Defend against seasonal damage with good maintenance.
It’s time to be proactive against the preventable disasters that come with the winter season. The cold, snow and freezing weather can cause water-related damage while fires can break out due to poor fireplace maintenance. We have some helpful reminders of where homeowners should take action:
- Stow mowers in ventilated space
- Store hoses and turn off outdoor water
- Drain and turn off sprinkler system
- Seal cracks around doors and windows
- Clean the gutters
- Inspect the roof
- Direct drainage away from the house
- Have the furnace serviced
- Prune the plants
- Check the fireplace chimney and damper
Remove garden hoses from outdoor faucets. Leaving hoses attached can cause water to back up in the faucets and in the plumbing pipes just inside the exterior walls. If freezing temps hit, that water could freeze, expand, and crack the faucet or pipes. Make this an early fall priority so a sudden cold snap doesn’t sneak up and cause damage.
Turn off any shutoff valves on water supply lines that lead to exterior faucets to guard against minor leaks that may let water enter the faucet. At the same time, drain garden hoses and store them in a shed or garage.
Drain the irrigation system. Even buried irrigation lines can freeze, leading to busted pipes and broken sprinkler heads.
- Turn off the water to the system at the main valve.
- Shut off the automatic controller.
- Open drain valves to remove water from the system.
- Remove any above-ground sprinkler heads and shake the water out of them, then replace.
If there are no drain valves, then hire an irrigation pro to blow out the systems pipes with compressed air. A pro is worth the $75 to $150 charge to make sure the job is done right, and helps avoid busted pipes and sprinkler head repairs in the spring.
Seal air leaks around windows and doors. Grab a couple of tubes of color-matched exterior caulk ($5 for a 12-ounce tube) and make a journey around the home’s exterior, sealing up cracks between trim and siding, around window and door frames, and where pipes and wires enter the house. Preventing moisture from getting inside the walls is one of the least expensive — and most important — of the fall maintenance jobs. Also seal air leaks that waste energy.
Clean out the gutters. Clogged rain gutters can cause ice dams, which can lead to expensive repairs. After the leaves have fallen, remove debris from the gutters. Make sure gutters aren’t sagging and trapping water; tighten gutter hangers and downspout brackets. Replace any worn or damaged gutters and downspouts.
Heads up! If there is colored grit from asphalt roof shingles in the gutters, beware. That sand-like grit helps protect shingles from the damaging ultraviolet rays of the sun. Look closely for other signs of roof damage; it may be time for a roofing replacement.
Downspouts should extend at least 5 feet away from the house to prevent foundation problems. If they don’t, add downspout extensions; $10 to $20 each. If the home has a steep roof or a multistory house, stay safe and use binoculars to inspect the roof from the ground.
Inspect the roof. Look for shingles that are buckled, cracked, or missing; rust spots on flashing. Any loose, damaged, or missing shingles should be replaced immediately. Black algae stains are just cosmetic, but masses of moss and lichen could signal roofing that’s decayed underneath. Call in a pro roofer for a $50 to $100 evaluation.
A plumbing vent stack usually is flashed with a rubber collar — called a boot — that may crack or loosen over time. They’ll wear out before the roof does, so make sure they’re in good shape. A pro roofer will charge $75 to $150 to replace a boot, depending on how steep the roof is.
Take a close look at the soil around the foundation. Make sure it slopes away from the house at least 6 vertical inches over 10 feet to keep water from soaking the soils around the foundation, which could lead to cracks and leaks. Be sure soil doesn’t touch the siding.
Check the heating and cooling system. Schedule an appointment with a pro to get the heating system checked and tuned up for the coming heating season. They’ll charge $50 to $100 for a checkup. An annual maintenance contract makes it easy to keep the system serviced and shaves up to 20% off the cost of a single visit.
Change the furnace filters. This is a job that should be done every two months anyway, but if it hasn’t happened in a while, now’s the time. If the HVAC includes a built-in humidifier, make sure the contractor replaces that filter.
Prune plants and trees. Late fall is the best time to do this because they stop growing through the winter. The goal is to keep limbs and branches at least 3 feet from the house so moisture won’t drip onto roofing and siding, and to prevent damage to the house exterior during high winds.
Make sure the fireplace is safe. Grab a flashlight and look up inside the fireplace flue to make sure the damper opens and closes properly. Open the damper and look up into the flue to make sure it’s free of birds’ nests, branches and leaves, or other obstructions. It should be easy to see daylight at the top of the chimney.
Check the firebox for cracked or missing bricks and mortar. If there is any damage, order a professional fireplace and chimney inspection. An inspection costs $79 to $500. The fireplace flue should be cleaned of creosote buildup every other year. A professional chimney sweep will charge $150 to $250 for the service.
We see every day what can happen when weather meets houses and it’s not always pretty. A little extra diligence to protect and maintain a home will help it last for generations and save a lot of headache caused by fire or water damage.