Winter Is Coming. Is Your Home Ready?
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As winter approaches, homeowners across Kansas should be taking steps to ensure that they’re ready for the cold, ice, and snow. Winterizing a home doesn’t have to cost a fortune, but it does require a little advanced preparation and the help of specialists like roofing contractors, heating services, and chimney cleaners.
Homeowners who want to ensure that they’re prepared for the coldest months of the year can perform some of their own seasonal maintenance. They’ll still require professional assistance with some winterizing tasks, though. Read on to find out about what steps to take to get ready for winter, which of them can be performed at home, and when to call a contractor who can help.
Heating System Maintenance
Modern heating systems are designed to be efficient and durable, but that doesn’t mean they’re infallible. Any homeowner who uses a furnace to heat his or her house should schedule professional furnace maintenance at least once a year in the fall before temperatures start to drop.
Scheduling a routine inspection and maintenance visit in the fall will give homeowners time to make repairs or replace their units as needed. Whether they have gas or electric heaters, homeowners should ensure that they’ve already hired a contractor to provide the furnace repair kansas city residents need to maintain comfortable indoor temperatures before the temperatures begin to drop.
Exterior Maintenance and Repairs
Most seasonal exterior maintenance requires little specialized skill, so homeowners can perform many of these tasks themselves if they have sufficient time and basic tools. Taking care of basic maintenance this fall can prevent some serious hassles after the weather starts to turn.
Perform Gutter Maintenance and Repairs
Clean the home’s gutters and downspouts after all the leaves have fallen. This will ensure that the gutters are free of debris and ready to handle anything that winter throws at them.
While homeowners are cleaning their gutters, they should check for signs of disrepair like cracks, pinholes, rust, peeling paint, damaged hardware, and sagging. If they notice damage in just one section of their gutters, they can usually have it repaired without replacing their entire gutter systems.
If, on the other hand, the entire gutter is sagging away from the house, water is pooling in multiple places, or rust is present throughout the system, it may need to be replaced by a professional. Consider installing seamless gutters with gutter guards to avoid further issues.
Winterize Irrigation Systems
Homeowners who use sprinkler systems to water their lawns and gardens should hire a professional to blow them out before the first freeze. Sprinkler winterization is a task best left to professionals, since any water in the line can wind up expanding as it freezes and damaging pipes, sprinkler heads, and other essential components. It’s worth spending the extra money to have the lines blown out.
Those who don’t have sprinkler systems can usually winterize their outdoor irrigation themselves. Just disconnect any hoses from outdoor faucets and turn off the water supply, leaving the faucet open to allow any water remaining in the lines to drain.
Prepare Decks and Patios
Wooden decks and patios need to be sealed or painted prior to the approach of winter. Check the temperature requirements for the paint or sealer in advance and plan to perform this maintenance task before it gets too cold. This will ensure proper curing and avoid costly damage from snow, ice, and freezing temperatures.
Check Doors and Windows for Drafts
Homeowners who have recently replaced their windows or doors may not need to worry about this step. If these fixtures are more than a few years old, though, it’s best to check for drafts as the temperatures begin to drop.
Unwanted thermal exchange doesn’t just make homes less comfortable. Homeowners who aren’t as conscientious as they should be about checking their exterior doors and windows for air leaks spend as much as 15% more on home heating in the winter. Even if the difference in temperature near a door or window isn’t noticeable, if there’s a leak, it will cost homeowners and their families money.
Thankfully, there’s an easy way for homeowners to tell for themselves whether they have air leaks. Choose a cool, windy day and turn off all indoor appliances that could cause air disturbances such as furnaces, exhaust fans, bathroom fans, and clothes driers.
Next, shut all the home’s windows and exterior doors and don’t forget to shut the fireplace flue, then hold a lit stick of incense near the bottom, sides, and top of all doors or windows. If there’s a leak, the smoke will move unsteadily back and forth with the draft.
Use caulk or spray foam to seal gaps in stationary materials like leaks around window frames. Weather-stripping is a better option for doors and the areas between window frames and sashes. It will keep the cold air out without locking these movable components in place.
Remove Screens and Install Storm Doors
Homeowners should remove their window and door screens as soon as temperatures start to drop to boost solar heat gain and prevent damage to their windows’ frames and sills. They may also want to purchase and install storm doors. These heavy-duty glass doors are designed to protect entry doors from the elements and provide an extra layer of insulation against the cold, so they’re worth the money.
Inspect the Roof
Most homeowners schedule professional roofing inspections for the fall so they can identify potential problems and sources of leaks in advance and act before winter comes. Those who know what to look for can also perform basic visual inspections for themselves.
Homeowners with asphalt shingle roofs should look for damaged or missing shingles, moss or lichen growth, and rusted or cracked flashing. If they notice any of these problems, they should call a roofing contractor to schedule repairs immediately. It’s often the case that professional roofers have a lot on their plates this time of the year, so plan accordingly and call to schedule repairs in the early fall.
