Getting your home ready for winter is one of the smartest things you can do to save on energy bills and prevent weather-related damage that can cost thousands to repair. And, if you follow our simple list of “must-do” tasks, it doesn’t have to take a lot of time either. Here’s what you need to do each Fall to get ready for the cold months of winter:
- Inspect your foundation. Look for cracks and chips that can let moisture leak in and use caulk to seal them. Pay special attention to where the foundation meets the siding. Even small cracks can let cold air in and heat out, and if water enters and freezes, the cracks could be much larger by spring.
- Install storm windows and doors and remove screen windows on older units. Clean screens before storing them in the garage of basement for the winter.
- Inspect wood trim for signs of wear or exposed wood. Wood that’s exposed lets water seep into the rest of the structure, causing rot and mold. Peeling or blistering paint are signs the finish is no longer able to protect the wood beneath. Scrape loose paint and use a wood filler for small holes or chips, and replace pieces of trim with more substantial damage. Prime and paint with a good-quality exterior paint.
- Caulk doors and windows, paying careful attention to the gaps at corners. Make sure your garage door closes securely and doesn’t leave a small opening where tiny rodents can enter.
- Insulate around openings. Look for places where pipes or wires enter your home and make sure the openings are well sealed. Use outdoor caulk or spray foam insulation to fill in any gaps and prevent moisture from leaking in.
- Clean your gutters. Once the leaves have fallen, clear leaves and other debris from your gutters and downspouts and flush them out with your garden hose. Make sure the brackets are firmly attached joints are sealed, and readjust brackets as needed to ensure the slope is correct and water is directed to the downspouts. When your budget allows, replace old open gutters with new gutters featuring leaf guards.
- While you’re up there…check your roof for any signs of wear like loose or torn shingles that could expose your home to moisture. If you spot any signs of damage, call a licensed roofing contractor for an evaluation.
- Have your chimney cleaned, especially if you have a wood-burning stove or fireplace. Ask the sweep to make sure the cap is in good shape and replace it if needed. If your chimney is old, look for missing mortar and re-point as needed. Do the same for other brick surfaces, and consider using a sealer designed especially for brick to prevent water penetration.
- Cover up. If you have a pool, hot tub, air conditioning unit, grill or other item that will be braving snow and freezing rain, invest in a strong cover that fits well. Secure with bungee cords if needed to prevent the wind from carrying covers away.
- Check your driveway, walkways and cement steps or porches for cracks. Freezing rain and snow can cause tiny cracks to widen over winter. Fill cracks now with acrylic driveway caulk or use a vinyl concrete patching compound and finish off by applying a sealer to your entire driveway’s surface to keep it protected.
Even relatively mild winters can cause substantial damage to homes that aren’t properly protected. Taking a day or two to thoroughly inspect your home’s exterior and make a few minor, inexpensive repairs can cut heating bills and reduce the risk of weather-related repairs.