When cooler days start becoming frequent, it’s usually a sign that winter is fast approaching and it’s time to prepare your home for the winter months. We always think of taking our warmer clothes out of the closet and prepare ourselves to face the cold, but what about the house? Just like the rest of us, it needs to be ready for the freezing cold, snow and the winter wind.
Before winter officially hits, some elements should be checked out to ensure your home will be safe and sound throughout the season. Let’s take a look at what you can do in regards to your windows and doors, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, roof and gutters, and exterior walls to stay safe and warm during colder months.
Windows and Doors
According to Natural Resources Canada’s Office of Energy Efficiency, more than 25% of a home’s total heat loss comes from windows. This figure is considerable and can cause a significant increase in your heating bill. It seems quite obvious that checking your windows’ efficiency is valuable, but how can you do so?
In fact, it’s simple! For your windows, simply place your hand around the edges of your windows on a cold, windy day. If you feel a draft, two conclusions are possible: the air is seeping through ineffective window seals or the contrast between cold and hot is causing turbulence. In both cases, adding a weatherstrip film can reduce air infiltration and, in turn, lower your heating bill.
For your doors, a somewhat different method is to close the door on a sheet of paper; if you can remove it without much difficulty, it means that your weatherstrip should be replaced.
If you see cracks or broken glass parts, it’s time to think about replacing your doors and windows.
Heating & Ventilation
Now that you’ve insulated your windows and doors to prevent heat loss, it’s time to check your heating and ventilation system. The first thing to do is to clean your electric baseboards to prevent unpleasant orders the first time turning them on in months. Also, for those who have air exchangers, it’s important to clean the filters on a regular basis (it’s recommended to do so every three months). If your filters are washable, you can easily clean them in warm water and mild soap. If they aren’t, you should replace them to ensure you’re breathing clean air at home.
Your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should also be checked. Their batteries must be changed regularly and cleaning them of dust is equally important. The smoke detector has a lifespan of approximately 10 years, whereas the CO detector has a 5 year lifespan – making it easy to forget about them. They can save your lives, so a quick audit is definitely worth it! In addition, if you use relatively old thermostats, it would be recommended to change them to programmable units that will allow you to reach a more precise temperature and keep control.
Finally, for all the lucky ones with a chimney, sweeping it before winter time is essential. Certain cities are making it mandatory – as it is for your own safety. Chimney sweeping should definitely not be neglected. Sweeping logs are all the craze, but, unfortunately, they are usually not enough. They only have the ability to reduce a small amount of creosote. To clean your chimney effectively, consider hiring a chimney sweep member from your local Professional Heating Association.
Roofing & Gutters
As we have yet to reach the real cold days, there is still time to prepare the outside of your home for the brunt of winter. Firstly, all of your gutters need to be cleaned-out to allow water to drain properly and prevent breakage. To prevent leaves and debris from accumulating during the winter, you can opt for rain guards. Ensuring their stability is also important. Venturing up to the roof to repair them during the winter is not a pleasant experience.
Secondly, if you have a sloped roof, it’s very important to inspect its shingles. If damaged, they could cause water infiltration through the roof. During your inspection, if you realize that there would be several shingles to change, you should to seek the help of a roofer. It may be better to replace your roof, otherwise you’re likely to have a ventilation problem that will end up shortening your shingles’ lifespan. While taking the time to check if your roof is in good shape, you should also take a look at your attic’s condition. By doing so, you’ll be able to check whether there’s excess humidity in the attic and whether or not there is condensation – both signs that there may be issues with your roofing.
Water pipes, exterior walls, and car shelters
Once you’ve completed the previously mentioned tasks, there are still some small things to do outside your home. One that is often overlooked is to close the valve of the outside water pipe to prevent ice from bursting it. Also, don’t assume that simply turning off the valve will suffice – take the time to empty the water pipe and then close the valve.
While you’re out there, take the time to check whether your foundation and brick walls are in top shape. Make sure there are no obvious cracks – this will ensure that there is no water infiltration that will expand when frozen and potentially damage your walls. If you find small cracks in your foundation, it’s possible to cover them up with cement caulking. The same goes for using mortar if there are cracks on your brick wall. However, if the cracks are rather large, make sure to contact a 360° Verified Contractor, they’ll be qualified to help assess the situation and fix it if need be.
Afterwards, walk around your grounds to see if there are branches that might break with the weight of snow or ice and potentially damage your home or fall on electrical wires. Also, take a look at the railings by any outdoor staircases to ensure they are sturdy enough to grab onto when the ground is covered in ice. The last thing you’ll need is for someone to injure themselves because the railing collapsed! Don’t forget to make sure your outdoor lighting works as well. Winter months are darker, take all the precautions you can.
The last task you’ll have outside will be to install a car shelter if need be. You can also get a car port or garage built if the hassle of putting a car shelter together year after year is getting tiresome. Opting for a permanent solution for the years to come can definitely alleviate the stress (and fatigue) of having to put up a car shelter every year!
Now, all you’ll need is to get warm and cozy in the comfort of your own home!
Don’t forget: your house deserves to be well treated. A well-maintained home always has excellent long-term value. Don’t hesitate to consult an expert!
Updated October 22nd, 2018.