As snow and ice settle onto tree limbs, it makes them heavier and leaves them prone to breaking. This can be dangerous if a tree’s limbs hang over the house. Many homeowners hire tree services to perform maintenance in the fall, but those who don’t have the extra money to spend can also use their roof rakes or a long broom to brush off snow after each storm.
Interior Maintenance and Repairs
Inspecting and preparing the outside of the home is only half the battle. Homeowners should also perform interior maintenance and repairs as part of their annual winterization routines.
Check for Adequate Insulation
Some areas of the home are more prone to heat loss than others. Homeowners should check their attics, basements, and exterior walls to make sure they’re adequately insulated, and the insulation is dry and free of rodent damage.
If homeowners notice any damage during these inspections, such as wet insulation in the basement and rat or mouse damage in the attic, they may need to enlist some professional help. Handy homeowners can usually replace insulation themselves, but few have the tools and expertise required to waterproof basements effectively to avoid future moisture damage or identify rodent entry points. Failing to identify the underlying source of these problems will only leave homeowners dealing with the same insulation damage in the future.
Clean Chimneys and Wood Stoves
Even if homeowners don’t use their fireplaces or wood stoves as a primary source of heat, they should have them inspected and cleaned before winter starts. That way, if their furnaces go out during a serious storm, they’ll know it’s safe to heat their homes with wood.
Chimneys need to be inspected annually, but if homeowners are burning the right wood, they’ll only need to have them cleaned every few years. Don’t skip the annual inspection, though, as creosote buildup can cause dangerous chimney fires and poor burning practices like burning tons of pine can increase the speed at which creosote collects in the chimney.
Inspect Electrical Outlets and Switch-Plates
Just like doors and windows, electrical outlets and switch-plates are prime suspects for air leaks. Feel for cold air around these fixtures or use the same visual inspection process described above to check for leaks. Homeowners who notice air leaks should add insulation around their outlets and switch-plates or call an electrician or contractor who can safely do it for them.
Check Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Data collected by the U.S. Fire Administration shows that home heating causes almost 30% of structural fires. That’s why it’s so important to have furnaces inspected and maintained by a professional every year. It’s also why all homeowners should check their smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they have batteries and are working as intended, just in case.
Prevent Pipes from Freezing
Outdoor pipes and faucets aren’t the only plumbing fixtures that need to be protected. Indoor pipes found near doors or windows or in areas of the home that don’t have insulation also need some protection from the cold. Insulate these pipes to ensure that they don’t freeze, as this could cause them to burst and leave homeowners dealing with a wet, cold mess.
Homeowners who have noticed that certain pipes or faucets are prone to freezing may want to take additional precautions. They should leave their faucets dripping slightly during the coldest nights of the year, as running water rarely freezes. All homeowners should also keep their heat set to at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the winter, even when they’re not at home.
Stock Up on Equipment and Emergency Supplies
Once they’ve inspected their homes and winterized them as needed, homeowners should focus on ensuring that they’re prepared to provide ongoing maintenance throughout the coming winter. For those who are new to the area and have yet to experience a true, Kansas winter, this may require buying equipment in addition to stocking up on emergency supplies.
Purchase Snow Removal Equipment
Every homeowner needs to have a few tools on-hand to deal with snow. These include a snow shovel, a roof rake, and salt or sand for the driveway and walkways. Many homeowners like to purchase snow blowers as well, especially if they have large driveways or decks that need to be cleared of snow.
Don’t relish the idea of shoveling out the driveway after every snowstorm? Make arrangements with a local landscaping company that provides seasonal snow removal services. It’s best to call early, both to ensure that there will be someone available to perform this admittedly arduous work and to lock in low prices instead of paying a small fortune to hire an emergency service once the snow is already on the ground.
Stock Up on Supplies
It’s impossible to predict perfectly when that first big storm will hit. While utility companies do everything they can to ensure that their customers continue to receive a steady supply of power, gas, and water throughout the winter season, a serious storm can leave homeowners going without until their suppliers can get out and make repairs.
Keep a reasonable supply of non-perishable food, bottled water, and other necessities on the premises to make it easier to weather serious storms. It’s rare for Kansas to see storms that leave homeowners debilitated, but it’s not unheard of and nobody wants to be caught unprepared.
Purchase other emergency supplies like flashlights, a first aid kit, and extra blankets well in advance. Chances are, they won’t be necessary but there’s no harm in being prepared. Some homeowners even go so far as to install backup generators, so they won’t have to worry about power outages, although most find that this comparatively expensive precaution is unnecessary.
The Bottom Line
Winterizing a home will ensure its occupants’ comfort even during the coldest nights of the year. While homeowners can perform some of their own inspections and maintenance tasks, they should never cut corners when it comes to their families’ safety.
Want to find a home heating company that takes their clients’ comfort and safety as seriously as they do? Check us out online at or give us a call at (913) 268-6822 to schedule a furnace inspection today.What Should You Do if Your A/C is Blowing Out Warm Air? » « Common Homeowner Problems Everyone Runs Into (and How to Fix Them)