AUTUMN CHECKLIST – 7 INTERIOR TO-DOS

living-room2aWhile autumn brings glorious colors and, unfortunately, that dreaded march back to Standard Time and darkness, it’s also the season for homeowners in the Northeast to start thinking about surviving those long, cold months of home-confinement ahead – otherwise known as a New England Winter.  The following article, ‘7 Interior To-Dos’, is the second of our 2-part Autumn Checklist series for homeowners (see also our earlier ‘5 Exterior To-Dos ‘).

Make A Focused Interior Inspection

The first of the interior to-dos is an inspection focused on prevention, as in making sure the critical systems are ready to prevent the worst of winter from getting inside your house.  Here’s a list of the major items you absolutely should check out:

Heating Systemfurnace-repair-sioux-falls

The first stop on your preventative maintenance tour is your heating system.  This maintenance item is a must-do and really needs to be conducted by a professional, since they will have the correct parts (filters, valves, fittings) and will also check out your entire system.

The details of what needs to be done will vary depending on your fuel source (oil, gas, electric, propane, etc.) and your specific system (radiator, forced hot air, baseboard, etc.). HVAC maintenance is NOT a big tag item, so don’t skip it because you did it last year – a functioning system not only involves your family’s comfort, it involves their safety.

Generator

generator1Sustained power outages due to winter storms are unhappily a yearly occurrence and can result in exceptional disruption for homeowners – no heat, no refrigeration, no internet, etc., all of which amount to inherent dangers to your family.

If you have a back-up generator, GREAT, just make sure it’s charged or gassed up and ready to go.  If you DON’T have a generator, give it some consideration NOW, not after the 3rd blizzard when everything is sold out.

Whether you go with a small portable unit or a stationary model that restores power throughout the house, generators are a great investment that pay for themselves many times over.

tank-type-snWater Heater

Water heaters are probably the easiest thing on this Checklist to inspect since conventional models have a production/expiration date (usually 5-10 years after installation) listed on the outside.

Unfortunately, water heaters are a ‘blind item’ – you can’t inspect the rusting that’s going on inside so, just like a carton of milk, ignore that expiration date at your peril. In this instance that peril consists of the tank’s bottom falling off, flooding your basement with hot water – just what you want to deal with on a snowy January morning.

Weather Seals

No matter how efficient your heating system is, if your home isn’t sealed up tight it’s going to be both difficult and expensive to keep it comfortably warm during winter.  A key group of Interior To-Dos, therefore, involve weather seals.

Attic insulation1

A correctly insulated attic is the starting point for sealing your home, since in most instances this is where heat loss is greatest.  Additionally, poorly insulated attics are the primary culprit in winter roof damage and ice dams. Succinctly stated, correctly insulating your attic can pay for itself in one heating season and, in addition, can potentially avert much more costly damage.

Because the specific design of your house will determine the best solution, it’s strongly advised that you bring in a professional to assess your requirements. They will determine what you need, and where, and whether permanent solutions like spray foam insulation on the roof rafters is feasible in your attic.

Doors & Windows 

Close behind your attic as sources of heat loss are your doors and windows.  Storm doors & windows are the traditional doors-windows2approach, and advances in insulated doors and double/triple paned windows have largely solved the heat-leakage problem. If you are considering an upgrade to more efficient doors/windows, get moving since you want to get this done in the fall not the spring.

If you’ve got storm doors/windows and are still having a problem, good old weather stripping can be an effective do-it-yourself seasonal fix.  Also, if you can fit it into your décor, window treatments involving, e.g., lined drapes or blinds (venetian, slats, fabric, etc.), can help keep the heat in and the cold out.

Fireplace 

Often overlooked, a fireplace can account for an enormous amount of heat loss, i.e., it’s essentially an open window.  Install glass-doors or other solutions that close it up when not in use.

BOTTOM LINE

The items on our Interior Checklist primarily focus on warmth, efficiency, and safety for the upcoming winter. Autumn is unquestionably the best time of year to go through this type of inventory, since waiting until preventable things go wrong should never be an option. Winter is a great season – as long as you keep it outside!

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AUTUMN CHECKLIST – 5 EXTERIOR TO-DOS

autumn-home 3Back-to-school, shorter days, much cooler nights – for New England homeowners the seasonal roll-over from summer to autumn means more than a wardrobe change, it means “Get ready for winter”.  It’s that time of year, therefore, for us to offer our 2-part Autumn Checklist, with ‘5 Exterior To-Dos’ leading off followed by ‘7 Interior To-Dos’ .

Start With A Thorough Exterior Inspection

Preparing your home for winter begins on the exterior, which is your first line of defense against the rigors of cold temperatures, wind, snow, and ice.  The objective here is preventative maintenance – finding & fixing an exterior issue in September or October is way easier and more pleasant than doing it in January or February, not to mention, way cheaper.

Your first task, therefore, is to conduct a thorough inspection of exterior areas that can cause the biggest problems.  Here’s a breakdown of some critical major areas you should be inspecting:

Roofroof1

Starting at the top of your house, take a hard look at the condition of your roof.  First, you are looking for missing or loose shingles, and if you find any you can rest assured that winter winds and ice will find them too.  In other words, fix them – NOW.

Next, once you’re sure the roof is at least intact and functional, take the next step and inspect the condition of the shingles.  If they are beginning to deteriorate – mold, algae, brittle, splits – your decision boils down to answering the question, “Can these make it to next spring?” Don’t roll the dice if you’re in doubt.

clogged-gutter-2Gutters & Downspouts

First, make sure all your gutters are securely attached to the house.  The weight-stress on gutters from snow, ice, melting, re-freezing can be significant, so make sure the entire gutter run is tightly secured to the eaves.  Also make sure all the downspouts are securely connected and clog-free.

Second, confirm that the gutters will be able to perform their drainage function during harsh winter conditions, i.e., that the gutters are clear and sloped properly. This will almost always mean that built-up gunk and leaves have to be removed, a nasty job that should wait until the leaves have fallen.

 

Siding 

siding & trimNext on your Autumn Checklist is your home’s siding and trim.  Particularly in older homes, look closely for rotting boards or shingles and any evidence of insect infestation.  Once again, if you find anything, fix it now since it will be too late when the snow is flying.

Also, it’s well known that Autumn is the best time for exterior painting, so if you find heavy paint wear or chipping on the siding or trim, consider having it repainted now since it’s only going to get worse during the winter.

Home Access

Walking into your house or driving into your garage is pretty straightforward during warm moths but can become a potentially dangerous challenge in winter.

image_23531Cracks in your sidewalk or steps will expand during the many freeze/melt/freeze cycles ahead, so a little bit of attention now can help prevent a big (and dangerous) problem later.  Also, if you have railings – which all tend to loosen over time – make sure they are tightly anchored and won’t give way just when you need them most.

Of course the garage door will open – until it doesn’t, most likely during a howling snow storm.  Make sure it’s working properly and maintained as required.  Also, if it’s attached, make sure to weather seal both the garage door itself and the interior door to the house.

BOTTOM LINE

Fall is the best time of the year to take stock of your home’s exterior and plug any gaps that you find.  The weather is still nice enough for you or your contractor to get fix-up projects out of the way quickly & cheaply so that you’ll be able to sleep soundly during those long winter nights around the corner.

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