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Published on November 18, 2020
If you own a house, cottage or vacation property, it's time to get ahead of those snowy, icy storms and start prepping for the winter months. Avoid spending your holidays handling winter-related disasters with a bit of preventative maintenance.
Many homeowners can roll up their sleeves and tackle much of these tasks on their own. You might even be surprised by what you can cross off in just a day.
Our partners at Wawanesa Insurance have put together a winter maintenance checklist. Here are some of their recommendations:
Don’t “leaf” this one to the end
While there are plenty of reasons to let nature take its course with fallen leaves, you may still want to grab that rake. (Or leaf blower) Dry leaves are easiest to work with, so check the weather forecast and don’t delay if rain is on the way. If you’re bagging leaves, don’t put these next to a garage or building, since they can be targets for arson—as unfortunate as that sounds.
Trim the trees
Focus on trees that have dead branches and that are close to your house, garage, cars and sheds. Under the weight of snow and ice, these can break and cause major destruction. Use pruning shears for smaller branches and a pole saw for harder to reach or high up areas. Time your trimming later in the season, but before snow falls, to maximize your tree health.
Put away the patio furniture
Alas, the time to bask under the summer sun has faded away for another season. Protect your outdoor furniture by storing it in a shed or wrapping it securely under a tarp. This can help to prevent the furniture from being damaged or causing damage during high wind events.
This one is relatively simple, albeit a bit dirty. Roll up your sleeves (literally) and remove any debris, leaves, dirt and buildup from your eavestrough and downspouts. Once free and clear, melted snow will be able to drain freely. It’s wise to have a family member or friend spot you while you’re using the ladder.
Avoid ice damming
When an ice dam forms near the edge of your roof, it actually holds back snow and meltwater above. This trapped water has nowhere to drain and can leak into your home—causing damage within walls and ceilings, soaking through insulation and creating a big costly mess. This ice damming is often a symptom of other issues, so preventing it in the first place is priority one.
Sprinklers and hoses
Outside plumbing is important to protect, as it can be the first to freeze (even during crisp fall nights.) Drain your irrigation system and sprinklers, making sure the piping is well insulated as required. Remove garden hoses and drain out any standing water, then coil them up and store them in the shed.
Weather stripping and caulking
If you’ve never done this before, it can seem intimidating—although it’s actually a straightforward task with the right tools. Check caulking around your windows and sills to see if it’s damaged, dried out or even if gaps have formed. Likewise, check weather stripping around your windows and doors, and replace these with materials you can buy at the hardware store.
Plug the holes
Plug open holes and cracks on the outside of your house with steel wool or a pest blocking foam. This will discourage vermin from making their way into your tantalizingly warm house. Aside from making nests and leaving unmentionables around, their sharp teeth can chew through wires, which can spark fires. Go the extra mile and head inside the house next to do the same interior inspection to protect from both sides.
Check your furnace
The furnace is probably your most important home appliance—and it needs some TLC at least once a year. Make sure your HVAC system is ready to go by replacing filters and having a couple extra ones on standby. Cover the AC condenser outside with a tarp and board or hard cover to protect from falling icicles or debris.
Signs of roof stress
Yes, even your roof can get a little stressed out—and the signs may actually show inside the house. Check for water leaks inside the house that seem to start from the ceiling or attic openings. Look for doors that may not be closing properly, or that are completely jammed. And spot any changes to drywall, as cracks could indicate bigger problems.
Sweep the chimney
A fireplace or wood stove is the perfect place to warm up in winter. But if you use solid fuel heat, do you know when your chimney has last been swept? You can do a quick inspection yourself with a flashlight to check the inside of your chimney for cracks or gaps in the brick, animal nests or other oddities. Consider burning a special chimney sweeping log (available at most hardware stores), which will help remove buildup over time.
Give your pipes a parka!
Exposed water 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 that can be exposed to the elements. Simply add insulation sleeves around these bare spots and they’ll be snuggly warm until spring has sprung.
Let’s face it. The last thing you want to do with the remaining nice days of autumn is a list of chores and maintenance on your house and yard. But the extra effort now will pay off in spades later, especially when it can save you from the cold and costly repair bills.
By proactively maintaining your property, you will have peace of mind to enjoy the cozy winter ahead!
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