Preparing for Winter Maintenance
Winter is coming and with it comes an opportunity to perform some basic safety checks and maintenance items on your home. We've said it before and we'll say it again, the biggest "killer" of homes is lack of maintenance by the homeowner. A commitment to home maintenance will pay huge dividends towards the life of your home as well as its resale value. Here are our suggestions for things to do and check as winter approaches:
CLEAN THE GUTTERS
If you live in a wooded area and haven't cleaned your gutters in the last few days, they are already clogged (again). In the fall, it is a constant struggle to keep gutters clean. If gutters are allowed to sit clogged they can dump water out closer to the foundation of your home, leave stains (from the leaves) along your siding, and hold water that will eventually freeze and damage your gutters and roof. A ladder and your hand along the roof-line will work just fine. As will one of those hooked gutter blaster hose adapters.
CHECK DOWNSPOUTS & YARD SLOPE Along with your gutter cleanliness it is a good idea to make sure your downspouts are the proper length. In the late winter/early spring, frozen ground can easily redirect water back towards your foundation if the downspouts are not extended far enough. Check to make sure they do not terminate into a flowerbed as well. It's best to get them past the edge of the bed.
CHECK & TURN OFF OUTSIDE HOSE FAUCETS It seems that every year we hear a horror story about someone leaving their hose hooked up to their outside hose bib (faucet, spigot, etc.) and then it bursts due to frozen pipes. PLEASE check your hoses if you leave them out and make sure they are not hooked to your hose bib over the winter. In addition, if you live in an older home, your outdoor hose bibs may not be "frost-free" or "frost proof". Older hose bibs generally have a valve you can get to on the inside of the home (basement) to turn off so that water left in the line does not freeze. . In a nutshell, you don't have to do anything with frost-free hose bibs but you should drain or cover older non frost-free bibs.
CHECK YOUR GARAGE SAFETY DEVICES Garage doors do not like the winter cold. You may have noticed your garage door is much nosier in the winter. The frigid temperatures wreak havoc on the lube for the drive mechanism (upper center) and wheels that guide the door up and down. Invest in some white lithium spray grease for the side guide wheels and garage door chain/screw drive lube for the drive mechanism. You won't believe how quiet your garage door will be. In addition to this simple maintenance, take a moment to check the two auto-reverse safety features on most garage doors. The garage door should auto-reverse if something is placed between the two eyes on the lower part of either end and also when something is placed on the floor that impedes the path.
SMOKE DETECTORS, CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS, & GFCI OUTLETS We keep our homes closed up in the winter. This means that the potential for built up carbon monoxide is greater as there is less opportunity for it to dissipate. Do yourself a favor and test all of your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors to ensure they are working properly. While you're doing that, check the GFCI outlets (image) that you more than likely have in your kitchen, bathroom, basement, garage, and exterior. These can be tested by pressing the "test" button to cut the power to that outlet. Press "reset" to get the power flowing to that outlet again. These safety mechanisms wear out over time so testing them on a regular basis is a good idea.
HEATING SYSTEM & CHIMNEY If you have a regular gas-fired heating system in your home, it is best to get it serviced yearly to prevent any large issues from happening such as worn out fan, cracked heat exchanger, etc. Ask your friends and family for recommendations on a good HVAC service company in your area. If you happen to have a wood burning stove or fireplace it is a good idea to have a chimney sweep come out and inspect the flue for any built up creosote, issues with the firebox, cracking, etc. Most of the time it is difficult to even see any aspect of a fireplace venting system so hiring a professional to keep your family safe is always a good idea.