Is your home ready to survive winter?
Fall is a great time of year! Of course, it also means winter is not too far away. You may be ready for it, but is your home? We’ve put together a 10-step survival guide to help you!
Pack up those hoses
Before temperatures drop to freezing, usually in late fall, turn off the water supply to all outdoor taps and faucets, then open the taps to drain them completely. Leave the taps in the open position until spring.
Disconnect garden hoses and drain them completely, then coil them without kinks. Store them in a warm location so any residual water won’t freeze.
Making the grade
Autumn rain and winter snow are on their way. And that snow will melt sooner or later. Now’s the time to make sure the ground around your house and buildings is properly graded. Grade the earth or hard surfaces to slope away from the foundation. The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) suggests you check sidewalks, patios, decks and driveways to make sure they haven’t settled over time and are causing water to drain toward your house.
Most insurance policies do not cover continuous and repeated seepage so when the snow does arrive, make sure you clear it well away from the foundation of your house to prevent seepage of water through your basement walls.
Roofing and eavestroughs and chimneys, oh my!
They’re up there and you’re down here. And from a safety standpoint, that’s just as well. But for many that also means out of sight, out of mind - and that can lead to problems.
Inspect the roof and replace aging or worn shingles. Unless you have a flat roof, you may be able to do a visual inspection of the roof from the ground. You can use binoculars to get a better look. Watch for missing, damaged, curling or loose shingles. If your shingles are not visible from the ground or are over 15 years old, consider having a roofing contractor do a more thorough inspection.
Hire a contractor to clean out your eavestroughs and downspouts later in the fall when the leaves are down. Remove the leaves and debris and check for leaks. If you live in an older home and your downspouts are still connected to the municipal sewer system, hire a professional to disconnect them. Downspouts should extend at least 6 feet (1.8 metres) away from the basement and drain away from the house towards the grass or garden area or the street. Add extensions to downspouts if necessary.
If you have a contractor to inspect your roof or to clean out your eavestroughs, have them look at the flashing and caulking around chimneys and vents and ask them to replace where required.
If you have a wood burning stove or fireplace, make sure you have the chimney inspected and swept by a WETT certified chimney sweep before you start the new season and complete any necessary repairs.
Crack the case
Water freezing into ice is one of nature’s destructive forces. When water freezes, it increases in volume by 9%. That’s a lot. So when water gets into cracks in driveways, walkways, foundations and even the bricks of your home, freezing water can cause all kinds of havoc. If it can break solid rock, it can certainly do a number on your concrete and brick. This can be a serious maintenance issue. Repairing them now is a great investment to avoid much more costly repairs and aggravation later.
See the forest and the trees
Snow and ice can be really hard on trees. If you’ve lived through an ice storm you know that. Falling limbs are dangerous, can cause significant property damage and can cut off your electrical power supply – sometimes for days or weeks. If you live in a new subdivision with those little saplings that your builder or municipality planted, then you’re probably OK. But if you have medium to large sized mature trees on your property, then having them inspected by a certified arborist can be the best thing you can do to protect your family, friends and neighbours and prevent serious property damage.
Check with your municipality to ensure you know which trees are their responsibility and which ones are yours. Have your arborist check for damaged limbs that may break or that are too close to power lines or the roof. And leave the job of climbing trees with ladders and ropes to the professionals!
Light the way
The days are getting shorter and the reduced light makes it harder for many people to find their way while walking. Low voltage landscape lighting is becoming very popular. Well-installed quality lighting can improve safety and security while enhancing your home’s curb appeal.
Remember Ralphie and the falling icicle?
Do you remember the movie A Christmas Story? Little Ralphie uses a falling icicle as an excuse to explain a pair of broken glasses. If your home has icicles in winter then read on.
While they may look pretty, icicles are dangerous to people and pets when they fall and can also result in treacherous icy patches around your home. Icicles are often an indication of poor attic insulation or ventilation which could result in ice damming that can cause serious damage to your home. Consult a professional contractor before the winter and leave the icicles in the movies.
While you’re away
If you’re planning to be away from your home during the heating season, arrange to have someone you trust check on your home and maintain your heating system daily. Ask your insurance advisor before you go away about what you can do to protect your home.
Have a sprinkler system? Don’t forget it!
Before the frost hits, you’ll want to drain your lawn sprinkler/irrigation system and have a professional complete any required repairs. To avoid a costly “oops,” make sure sprinkler heads are appropriately marked if they’re near snow removal areas such as driveways and walkways.
Baby it’s cold outside…
And it will be cold indoors too if the furnace stops working. Having a furnace break down or, even worse, needing replacement in the middle of winter can be a huge inconvenience. It can take hours or even days to find a qualified repair person on the coldest days. And if needed parts are not readily available, it can take even longer to get repairs done. You don’t want to have to call a plumber to drain and winterize your plumbing while you move out of your home until repairs are completed.
So don’t get left in the cold. Have a licensed furnace technician service and inspect your furnace before the winter to identify and replace any worn out components and make sure your furnace operates as reliably as possible—and at peak efficiency. Professional service will also help to improve your safety because your technician will check to make sure there are no carbon monoxide leaks.
Be sure to invest in the right home insurance coverage beforehand.