Homeowner’s Guide to Winter Maintenance
Don’t let deferred maintenance cost you more time and money than you need to spend.
1) Turn your water off: We always recommend turning off the water at your home year-round. It’s the cheapest insurance possible to prevent water damage from a frozen or leaking pipe. NOTE: If your water heater has a recirculation pump, you will need to unplug it to avoid possible damage. Consult a plumber with any questions about proper winterization for your home.
2) Make sure your furnace is turned on: Many times, your thermostat gets turned to the “Off” position in the summer. We recommend a minimum temperature setting of at least 45 degrees.
3) If you have a gas fireplace: There is either a standing pilot (make sure it is lit) or you have an electronic ignition with a battery backup (replace the batteries so the stove will ignite in case of a power outage). If a thermostat controls your fireplace, make sure it is on and set to a minimum temperature setting, so the fireplace turns on should your furnace fail, or there is a prolonged power outage.
4) Take a video of your home: Do a walk-through video of the interior of your home and narrate the items you see. In the event you ever need to make an insurance claim, this will be useful documentation.
5) Seal gaps where critters could enter: Mice need only a tiny opening to be able to sneak into your home and raid your pantry, and with colder weather coming, all of the little critters out there will be looking for warm places to make a home.
6) Clean dryer vents: Lint buildup in dryer vents can make your dryer work less efficiently and even cause a fire – cool, dry fall weather increases static electricity, which can ignite lint that has built up, so now is the time to get that lint out. You can hire a duct cleaning specialist to clean the vents for you or purchase a kit to clean the vent yourself.
7) Have a professional service your home heating system: A properly maintained heating system is likely to work better, run more efficiently, and last longer. Malfunctioning systems increase the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Make sure you have newer carbon monoxide detectors throughout your home. Additionally, it is also a good idea to order a case of furnace filters for the winter and set up reminders to change them monthly.
8) Heat Tape on your roof or furnace condensation line: If you use heat tape, make sure it is plugged in, turned on, and none of the fasteners are loose or broken.
9) Cover/Store outdoor furniture and BBQs: Ideally, store these items in a more protected place from the elements. If this isn’t an option, we recommend covers or tarps.
10) Turn off water to hoses and lawn sprinklers: When temperatures fall below freezing, water in the faucet can freeze and burst pipes. Drain residual water from sprinkler systems and spray nozzles. Don’t forget to disconnect all hoses to prevent rupturing hose bibs. Some landscaping systems need to be blown out with air to remove all residual water from the system.
11) Close Foundation Vents: When temperatures are below freezing, exposed pipes can freeze. Having your crawl space vents closed will reduce the risk of freezing. Insulating these pipes is also a good idea, and in some cases, heat tape is required to keep lines from freezing.
12) Check windows & door for air leaks: With windows and doors closed, turn on exhaust fans, then take an incense stick and hold it near windows and doors. If the smoke blows horizontally, you have a leak. Seal small ones with caulk; larger ones with expanding foam or foam board. Add weatherstripping around doors.
13) Seal any exterior gaps or cracks: Check the foundation for cracks and caulk around the areas where masonry meets siding, where pipes or wires enter the house, especially around the windows and door frames to prevent heat from escaping. Caulking and sealing openings are one of the least expensive maintenance jobs.
Did You know that homeowner’s in Nevada and California can be eligible for rebates and other promotions with Southwest Gas’ “Smarter, Greener, Better” program?
14) Snow Removal: Be sure to contract with a reputable local snow removal company for your driveway service. Having your driveway staked beforehand will help prevent damage to your driveway and landscaping. Here is a link to a video from our friends at Elements Snow Removal about the importance of snow stakes Click Here.
15) Check the direction of your ceiling fan: Change the direction of your ceiling fan to create an upward draft that redistributes warm air from the ceiling.
16) Have your roof tuned/inspected: Screws on metal roofs back out over time and need to be tightened every few years. Composition shingles get torn/damaged, especially on North facing aspects.
17) Have your chimney inspected & cleaned: If you regularly have fires, creosote will buildup. This is a fire hazard and causes low efficiency. Basic chimney inspection and cleaning will cost about $200.
18) Gas fireplaces need to be tuned up too!
Your gas fireplace should be inspected and serviced regularly to ensure the flame is properly adjusted. As a bonus they will clean the glass during the service.
19) Order your firewood: Give yourself plenty of time to get it stacked and stored before the weather changes. The sooner you order the better chance you have of getting properly “seasoned” dry wood too!
20) Check smoke detectors and fire extinguishers: You probably know that it’s a good idea to check the batteries in your smoke detectors when you change your clocks, but did you know that smoke and CO detectors don’t last forever? Smoke detectors should be replaced every 10 years and CO detectors every 5 years. If you have a combo smoke/CO alarm, replace it after 5 years. Manufacture dates are on the back of the detectors. Similarly, fire extinguishers should be replaced after 12 years or after you’ve used them. Replace batteries with the new “10 year” Lithium batteries to avoid those 2 am chirps.
21) Have your garage door tuned: Bolts on your garage door become loose over time. Additionally, your tracks and springs need regular lubrication and adjustments, as well as the seals at the bottom of the door(s). Weatherstrip around your garage door, make sure the seal between your garage door and the ground is tight to prevent drafts and keep out small rodents.
22) Get your Snowblower tuned: Now is a great time to have your snowblower tuned up and ready before the snow flies. It’s a good idea to stock up on shear pins and fresh gas.
23) Check your tires & chains, and Vehicle Supplies: Remember when you used your chains last time, and that link was broken? Are your all-season tires wearing thin? Assess your tires and chains now so you don’t have anything holding you back when the big storms start. Here are more links to help you learn about Snow Tires and Winter Preparedness.
24) Seal your tile: This isn’t really winter related, but in between seasons is a great time to get some home maintenance done and one item most homeowners neglect is sealing tile and grout. Typically tile and grout in showers/tubs should be sealed at least once a year. Because vacation homes are not used as often, you can probably go 2-3 years.
25) Test for Radon: Fall is a good time to test for radon because homes need to be undisturbed and closed up for a period of time to accurately test for radon gas. Exposure to radon in the home is responsible for an estimated 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year. Radon is a health hazard with a simple solution. Read “A Citizen’s Guide to Radon”.
Do you have more questions about how to prepare and protect your biggest investment from winter damage? Contact John Biebl and Anna McGee today!
[email protected] or Visit www.Truckee-Tahoe.com