Construction Zone: Preparing Your Home for the Winter Months


The winter months can present the greatest challenges to your home. With foresight and diligence, you can have a delightful and warm winter in your home if you follow these strategic tips.


Inspect your furnace or heat pump to make sure it is clean, in good repair, and is running efficiently. Inspection should include checking for carbon-monoxide leakage. With forced-air heating, check exhaust vents and air-shutter openings for dirt and dust. Clean lint and dirt from the blower blades, motor, burner (if you have a gas heater) and vacuum air passages. Check fan belts and replace if necessary. To prevent airborne dirt from circulating throughout your home, wash out your reusable filter or replace it if it’s disposable.


You should also take steps to prepare for rain by fixing fascia boards and repairing any damaged gutters and downspouts. Adding extensions to downspouts so water runs three to four feet away from the foundation is also important. Cleaning gutters and downspouts is critical; clogged gutters do not allow water to properly drain away from your home, which can cause seepage in your ceiling and walls. You may want to consider investing in gutter guards, which are screens that prevent debris from entering the gutter and direct the flow of water away. Other recommended tasks include replacing loose or missing shingles on the roof, repairing breaks in the roof flashing, sealing around vent stacks and chimneys, and, if you have a flat roof surfaced with asphalt and pebbles (like that of a traditional Eichler-designed house), raking or blowing off fall leaves or pine needles which hold damaging moisture.


It is advisable to clean your chimney flue and check the seal, which is designed to keep out drafts of cold air. Make sure your chimney and vents are clean and in good repair.


Have you had your water heater checked before? If not, now is the time to have your tank’s pressure relief valve checked, as well as remove sediment from the bottom of the tank by draining two gallons of water to improve heat transfer and efficiency of your heater. Be sure to check the strapping of your water heater to ensure it is secure.


Wrapping pipes with blanket insulation and duct tape or encasing the pipes with pre-formed plastic foam will protect them from frost and freezing temperatures. Foam wrapping reduces the amount of heat lost by insulating the pipework. It is advisable to examine your pipes for cracks and leaks.


Those of you who have sump pumps should pour several gallons of water into the sump pump to see if it automatically turns on. This is especially timely if your sump pumps are about ten to fifteen years old, which is when they are more likely to fail.


Minimize heat loss by making sure doors and windows are properly sealed and repairing or replacing weather-stripping around door bottoms, jambs, and window frames. Check for loose or missing glazing putty and caulking for deterioration. Since a quarter of the heat in your house is lost through the roof, you should also look for air leaks and inadequate insulation in your attic. Look for any gaps in your siding where cold air and moisture could penetrate.

Performing these common maintenance procedures can help protect the value of your home and prevent the need for major repairs during winter.