Winterize your home with my Elk River, MN Home Inspector tips on “How to avoid the Repairman”. After all, your home is probably your biggest investment of your life, and needs to be cared for, so it is in the best shape possible to enjoy and get the best price when you decide sell it. When I was a contractor, I had numerous calls every spring for repairs because of simple things that were overlooked in the fall and sat silently waiting to reveal themselves with the spring thaw. If you’re ready to prepare your home for winter, my list of things to check off this fall will help you avoid those costly repairs in the spring.
Remove the hoses from outside water spigots!
Frequently, customers claim that in the spring that “the basement ceiling being soaking wet can’t possibly be from the outside spigot going out of the house in that area, because it is a frost-free type spigot that doesn’t freeze!”. Well, we would walk around to the back of the house and find that the garden hose was left on the spigot all winter trapping the water inside the shut off area which then froze and split the pipe just inside the house.
If you have a frost-free spigot, your pipe can still freeze and split, but it will not leak into the house right away because the frost-free type faucet shuts the water off inside the house about 8” into the warm space. The typical split or crack in the pipe is within the first 2 to 4 inches inside the house. For many customers with this issue, the ice will just sit there all winter with the split in the pipe waiting for the faucet to be turned on outside. When spring and warm weather hit, the ice melts. You go outside to hose off the patio and when you turn on the faucet the water being held back in the pipe 8” from the outside of the house now is let loose with a split/crack in your pipe. Water is gushing into your basement ceiling unbeknownst to you, and you are outside spending a half hour spraying your patio off!
Drain the standard (non-frost free) outside spigots after the hoses are off
The standard outside spigot does not actually shut off on the inside of the house but actually turns off outside where it is exposed to the elements. These spigots usually have a shut off valve in the pipe that supplies the spigot (It is usually in the utility room). In the fall, you must shut off the supply valve inside and then open the faucet on the outside to let it drain out. You can leave it open for the winter if you like but that tends to dry out the rubber washer that seals the spigot. However, leaving it open for a few days after shut down can help you confirm that the valve inside is completely shutting the water off. If your shutoff valve is not working, you’ll see a trickle of water which can freeze areas of the pipe over the winter. If the interior shut off valve is not sealing, it is better to find out in the fall than it is in the spring!
Remove your window screens
Window screens are really not needed during the winter months in colder climates. Who opens their windows to let the fresh air in when it’s 10° F outside? And even if they do, there are no bugs flying around in the winter. So, if you have screens that are mounted on the outside of your window you can store them somewhere inside to help them last longer. Storing your screens for the winter will save them from exposure to the elements for a few months every year. This is also a great time to bring them in for repair instead of waiting until the spring when you need them working for you!
Clean out your gutters
Ok, Winter is Coming! Cleaning your gutters in the fall can help you avoid a few consequences occurring during the winter. Let’s say your gutters are full of debris when winter hits. As snow melts and runs into the gutters the debris will get wet and then freeze. Once there is ice in the gutters any future water has nowhere to go when it melts off the roof and adds more freezing to the gutter. That freezing adds a substantial amount of weight to your gutter system. Stressing the gutter mounts and the gutter seams and joints unnecessarily.
Over time, the gutter mounts can loosen up and cause your gutters to first sag and then possibly even fall off the house. That’s expensive! When gutters are left full of leaves and debris it can also cause premature wear on the roofing materials at the roof edges.
Schedule a professional to clean and inspect your chimney
Your chimney(s) play a very important role in your fireplace(s) and furnace function and safety. This is especially important on wood burning applications. Creosol build up can cause chimney fires and chimney failures. I know this from personal experience because my parents home burned to the ground many years back from a faulty chimney. And the reason you need a chimney professional to look them over for you is that they have special equipment and cameras to scan the interiors of the flue for damage and build up, which is impossible to see from looking down the pipe with a flash light.
Schedule a tune up for your furnace
Have you ever wondered how your furnace or fireplace can be working magnificently until you shut them down in the spring and after it sits for the summer it has decided not to work any longer? What happened? Does it really have a mind of its own? Is it on strike? Maybe demon possessed? Well, the time to find out that something is wrong is not when it is cold enough to freeze your pipes, but in the fall when you have a cushion of time in front of you to get the repairs done if something has changed from last spring till now.
Most of the time the fix is something simple. Something gets rusty or corroded over the summer and needs a cleaning, or someone turned the switch off next to the furnace (My granddaughter McKenna taught me that one, along with the switch on the water heater). Bottom line is now is better than mid-winter to find out something needs attention.
Take out or cover up your wall or window air conditioner.
You can lose a great deal of heat through your window air conditioner during the winter. There is also no reason to expose the unit to the elements when it is not in use. Covering them up with something is usually pretty easy. Just remember to take the cover off in the spring before using it.
Put on your storm windows.
Storm windows can greatly increase the efficiency of your home. The air gap that is created by installing storm windows brings up the R-value of your window system which translates to saving money on the energy bill. They also help eliminate or slow down drafts that become uncomfortable during the winter the months.
Switch your interior heat/ac pipes and registers to winter positions.
OK lets go back to elementary physics class now. Heat rises and cold settles right? In the winter you want your furnace to put a lot of the heat into the lowest level of your home. Through physics, we know that the heat will rise up through your house on its own. During the hot summers, you want most of the air conditioning to be pushed upstairs so that it will filter downward to lower areas of your home.
Turn your whole house humidifier valve to winter position.
This is usually found and labeled “winter/summer” on your whole house humidifier which is connected to the duct work at your furnace. Watch for excess humidity in your home (condensation on windows is a good way to tell) and adjust the humidity sensor accordingly (that’s the little rectangle gauge above the large humidifier in the picture). I’ve seen homes with major window damage from people not paying attention to that dial or in some cases don’t even know what it is for.
Clear debris from your sidewalk and driveway
Make sure your sidewalk and driveway are clear of debris before the snow flies (toys, tools, newspapers at the end of the driveway) to prevent your snow blower from hitting them and jamming the auger blades.
Put gas stabilizer in your summer motorized equipment.
Add a gas stabilizer to your lawn mower, weed whip, trimmer, and any other summer seasonal items and let them run until the stabilizer is fully into the carburetor.
Other items to winterize
- Check the condition of your weather-stripping on your doors and windows
- Pick up a bottle of descaler from your local pool/hot tub dealer and run it through your whirlpool bath to clean out the pipes
- Start up your outside hot tub. If you shut your hot tub down during the summer make sure you fill it up and turn it on before the first freeze (water is still in the pipes even if the tub is empty and they can freeze)
- Dig out the snow blower and make sure it is in good running condition.
- If your shovels are out in the shed bring them into the garage so you have them when the snow flies.
- Trim tree branches that could get weighed down with ice or snow and scrape your roof or siding, or worse yet, fall on your house – (or your neighbor’s).
Winterizing your home each fall can extend the life of your home and help you prepare your home for sale over the winter or Spring. If you’re ready to winterize so you can put your home on the market, we’re here to help. Learn more about our home inspections or schedule an inspection online.