This week’s unexpected snowfall had many around town scrambling to break out the shovels, ice scrapers and snow boots. With everyone trying to manage their hectic schedules while preparing for the quickly approaching holiday season, it is easy to forget how winter weather can take a serious toll on your home and your wallet.
My high school history teacher, Mr. Quigley, lived by the saying “proper planning prevents poor performance.” The ‘Five P’s’ as he called them, is an adage that can be used for a number of life situations and home protection most certainly fits the bill.
Ice, snow, wind and other weather related elements can have a devastating effect on your home. Consequences such as a collapsed roofs, water damage due to frozen pipes and even an increase in residential fires are unfortunately an all-to-familiar reality during the colder months. Here are some precautions that you can take as a homeowner to avoid the out of pocket expense and inconvenience of seasonal weather damage.
Manage and maintain your gutters.
Often an afterthought, gutter maintenance is one of the most important items to tackle during the winter months. Clogged gutters prevent melting ice and snow to drain properly and could lead to ice damming, a situation where a ridge of ice forms at the edge of the roof and prevents melting snow from draining off the roof. The water that backs up behind the dam can leak into a home and cause damage to walls, ceilings, insulation and other areas.
Installing preventative measures like gutter guards is also a good investment to consider. These protect the gutters from accumulating twigs, branches and leaves which in turn leaves less regular maintenance for you as a homeowner. Also, be sure that your downspouts are pointed away from the foundation of your home and are properly connected to deter ice buildup.
Inspect your roof.
While you’re up there, or better yet, while a licensed professional is cleaning the gutters, take a good long look at your roof and check for any loose or damaged shingles, breaks in the seals surrounding vent shafts or chimney stacks or any signs of bowing. Replacing missing or damaged shingles can help prevent water leakage which can lead to larger, more expensive problems.
Heavy snow, especially on older roofs, flat roofs or over-porch additions such as a four seasons room can be especially dangerous. Be sure to have a plan in place for its removal to protect the roof’s structural integrity. There are many contractors and companies that specialize in snow removal, so before you make a rash decision to bundle up and pretend like your Santa Clause climbing onto the roof, keep in mind this is not the best ‘do-it-yourself’ project.
A sweep is as lucky as lucky can be…
Chimney sweeps are as synonymous with Mary Poppins as peanut butter is with jelly, so I couldn’t help myself with that bullet point title. However, if you own a home with a working fireplace, it is a smart idea to get it regularly serviced and it is usually required by homeowner insurance policies.
Cuddling up next to the fireplace on a cold winter night is second-to-none but don’t light that fire in the hearth before it is professionally cleaned and inspected. Much like with the gutters we discussed earlier, chimneys can be easily clogged with sticks, leaves and animal nests. Birds, bats, squirrels and other critters like to make their homes in chimneys during the spring and summer months.
If the flue is blocked by any of these, you risk the chance of starting a fire or exposing you and your family to carbon monoxide poisoning. Plus, the only bird you want roasting on your watch is the turkey you enjoyed last week!
Get your heating systems serviced.
Keeping your home safe is a priority for obvious reasons. Keeping your home efficient is a priority for monetary reasons. Getting your heating systems inspected, cleaned and serviced each year covers both. Contact a technician to inspect your furnace or heat system to ensure that it is in good working order before its heavy use in the colder months ahead. This quick, relatively inexpensive task will save you time, money and the headache of trying to get someone over to fix your furnace in the middle of the winter when these businesses are at their busiest.
Protect those pipes!
“The pipes burst” are three of the most haunting words that will make any landlord or homeowner cringe. Some of the most expensive damage to a home can be caused by frozen pipes, which expand and burst causing thousands in water damage, plumbing replacement and more. Even if your thermostat is set at a comfortable temperature, there is still a possibility that certain pipes may freeze.
Taking the necessary steps to ensure that this doesn’t happen isn’t as daunting as it may seems. Simple remedies such as regularly running water, leaving cabinets and doors open to help circulate warm air to pipes, adding insulation to areas of pipe that are susceptible and draining faucets/hoses that are outside your home are all ways you can help protect your plumbing from the cold.
Check your Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors.
Residential fires increase in the winter months due to the increased use of heating systems. Making sure that your smoke and CO detectors are properly working is extremely important. Be sure to replace the batteries in all your devices and regularly test the equipment to ensure they are working as they should.
Prevent drafts, increase efficiency.
During my junior year of college, I lived in an old three family house on Pembroke Avenue in Providence with ten other guys. We were all young, broke college kids who did whatever we could to keep the utility bills to a minimum. Ten years later, I am just as stringent with winter-proofing my home as I was back then.
Drafts caused by poor insulation can cause your utility bills to go through the roof but you can easily and affordably counteract the outside weather seeping through your windows and doors. By simply caulking your windows and buying weather-strips for your door you can prevent those cold drafts and save money on your heating bill. Caulk usually only costs about $6 a bottle at your local hardware store and is easy to apply.
If you have older, less efficient windows, I’ve found in the past that plastic window kits are a great way to insulate your home on a budget. Some of the best kits that I’ve used in the past cost between $5-$15 and only take minutes to install.
Newport is a summertime destination, there’s no debating that. Many people have purchased secondary homes here to enjoy the city by the sea during the summer months or are retired snowbirds who have had enough with these New England winters. With that in mind, it’s important to make sure that if your home is not professionally winterized it would be a smart idea to hire a property manager or caretaker to make sure your property is cared for over the offseason.
A property manager can regularly stop by your home to check for mechanical issues, run sinks and toilets to circulate the plumbing, check for any damage caused by storms and give any absentee owner peace of mind while they are away from their summer escape. There are plenty of reliable, locally owned property management companies that are available for hire right here in Newport.
Restock for winter.
Making sure that you have the colder weather essentials now, rather than later, is another way to proper prepare for winter. Make sure you have your shovel, ice-melt or road salt and batteries. Make sure your generator (if you have one) has fuel and is working properly prior to using it. Make sure you have enough firewood stacked for the season. Fire up the snow blower for a test run. Taking care of these tasks before they are needed puts you ahead of the game and keeps you ready for that next snow storm.
If you have any questions about this editorial, the home buying process or if you are in the market for a new home and are unrepresented, please contact Tyler Bernadyn at 401-241-1851 or Tyler.Bernadyn@Raveis.com.