The reality, however, is that we live in Canada, and our winters bring us periods of deep freezes followed by thaws and then more freezing, and it’s this changing temperature that wreaks havoc on our homes. But, it doesn’t have to be this way — taking a few simple steps each fall will ensure your home’s winter-ready.
A lot of outdoor home maintenance is visual and requires common sense. All it really takes it looking your house — top to bottom — and paying attention to any little concerns, ensuring your home is sealed and protected from the elements.
Start with your roof — inspect it for curling shingles or other signs of wear, and have it repaired or replaced as needed. If your home is prone to ice damns , freezing water at the roofline, the problem may lie in the attic and with the insulation.
For a temporary fix, consider installing radiant heat lines along your roof to prevent this over the winter months. Next, look for any small holes or openings around the roof line, soffits and flashing — keeping critters out is essential, as these animals can cause extensive damage once they make it into your home. Seal up any open spaces with a heavy gauge wire mesh to keep the critters out.
The adage “out of sight, out of mind” will not serve you or your home well heading into the winter. Check your chimney caps repairing any cracks or replacing damaged bricks altogether, and repointany missing or damaged mortar.
Take a quick look inside your roof and at your attic. Ensure that it is properly insulated and vented and that there is no sign of water damage, mould or critter nesting.
Moving down, look at the brickwork and woodwork around your home. Like with your chimney, repair any cracks, damaged bricks or missing mortar. If paint is chipping, peeling or cracking, or stain is showing its age, repaint and reseal these areas. The goal is to keep water from penetrating your home’s surface.
Check your windows next: Gently press a key or flat screw driver into any woodwork showing wear — if it gives at all or feels spongy, it’s time to repair or replace it. Caulking is one of the most important maintenance items. Calling a caulking expert is worth the expense, they can colour match well and their products are far superior to anything we can get in retail stores.
Removing the screens from inside of windows is often overlooked. Screens prevent proper ventilation on the inside face of windows making them more prone to condensation. If you have older windows, consider sealing them with removable caulking or installing heat-shirking plastic film to cut down drafts.
While most of us remember to turn off our outdoor taps, we forget to drain the lines. This is especially important for both sprinkler systems and outdoor kitchen faucets. After shutting off the water, blow out the pipes ensuring there’s no water left in the lines to freeze, which will ultimately break most piping. Also, take the time to take your outdoor faucets off and store them inside as most manufacturers will not warranty these items left out over winter months.
At the foundation level, check for any cracks or damage and have it repaired. Also, make sure that the earth is graded away from your home, allowing excess water an easy and direct path to anywhere but your basement.
Take a quick look for any small holes or signs of penetration — keeping moisture, drafts and critters out of your basement is just as important as keeping them out of your attic, so caulk any small penetrations through the foundation wall with silicone or Polyurethane caulking.
Replace any worn weather stripping on your doors as required, cutting down on drafts and saving you on your heating bill. Pay special attention to your garage access door; with the winter months, more of us begin parking in the garage. Make sure it is properly sealed keeping carbon monoxide and cold drafts from entering your home. Install a draft stop around and on the bottom of your garage doors to prevent drafts from entering the garage space.
Indoors, have your furnace serviced. Clean and/or replace filters and invest in a good humidifier if your furnace doesn’t have one. Humidity in the house is important for your health and the health of your furniture and hardwoods. Evaporator humidifiers for an average-sized house work well, but for larger homes, invest in a steam humidifier.
Finally, take the time to test all fire, smoke and carbon monoxide testers, changing batteries and replacing them as needed. Investing the time and effort into small repairs in the fall will protect your home and your biggest investment throughout the winter months.
Ramsin Khachi is a prominent design/build conractor whose firm The Khachi Design Group specializes in commercial and residential design. Visit www.khachi.com