, garage, and any other unheated plumbing exposed to the elements. Add insulation sleeves around the bare spots to keep them warm until spring.
Bottom line? Taking care of winter maintenance now won’t necessarily mean less ice, snow, or frigid temperatures over the next few months, but it could prevent damage to your home and costly repairs!
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