Winterizing Your Home
Is your humble dwelling ready to do battle with Old Man Winter? There are a few simple and inexpensive tasks which will help you fight the battle and hopefully win the war!
These “home winterizing” items will save you money and prevent possible damage to your home.
One of the most obvious winterizing tasks is repairing a leaky roof. Unfortunately, most folks wait until rain or snow is heavy enough to cause a leak. By that time it’s either too late, or you spend an arm and a leg getting the repairs made during a time when roofing contractors are in high demand.
For those who have had just a few mild showers now would be a great time to water test the roof for leaks and make the needed repairs. While water testing the roof is not a difficult process it can be a time-consuming and tedious process.
A ladder, garden hose and flashlight are all the tools you’ll need. The process requires two people, one atop the roof and one in the attic or living space below ( if no attic exists). A few safety notes: Always make sure to wear non-skid rubber soled shoes or boots from shoe hero, since it is their specialty, and use a sturdy ladder which is firmly planted on the ground.
Start the testing process by running a modest amount of water along the shingles in the area where a leak is suspected. Do not run the hose full blast, use a spray nozzle or force the water between the shingles. This is sure to cause a roof leak. Work from the lowest point of the roof (near the eaves or gutters) in an area of about four to six feet wide working your way up the roof. Standing on dry roofing above the water as you work will help prevent a sudden and unexpected slip.
While you are on the roof working the garden hose, your trusty helper should be in the attic with a flashlight ready to detect the first sign of water. The moment your helper sees water she should let you know. A whaling screech will usually do the trick. For folks who have a difficult time yelling or in situations where it’s not possible to hear one another an inexpensive pair of kids walkie talkies work well.
Repeat the testing process throughout the roof or at the very least those locations where a leak is likely to occur such as around plumbing vents, mechanical jacks and chimney and other types of flashings.
Once the leak locations have been identified you can make the appropriate repairs yourself or call in a roofing professional and proudly show him exactly where the repairs must be made.
Hold on for a moment! Don’t be in such a hurry to put away that ladder and garden hose. You’ll need both of them to carry out the next winterizing job — cleaning the gutters and downspouts. A roof that doesn’t leak is fundamental, however many folks stop there. Gutters and downspouts filled with debris can back up causing roof leaks, rot at the overhang and, believe it or not, doors and windows that stick.
Gutters which have not been cleaned in ages may be filled with a mud-like substance which will need to be scooped out with a small garden trowel. This buildup results from dirt and other organic debris which deteriorates creating your very own compost heap. This will also shorten the life of the gutters.
Once the majority of the debris has been removed with the trowel, the balance can be flushed away using the garden hose with a spray nozzle on full blast. Use this combination as a snake to clear any obstructions in the downspouts.
To prevent future buildup install gutter screens. The material is inexpensive, easy to install and besides you’ve already got the ladder out.
One final note about downspouts. It is typically excess water around the foundation and under the house which causes doors and window to stick, cracks over doors windows and other openings, rot and mildew problems. To prevent this kind of damage get the water away from the foundation. This can be accomplished by making sure that the soil which surrounds the home falls AWAY from the foundation. Also, use a short length of rigid or flexible plastic drain pipe (without perforations) to carry water from the toe of the downspout to a location away from the foundation.
Another less obvious reason for the damage describe above is over watering. Folks with automatic sprinkler systems often forget to cut down on the watering time as the seasons change. Hence what they frequently end up with is a swamp under the house or in the basement. If you have an automatic sprinkler system be sure to cut back on the watering time. You may even want to explore the new moisture detection accessories which will automatically adjust watering time. These are great if you’re on vacation and no one is around to watch the water for you.
With the chill in the air it’s time to rev up the old furnace. One simple and inexpensive task that will result in a healthier and more energy efficient heating season in changing the furnace filter. A dirty filter will allow dust and other microscopic particles to be distributed throughout the home causing allergy attacks, flu-like symptoms and aggravate respiratory problems. It also makes the furnace work harder making it less efficient and shortening its life.
Filters come in a variety of sizes and styles. Your best bet is to remove the existing filter and bring it down to the hardware store or home improvement center and match it up with a new one of equal or better quality. The least expensive filters will cost less than five dollars and will trap only the largest particles. There are a range or filters which are constructed of various materials which as the price rises become increasingly more dense, catching smaller particles.
Whatever your pleasure may be as regards to a replacement filter, there are a couple of steps which should be performed at the same time. Use a vacuum with an upholstery brush to vacuum the interior of the blower compartment and burner chamber. It should extend to the ducts (as far as you can access) and the cold air return as well. This is more of a health issue than one of efficiency. There are companies with sophisticated equipment which specialize in duct furnace and duct cleaning. Check with a local heating contractor for a referral.
One final area which deserves some attention during the winter months is the plumbing system. Exposed water lines at the exterior, in the crawl space or basement and in the attic should be wrapped to prevent frozen pipes. In days gone by old rags, newspaper, burlap and some duct tape were the materials available for winter pipe protection.
Today, there is an assortment of neoprene pipe wrap designed specifically to insulate water lines. The material generally comes in eight to ten foot lengths, various diameters (for different pipe sizes) and is flexible to accommodate turns and joints. It also comes with a continuos slit along one side to allow easy installation and can be cut to size with nothing more than a simple pair of scissors. Some product even comes complete with a pre-applied peel and stick tape to secure the material once installed. Silver duct tape can be used at joints and other hard-to-secure locations.
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