Winterize your home now - while you can still walk on your roofing without slipping on ice - with these preventative maintenance tips.
The time you spend checking your home's systems and surfaces from top to bottom could save you thousands of dollars in expensive home repair bills in the future.
These 5 steps will help you protect your home, and get the chilly season started off on a solid foundation.
Do a winter roof inspection. While you're up there, clear leaves and debris from gutters and downspouts. Use a hose to shoot water down gutters and spouts to make sure they aren't clogged. Be sure to check the seal along areas where the roof adjoins other parts of your home (such as walls, pipes and the chimney) for cracks or missing shingles.
Here, you're looking to make sure there is a good seal and that the caulking hasn't dried out. If it has, take it out, clean it with a stiff wire brush. Add new caulk, and replace missing shingles or shakes, re-nail the ridge, and seal around the pipes.
If you discover roofing repair problems you can't handle yourself, check into roofing companies now, before the problem becomes a leaky, expensive emergency. And before all the good roofing companies are booked up until March.
Be sure to check the condition of your chimney and fireplace. Newer fireplaces are better at producing heat and reducing airflow to prolong a fire's life than their older, open counterparts.
However, newer ones also generate cooler smoke, which rises more slowly through the flue. This gives flammable gases time to turn to liquid creosote or soot that can build up in the chimney.
And whatever the age of the fireplace, this buildup can cause a chimney fire, which can be sucked into the house by a change in airflow.
A good rule of thumb is to schedule a chimney cleaning every 40 or 50 fires, or after burning four cords of wood. If you don't know how much wood you've burned or you're concerned about the condition of your chimney, schedule a chimney inspection.
Most chimney cleaning companies recommend an inspection at least every three to four years, more often for older homes.
Your choices in firewood run the gamut from hardwoods - the hottest, cleanest, and longest-burning woods such as oak, almond and walnut - to soft woods, such as pine and fir.
Soft woods burn more quickly and ignite more easily, but emit more soot-creating oils and resins. The best place for firewood storage is outside, at least several feet from your home so it does not pose a fire hazard.
Stack it at least an inch off the ground using firewood racks to keep it from getting wet. This, or a firewood shed, will also help to discourage bugs from making the woodpile a winter home.
Resist the temptation to store the firewood in your garage. There are hundreds of species of bugs - including termites - that live in the wood and that you probably don't want in your garage.
Furnace maintenance is an essential part of preparing your home for the big chill ahead. On a cold winter's night, heating is the last thing you want to have break down.
only is such a malfunction uncomfortable and expensive, it can even be
dangerous. A malfunctioning home furnace may emit potentially lethal carbon monoxide inside your home.
Schedule a furnace service for older home heating systems annually to check and adjust the belts, lubricate the motor, and adjust the air-fuel mixture.
Newer home heating systems don't need as much maintenance, but the screens and filters should be changed monthly.
You can change the filter yourself, but you'll need a service person heating to come out and check for any gas leaks, and to check all the safety controls. You'll also want to consider scheduling a duct cleaning, too.
In many older homes, and even some newer ones, warm air escapes through numerous little cracks, holes and gaps. The cold winter winds can force air through these openings into your home, and you'll have to raise the thermostat setting to keep warm.
This forces the furnace heater to work harder and use more fuel - and up goes your energy and heating bill. These heat stealing gaps can result from poor construction, settling and aging of the house, or simply from dramatic changes in temperature.
These gaps are especially prone to develop where two different surfaces meet, such as the wall and foundation, or the chimney-wall joint.
The best time to test your windows and doors for airtightness is a cold, windy, winter day. Use your hand to feel for cold air.
Or, make a simple draft detector by clipping a piece of tissue paper or light plastic to a coat hanger.
Hold the coat hanger in front of the suspected gap around doors or windows and see whether the paper or plastic flutters. If so, installing weather stripping is a quick, easy, do-it-yourself job. Also check for air leaks around the openings where plumbing or electrical wiring goes through walls, floors and ceilings.
Check for drafts from electrical outlets, around ceiling fixtures, and at openings in the attic. Seal cracks or holes with caulking. Sealing off drafts can save up to 10 percent in annual energy costs.
Visit the Clean Organized Home Store for the tools and supplies you need to winterize your home.