by Shawn Graham
Home Maintenance Tasks to Tackle This Winter
After working in the yard all spring, summer, and fall, you just want to settle into an easy chair and hibernate all winter. But now, it’s time to get to those home maintenance tasks — the ones you’ve been putting off for months. Some chores, such as changing the air filters, are just a repeat of your spring home maintenance tips. Others will ensure you won’t have quite as much to do next spring when the snow melts.
Gutters and Spouts
Source: LawnStarter.com file photo. No credit needed.
Hopefully, you’ve cleaned the leaves and bird droppings from your gutters by now. If not, you’ll have to wait for the next warm day to make sure they’re not full. Clogged gutters keep rain and melting snow from draining off the roof, which can lead to expensive repairs. With a garden hose, pressure washer or leaf blower, climb a ladder and clean out the gutters or hire a handyman to do it. If you clamber up on the roof, check to see that shingles are in place, and the chimney flashing is sealed.
When windows aren’t properly sealed, cold air muscles its way inside while heat slips out. You could lower your heating bills by about 25 to 30 percent with energy-efficient windows. If replacing leaky windows is not an option, take a putty knife and scrape off the old caulk from wooden frames. Clean the surfaces and apply new caulking. When the caulking is completely dry, add weather stripping to seal the glass around the sash.
When the thermometer reading dips below 32 degrees, your pipes are at risk of freezing, especially if water isn’t constantly moving through them. If you haven’t drained the outdoor sprinkler systems, make sure the water valve is closed. Wrap any exposed plumbing in foam insulation; it will better protect pipes from cold temperatures. Open cabinet doors under sinks in the kitchen, bathrooms, and utility room so warm air can flow through. Remove all outside hoses from faucets and set the house thermostat at 65 degrees, even when you’re not home. It’s always a good idea to know exactly where the water shut-off valves are in the house.
It may seem creepy to be crawling through the underbelly of the house, but the path must be kept clear in case of busted water pipes and gas lines. Close vents outside so that moisture and mold don’t get inside. Floorboards get cold when vents are open, and you’re bound to feel it! Waterproof and seal all cracks in the basement and crawl space to keep wet air out.
Yard and Landscape
Now that mowing season is over and you’ve raked all the fallen leaves, it’s time to drain unused gasoline from lawn equipment. The gas that’s left in a riding or push mower may oxidize, leaving small but damaging deposits in the tank. This is also the perfect time to do lawn mower maintenance. Sharpen the blades, change the spark plugs and oil so it’s ready to go come spring.
It’s also a good idea to aerate once more, even if you’ve done so in the spring. This will allow the moisture from winter’s snowfall to reach the roots of your grass, so you’ll have a nice carpet of green grass next spring.
You thought you were done raking leaves. Not so fast. The early season snow has caused the trees to shed what little leaves were left. As soon as the lawn is free of snow, you want to clear the remaining leaves. Leaving a wet, soggy pile of leaves on the grass over the winter will invite snow mold, pests, and disease.
- If you didn’t do this when the clocks changed, change the batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
- Clean out the dryer vents and hose. Too much lint can clog and catch fire.
- Vacuum air vents.
- Place driveway salt and snow shovels in an easily-accessible location.
- Store (or cover) the barbecue grill.
- Trim large tree limbs so they don’t brush up against the house, or worse, snap and fall onto an electrical line.
- Flush and insulate the hot water tank to remove sediment.
- Repair or tighten all outdoor steps and railings.
- Engage a chimney sweep and stock up on firewood!
The maintenance list for homeownership is never-ending, but seasonal upkeep ensures your house in good shape and retains its value. Before you settle down for that long winter’s nap, make a list, check it twice … and get to work.