Ready For Winter? 10 Home Maintenance Tips!

The SF Bay Area received some much-needed rain Friday night, and the end of this week will bring more. We are slowly but surely moving toward winter, and it is time to take a look around the house and make sure we are ready.

Let’s start outside:

  • Are the gutters clean and downspouts clear? A single story home is easy to check yourself, but taller and/or hillside houses may need a professional with tall ladders.
  • Where does rain water flow to? Down to the ground, right next to your foundation? Not a good idea. Even so-called splashblocks, which are wedge-shaped pieces of plastic or concrete, about 18 to 24 inches long, meant to guide water away from your house, are not adequate. Ideally you have underground drain pipes leading water away to the street, to a catch basin, or any other destination where water will not impact your home.
  • Another option is plastic drainage sleeves. They are attached to the bottom of downspouts (I use plastic ‘zip’ ties as fasteners) and then rolled out and away from the foundation. Do not buy products that are just a few feet long; instead find something at least 8 feet or longer. Remember that you are likely to lose a few feet just by connecting it to the downspout. Some hardware stores sell it in bulk and can cut it to whatever length you want.

  • Take a look at all windows and doors. Do they close properly and make good seals against rain and wind? Hopefully you took care of any caulking and painting during the summer, but if not, now is a good time to make quick repairs. Once the temps start to dip, caulk and paint will not cure properly. I sometimes cheat and use a heat gun to help the curing process along.
  • What about exterior lighting? Are all bulbs and light sensors operational? Next Sunday daylight savings goes into effect, and it will be dark earlier. Do any timers need adjusting? Speaking of timers, maybe now is good time to check on your garden sprinkler system. Perhaps it should be set to ‘Winter’ mode, or be switched off.
  • If you live in an area where frost is a typical companion, make sure to empty and put away garden hoses. Protect any exterior water pipes with insulation.

Inside your home:

  • When is the last time you checked the furnace filter? Modern homes are built so airtight that they easily trap allergens, dust, and other irritants. Especially if you have pets, check the filter quarterly. They are generally easy to replace or clean, depending on the type of filter used. A clean filter also puts less strain on the furnace blower motor.
  • If you have a gravity furnace or other kind of gas-fueled heater, make sure the pilot light is lit, and that there are no flammable objects nearby.
  • Is your propane tank filled? Are you stocked up on wood pellets? Firewood and kindling?
  • Take a look at smoke and C02 detectors. You need one smoke detector in each sleeping area, and in each hallway outside these sleeping areas. You also need one carbon monoxide detector on each floor. Combination smoke/carbon monoxide detectors are available. Photoelectric detectors are much better than ionization types, as they detect smoke and alert you much faster. In fact, many cities no longer allow the ionization technology. Here is a good explanation.
  • Fire Departments around the country recommend testing smoke alarms each time you change your clocks.

Do you have some good tips about getting ready for winter? Please let me know and I will share them next time.

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