Howling winds, bitterly cold temperatures, and rain, hail and snow can take a toll on your Pittsburgh home. Fortunately, you can reduce or prevent damage simply by making a few preparations before winter weather begins.
Conduct a Last-Minute Exterior Inspection
Although you may have already inspected your home a few months ago, it’s important to conduct another check before our first winter storm arrives. The windy, rainy weather we’ve had this fall could have loosened shingles or caulking or even damaged window panes your attic. In addition to looking for signs of damage, check your gutters. If they’re clogged with autumn leaves, an ice dam can form and cause water damage in your home.
Winterize Sprinkler Systems and Water Features
Before the temperatures begin to drop, make winterizing your sprinkler system and water features a priority. If water remains in pipes and lines, they may crack or break during freezing weather. Unfortunately, you probably won’t know you have a problem until you start your sprinkler or water feature in the spring. Draining hoses, sprinkler systems and water features is an important step to protect your investment. If you have a fountain, be sure to bring the pump indoors, and use a cover to protect it from the effects of snow, sleet and rain. Most landscaping companies offer winterization services for sprinklers and water features.
Seal Heat Leaks
Even tiny openings around windows and doors can cause a substantial heat leak. Use a thermal heat detector to identify drafts, then seal them with caulk and weatherstripping. Don’t forget to seal air leaks around pipes and duct work too.
Store Outdoor Furniture
Although your outdoor furniture is built to withstand rain, it’s not a good idea to leave it outside during the winter months. The freeze/thaw cycle can cause cracks and accelerate wear and tear if the furniture is exposed to the elements.
Check and Organize Your Equipment
Make sure all of your winter equipment is in its proper place and in good working condition. Change the oil in your snow blower and replace any worn or loose parts. Is the handle of your snow shovel taped to the head? Now’s the time to replace the shovel. When the first snowflake falls, you’ll be lucky to find a shovel at Home Depot, Lowes or your local hardware store.
Do you still have enough ice melt or sand for your walkways and driveway? If not, buy a new supply when you replace your worn snow shovel. Don’t forget about the other things you’ll need to tackle winter storms. Are your gloves, boots, hats and scarves in good condition and easily accessible? When the snow begins to pile up outside your front door, you won’t want to waste time searching for a missing glove.
Schedule a Furnace Service Call
Call your HVAC company and schedule a service call if you haven’t already taken care of this important detail. In addition to replacing filters and cleaning and lubricating your system, technicians also look for wear and tear and replace worn parts before they can cause problems. Regular maintenance on your furnace or boiler offers a simple way to avoid heating emergencies during the winter.
Install a Heated Driveway and Heated Walkways
Heated walkways and driveways offer the ultimate way to remove snow without stepping outdoors. Similar to radiant flooring, these systems send antifreeze and heated water through a series of tubes under your driveway and walkways. While you stay warm inside, the system does all the work. If you’re considering a home remodeling project, consider adding a heated driveway and walkways to your plan.
Protect Your Pipes
Sooner or later, we’re bound to hit a patch of frigid weather. When that happens, unprotected pipes may freeze and burst, spewing water over your basement or lower level family room or home theater. Fortunately, you can reduce the risk of burst pipes by covering them with foam pipe insulation.
Insulating all of the pipes in your basement is a good idea, but it’s particularly important to add insulation to pipes at the point they enter your home. Even if your basement stays fairly warm, pipes on exterior walls may be at risk of freezing if the temperature begins to drop steadily.
Clean Your Fireplace and Flue
While you’re making phone calls, schedule a fireplace and flue cleaning. Flue cleaning is particularly important if you use your wood-burning fireplace often. Creosote and soot can build up in the flue and cause a chimney fire if the substances aren’t removed periodically. Although your gas fireplace may seem cleaner than wood-burning types, these fireplaces still produce soot. Flue cleanings are a must no matter what type of fireplace you have.
Do you suffer from cabin fever during the winter because your home is just too small? A home addition or renovation can give you the space you need. At Master Remodelers, we’ll not only design your new space, but also build it. Contact us and tell us about your remodeling project.
Consumer Reports: How to Prevent Your Pipes from Freezing
University of Minnesota Extension: Dealing with and Preventing Ice Dams