Winter is coming! Yes, this may remind you of an extremely popular cable show, but homeowners really do need to be prepared for winter…as unexciting as it is. Mundane home maintenance pays off in many ways: from home heating savings to lower and/or less frequent repair costs to maintaining your home’s value. Unless you have a brand new home, there is usually quite a bit of winter prep work to do. And if you’re like me and haven’t really started yet, unfortunately there’s not a whole lot of time left before the snow is going to fly. Here are 6 tips to get started, with a bonus tip at the end.
1. HEATING SYSTEM
Be sure to service your heater and ventilation. The general rule is fuel oil should be serviced every year, while cleaner natural gas and propane systems get serviced every other year. Remember to change filters every month while the system is in use and once before you turn on the heat. These simple steps will help your heater burn more efficiently and reduce the chances for expensive repairs or replacement down the road.
2. HOME INTERIOR
Check the glazing putty, caulking, and weather stripping on all doors and windows around the inside of the house and fix any decayed spots. Clean the vents and air exchangers as necessary. Consider closing off areas that can get by with lower temperatures such as a spare bedroom or that dusty workout area. Also, watch for leakage or condensation in the ceiling and/or attic, as that could be an indication of roof leaks or other issues.
Begin by inspecting all of the traps and drains for leaks or deterioration. If you have a septic tank, it should be serviced every other year as well. If you are hooked up to a sewer system, ensure that the sewer cleanout is clean and free of obstructions. Don’t forget to drain exterior water lines and shut off the local water supply to those lines.
Check chimneys, vents, louvers, and air exchangers for signs of squirrels, insect infestations, or bird nests. Relocate nests if possible. Visually inspect the roof for signs of damage or wear. Replace or realign damaged or lost shingles.
5. HOME EXTERIOR
Clean all gutters and window wells and ensure your sump pump (if you have one) is working properly as well. Be sure downspouts are not pushing water toward the foundation of your home. Check siding for cracks or breaks & repair or replace if needed. A sample paint jar (matched to your siding) and some exterior caulking work wonders for damaged siding if you’re in a pinch.
Don’t forget about the garden. You can get a great jump on the next growing season by preparing in the fall. The typical recommendation is to dig down 12 inches to clear rocks and weeds along with a compost and fertilizer mixture to soak into the soil. This is a relatively fast and cheap process, especially if you do your own composting. Composting can not only reduce gardening costs, but it helps reduce your garbage waste and provides a greater yield at a far cheaper price than fertilizers – especially organic fertilizers.
Prepare your vehicles with a fall tune up. Buying a Chilton guide and doing your own work is a great way to save serious cash on basic vehicle maintenance. However, be careful to not take on repairs that are too complicated for you. Check your battery, brakes, tires, and filters to ensure efficient and safe driving through the winter.
Even though it’s not riveting cable entertainment, try to keep in mind the money you saving by doing (most of or all of) it yourself…not to mention likely preventing future costly problems. That extra money can be a great way pay down debt, establish emergency savings, or even help pay for a winter getaway. Whatever your goal is, it’s a great way to stay motivated and finish your fall projects.
For a complete list of year-round home maintenance tips, check out the Healthy Home Maintenance Checklist from HUD.
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