6 Ways to Prepare Your Home’s Exterior for Winter
Winter weather — the cold winds, wet snows, and frigid temperatures — can be very hard on your house. However, there are steps you can take now to protect and prepare your home. Not only is the weather more pleasant now, you can save potential costs of increased heating bills or expensive repairs later. Here are some steps to take:
Clean Your Gutters
If you do nothing else in the autumn, you should clean your gutters or have them professionally cleaned. Here’s why: the falling leaves, pine needles and pine cones, acorns, and other autumnal debris will collect in your gutters and downspouts, clogging them.
Clogged gutters cause all kinds of problems. Rain and snowmelt can overflow from gutters and run straight down to your foundation instead of being carried away by downspouts, or back up into the eaves and infiltrate your attic and walls.
At a minimum, you should get up on a ladder and scoop out the debris that has gathered in gutters (or hire someone to do so). While up there, you should check the gutters and downspouts for signs of aging, wear, or damage and make any necessary repairs or updates. You could also consider installing some kind of gutter guard or screening to make this task easier in the future.
Trim Back Trees and Branches
Winter ice storms place a lot of strain on branches, and when large limbs fall on your roof, awnings, or car, they can do nearly as much damage as a whole tree! Check over the trees and branches near your house and other structures and make sure they are healthy. Cut back weak or dead branches, and consider consulting an arborist to make sure of the health of any trees that could potentially fall on your property.
Don’t forget your power lines! Make sure that the area around them is well-cleared. Remember that growth on the lines like ivy or kudzu vines can look harmless most of the year, but add a thick coating of ice and they can snap the lines right off the house, leaving you without power when it’s cold and miserable outside.
Check and Repair Walkways and Steps
When snow and ice make sidewalks and steps slick, falls can lead to serious injuries for you, your family, or visitors to your home. You may need to grab for a railing to catch yourself, and if that railing is not properly attached, it’s not going to save you.
Check to make sure all railings are secure, and any holes, cracks, or uneven spots on your walkways are patched. If you have flagstone or other stepping stone walks, clean and clear any overgrowth away from them. Smooth out gravel or mulch walkways and add additional fill as needed.
Inspect Your Roof
If you know your roof is wearing out or if you have smaller weak spots or holes, now is the time to replace and repair. Rough winter weather can stress even solid roofs, and wind and water will find any weakness and make it worse. You don’t want to be up in a freezing attic or trying to climb a slippery ladder to make repairs later, and getting a professional roofer out in the middle of winter will be harder and more expensive than when the weather is still relatively nice.
Even if your roof is newer and appears solid, it’s worth taking a look to make sure that there are no loose or damaged shingles, gaps in the flashing or damage to the eaves. Check around the chimney, skylights, and any vents or exhaust pipes to make sure the joints are secure and there are no gaps in the roof openings. Inspect chimneys for crumbling mortar. Call a professional to get any issues fixed before the bad weather arrives.
Check All Walls and Windows
Walk around your house and look over all the exterior walls. Look for cracks or loose mortar, or damage to shingles or siding. Look closely at the areas around windows and door frames. Rubber and other sealants can become brittle over time and start to crack or break away. A repair now could mean a huge difference in your heating bills in a few months.
Paint or Wash the Siding on Your House
Fall is a perfect time to have your house painted or power washed, or to replace siding and windows. It’s a much more pleasant time to do these tasks than the depths or winter or high summer, and getting all the muck and debris off will freshen your home’s look as well as maintain the structure longer.
Taking these sensible steps now, before the cold temperatures and wild storms arrive, will help you sail through the winter months without problems, allowing you to enjoy the holidays, football season, and indoors family time knowing your shelter is safe and snug.