With those lazy, hazy days of summer a soon-to-be memory, it's time for the smart homeowner to prepare for winter. After all, wintertime is the absolute worst time for anything to go wrong with the outside of your home! Here are the most important things to do to protect your home and even... save money!
On most homes, the roof can be examined from ground level. If necessary, use binoculars. Look for curling, broken or missing shingles. Also, look around the foundation for broken shingles. If things don't look right, hire a professional for a thorough check-up.
Your home's gutters are designed to collect roof water and keep it away from your foundation. Blocked gutters can fill with water and overflow. In winter, this water will freeze and increase the risk of roof-damaging ice dams. Heavy ice may cause the gutters to loosen or even fall off your house!
Look at the gutters themselves and the ground beneath them. You may be able to see washed-out mulch, gravel or grass where the gutter has been overflowing. Or examine them during a rainstorm. Not fun... but necessary!
Schedule one gutter cleaning in fall or early winter before the gutters freeze. Since some trees, such as oak, keep their leaves late into the fall, have your cleaner return for a "touch-up" before the first freeze... frozen gutters can't be cleaned!
Other important emergency items to have on hand are rock salt, traction sand (forget kitty litter... it offers little traction but will turn your walk or driveway into a muddy soup), a flashlight, a battery powered radio, batteries for both, bottled water, a small propane stove, some canned food (for you and your pets) and a manual can opener... just in case the power goes out! Speaking of power loss, ice storms can even be more damaging than snow storms because they are often accompanied by downed trees, impossible driving conditions and loss of critical utilities such as electricity and telephone. Because ice-related power outages can last for days, make sure that you have everything listed above, plus adequate supplies of any critical medications you take. And, should the worst happen, be knowledgeable of your town's support services, such as emergency assistance and shelter.
Energy audits are routinely subsidized by local power companies to encourage conservation. Sometimes they even do the repairs on the spot! Call your local utility for more information on these free or low-cost programs.
If your home has a sprinkler system or other underground piping near the surface, be sure that it is completely drained. Freezing can burst these pipes, too! Sprinkler pros use compressed air to blow out the water... the most thorough and reliable method.
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