Brrr It’s Cold Outside – Is Your Home Ready For Cold Temps?

Sweet winter homeThe Puget Sound Region may not get the snow much of the country is experiencing, but the media coverage of the Arctic chill settling in over the Midwest and Northeastern U.S. is a good reminder that we need to make sure our homes are ready for winter temperatures.

Temperatures have actually dropped significantly around Seattle and the Eastside this week, so it’s important to unhook hoses from outdoor faucets and cover the faucets to prevent freezing. Here is a quick video tutorial on how to install inexpensive foam covers over those outdoor faucet bibs. Bob Vila’s website suggests on a Winter Preparation Checklist that exterior faucets be shut off, and outdoor pipes, valves and sprinkler heads be drained of water. This protects against pipe bursts. If you have a sprinkler system, check with the manufacturer’s guidelines to see what winterizing protocol you should follow. If your home contains water or drain pipes in uninsulated spaces— for example, crawl spaces, the attic, outside walls — check on the insulation wrapping the pipes. At a minimum, they should be wrapped with foam insulation. You may want to wrap the pipes with electrical heating tape, and then insulation.

If you haven’t cleaned out your gutters, this is a task to tackle sooner than later. Check your downspouts, as well, to make sure they are draining properly. Loose gutters and damaged roof shingles should also be on your radar— you may want to have a contractor inspect for both items.

Fireplaces get a work out during winter months. When was the last time you checked the fireplace flue or had the chimney cleaned? Click here for a handy fireplace maintenance checklist. The flue damper should open and close easily, and be inspected to make sure it can be locked in both the open and closed position. Homerepair.about.com offers this method to check for chimney draft:

“Make sure the chimney will draw up the fire and smoke properly. Test this by taking several sheets of newspaper and rolling them up. Then with the fireplace damper in the open position, light the newspaper in the fireplace. The smoke should rise up the chimney. If it doesn’t, you have an obstruction and need to call a professional in to clean the chimney of creosote and ash and possible debris.”

Check both the exterior and the interior of the chimney for any defects that indicate a repair is necessary. Take a look at the fire brick right inside the fireplace -are there any breaks in the mortar joints? Those need to be repaired asap to prevent fire from accessing the stud wall behind the masonry fire brick!

Since you will be using your furnace more as the temps drop, make sure you’ve changed or cleaned the filter recently. This not only maximizes the heating efficiency of the furnace, it improves your home’s indoor air quality. You may also want hire a local contractor to perform basic maintenance and cleaning on your furnace unit. Several sources suggested annual cleaning of your furnace to keep it working at peak performance.

Small wildlife may want to share the warmth of your home as it gets cold outside. Inspect chimney caps, roof vents and other openings, for damage or holes that could give critters entry to warmer spaces in your house. Don’t forget to check the fascia boards and trim on your home’s exterior for deterioration as well. Small animals could gain access where different building materials touch– like the dryer venting to the outside, window wells, gaps in the threshold or in a brick exterior. Inspect your attic for signs of animals and any holes they could come in through. This Humane Society article and handy diagram offer specific locations to inspect a couple times of year, at least, to keep wildlife from sharing your home.

Now it’s your turn— please share your cold weather maintenance tips in the comment section below. Stay warm and safe during these chilly days!

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