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Winter is here! Prepare Your House for the Cold

Winter is just around the corner and will soon come knocking on our door. And one question that remains: is your house prepared?

If you’ve followed our advice on how to prepare your house in the fall, you’re in good shape, although there are still some details to settle. In case you left it for the last minute, BRZ has come to your rescue with a list of precautions you should take to ensure a stress-free winter season.

1. Inspect Your Roof

Nothing is more important in winter than your roof. Conduct a good inspection of the roof for wear that can worsen with the coming cold. This can include:

  • Ripples, warping or damaged tiles
  • Rust, cracked seal or open seams in your roof or chimney flares.
  • Missing or damaged chimney cover.
  • Moss stains.
  • Cracked or worn rubber around pipes and vents.

Understand more about the materials and lifespan of your property’s roof.

2. Clean Out Your Gutters

Autumn is ending and what’s left for you to do? Remove all the dirt and leaves that have accumulated over the year to prevent mold or dampness in the foundation and to preserve them. The less the gutter is cleaned, the more likely it is to clog and cause a problem during storms or when snow starts to get heavy. 

Also, it is always a good idea to make sure your gutters are pointing away from the foundation of your home, which goes for both rain and snow thaws.

Check Your HVAC System

Even if you have already turned on your system and have yet to do an inspection, do it now while you still have time. Check air filters and replace as necessary. It is generally recommended that you change filters every 90 days, but this depends on the type of filter you use and the environmental conditions in your home.

Call a professional to check the operation of your system. Look for leaks and  make sure everything is at 100%. You don’t want to lose heat in the dead of winter, do you?!

Maintaining and inspecting your HVAC system can also save you money. The US Department of Energy says that routinely replacing or cleaning your Air Conditioner’s air filters can reduce your home’s energy consumption by 5 to 15 percent.

3. Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

The use of furnaces, boilers and fireplaces in winter considerably increases the number of domestic fires. And since we want to keep warm, the house probably spends more time locked up, making carbon monoxide a danger.

Test smoke detectors, change batteries, and consider installing carbon monoxide detectors.

4. Check your walls and windows for gaps

Changes in temperature can warp the wood and directly affect the fittings of windows and doors in your home, so it is recommended to carry out a general inspection, without forgetting the basement and attic.

Check the seal very carefully. If it rains and water enters a gap, causing damage, your Homeowner Insurance may not cover it if your provider thinks you could have avoided it with regular maintenance.

Another point to consider is that in winter, critters outside may be looking for shelter and food, so you can’t be too careful if you don’t want to find a mouse in your pantry or a raccoon in your basement.

5. Check your soil’s drainage

Make sure the soil around your foundation is not creating areas to collect water. If possible, fill the lowered areas with earth to avoid flooding. Saturated soil around a foundation can create real problems as it freezes and thaws during the winter months. Have you ever thought about the damage this can do to your home’s structure?

6. Clean your chimney and ask for firewood

Clean and inspect your fireplace before you start using it frequently. If you can afford it, a good chimney cleaning company will ensure the safety of the fireplace throughout the season.

While we’re on the subject, now is the time to place your firewood orders. Look for a good place to store it, stack it neatly and cover it so it’s not affected by the weather.

7. Prepare your home plumbing

Damage to your home caused by broken pipes and roof leaks is usually covered by your home insurance and items that are damaged may still be covered by your personal property coverage, but does anyone want a job in the middle of winter? Noooo!

So let’s take a look at how to keep the pipes from freezing.

  1. Prepare your external plumbing

Drain hoses and close all external taps. Insulate external pipes to prevent freezing and bursting. You can close the valve on the external faucet: go outside and open the external faucet for the water to flow out. Even if it doesn’t drain everything, in case that remaining water expands, the pipes would remain intact. Leave the faucet turned off until you need to use the hose next spring.

  1. Insulate the inner pipes

When temperatures drop, the heating in homes is usually sufficient to prevent freezing. However, if there is a loss of power, things are more difficult. Start with exposed pipes under cabinets, basements and in the garage. Many hardware stores sell insulation that is easy to install, this helps keep the temperature more regulated. If you’re in trouble and need to insulate a pipe quickly, wrap a quarter inch of newspaper around the pipe.

You can also insulate rooms where there are pipes, this will help keep the overall room temperature warmer and reduce the likelihood of the pipes freezing.

  1.  Seal cracks and holes near pipes

Cracks and holes allow cold drafts to enter. Seal any cracks, holes and crevices under cabinets near the pipes.

  1. Keep the heat on

Keeping the house warm helps keep the pipes warm. A high temperature is not necessary. If you are going to be away for a long period, keep the temperature above 50°F (10°C) and along with the other recommendations, your pipes should survive.

What if the pipes freeze?

Preventative measures are not always enough to prevent the plumbing from freezing. If by any carelessness, the flow of your faucets has turned into a trickle, a tip you can use in a pinch is to use a hair dryer, a portable electric heater, or wrapping damp towels (never dry!) with hot water around the pipes.

Never use a torch, gas heater or kerosene to defrost your pipes. Keep the faucet open until the water starts to flow normally. If that doesn’t work, find a plumber as soon as possible.

Pool

The pool must be shut down properly and the system prepared for winter. Ideally, hire an expert to inspect and shut down the system, even if you do the work yourself all year round.

8. Prepare your garage so that the snow stays outside

The garage can be a gateway to snow and all the dirt snow can carry. To keep snow out of your garage, follow a few steps:

1. Provide rubber mats for the garage floor, or cover everything with a cardboard box (temporary solution).

2. Consider investing in a Blower Fan to dry the floor and keep the garage warm.

3. If you still don’t have a good squeegee to help you get rid of the melting snow, get one. It’s cheap and efficient.

4. Check your salt supply (Rock Salt, not cooking salt) and remember to apply it BEFORE the snow falls.

5. Clean your car before entering the garage

6. Keep your garage clean and organized

9. Prepare for snow removal

If you’re not already using it, look for the snow blower and test it out before you start relying on it. Fix any problems immediately. Check your shovel’s salt stock and condition.

If necessary, buy new ones, but don’t risk a snow day without these items.

10. Review your Home Insurance

It is very important to have your Home Insurance revised when entering winter. Many of the dangers covered by this type of insurance happen at this time of year. Therefore, knowing exactly what your coverage is, if you need some insurance against external risks (Hazard Insurance), what the risks in your region are, and the specifics of your home, is your greatest asset to prosper in the coldest months of the year.

Take the opportunity to learn how to file a claim, who you will need to contact, and what the first steps are after a damage occurs.

11. Enjoy your winter!

Fleeing from the “controversy” of those who like the cold and those who like the heat, if you live in a region where the winter is harsh, you would do well to make an effort to enjoy the good in every season. A great place to start is by avoiding potential losses and emergencies by following the steps above.

Being prepared and knowing what to expect can be the difference between spending your winter like this:

Or like this:

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