by Jim Caruk
Step One: Start your to-do list
After a scorcher of a summer, there's no denying that the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting colder. A wise homeowner knows that they need to take care of a few chores to prepare their house and yard for the winter. Here are some of the key tasks to include on your list.
Probably the most important chore you can take care of to prolong the life of your house is to clean your eavestroughs. If you leave them full of leaves through the winter, you'll not only have water pouring over the sides during snow melts or heavy spring rains (potentially damaging the foundation, which could lead to basement flooding), the weight of wet and frozen leaves can start to pull the eavestroughs off the side of your house.
While you're at it, make sure your gutters are securely fastened and sloping toward the downspouts, and that the ends of those extend at least four feet away from the foundation to avoid water damage.
There are a number of different products on the market that are supposed to keep the leaves out of the gutter, but even these should be inspected periodically to clear any pine needles or mats of wet leaves that can clog the system.
With the risk of serious injury if something goes wrong, I don't blame you if you'd rather pawn this job off on someone else. Just make sure you go with a reputable company that encourages safe work practices, rather than some random guy who comes knocking on your door and may do more harm than good to himself and your house.
In most cases, you should be able to do a cursory inspection of your roof from the ground: a pair of binoculars is a great help. You're looking to see if any shingles are missing, or if the edges of more than a couple are starting to curl up. If you do spot any potential problem areas, call in some pros for an up-close inspection and estimate.
While you're looking at the roof, also inspect the chimney. Is there a cap on the top to keep wildlife out? Does the mortar between the bricks look like it's flaking away?
Next, cast your gaze a bit lower to make sure all the windows and doors are in good shape. Exterior caulking breaks down over time, so if it's cracked or missing, you'll want to reseal around the exterior frames. And if you can see daylight shining inside around your doorframe, you'll want to pick up some weather-stripping materials or shop around for a new one. If you have storm windows for added winter protection, now is the time to install those.
Pull out your city garbage and recycling calendar so you can find out when the last yard waste pickup is in your area. You'll want to make sure you rake up as many leaves as possible before then, and you prune back your plants and shrubs. Throwing down some grass seed will help your lawn survive the winter.
Don't forget to clean up the garage or shed so you've got room to store your patio furniture. When you're all done, disconnect and drain the hose, and turn off your outdoor water supply so it doesn't freeze in the winter.
Finally, this is a good time to get your holiday decorations organized. If you've got any of those increasingly popular inflatable items, you should test them out to make sure the compressor works and there are no leaks. And you're wise to hang the lights and other outdoor decorations before the ice and snow come and make it a treacherous task.
CAPTION: Photography courtesy of Margaret Mulligan
||Jim Caruk, Renovation Editor
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