It feels funny writing this given the crazy warm weather we’ve had this fall, especially late October days in 20 degrees. Getting ready for winter might be the last thing on your mind right now as you try to cram in some fall golf games and hikes, but those cold, snowy days are coming up faster than you think. As well known northern Ned Stark always says, Winter Is Coming!
So as we enjoy the strangely warm fall weather we’ve seen over the past few weeks, it’s time to get started on preparing your home for the looming winter. Modern homes are now built specifically to prevent some of the issues that winter can cause, but Ottawa has no shortage of homes built in the 1940’s or earlier. Regardless of your home type, those -30 days can cause problems for everyone.
Furnaces might fail, pipes can freeze, and frost can form in places it shouldn’t. The good news? Most of these problems can be prevented with some inexpensive materials and a good DIY attitude.
1 – Clean Your Gutters
We’ll start off with a classic here. Snow can melt off a roof on a mild winter day. If you have water that can’t get out of the gutter because leaves are blocking it, it’ll freeze.
Your gutters, no matter how new they are, aren’t designed to have 80 pounds of ice in them. To prevent this, a leaf blower can be used to send leaves stuck in the downspout back out the top. From there, we start the fun part. Manually removing gutter leaves and debris by hand is typically the best way to go. You’ll need a ladder, some gloves, and a DIY attitude (seems like this is everyone’s least favourite chore).
Disconnect your garden hose and let the water run out. If the tap isn’t part of a frost-proof hose bib, go inside and turn off the valve that feeds it, then go back out and open the tap to drain.
If you miss this step it can easily freeze all the way back inside the house and split the pipe.
This would be bad – don’t do this. Seems like a simple task to do but the repercussions of not doing this can be a problem. A burst pipe in your basement is NOT something you want to be dealing with around Christmas time.
3 – Seal The Drafts Around Your Doors and Windows
If you can see daylight around the exterior door, that’s obviously a problem. The good news? This can be fixed with some weather stripping, which you can get at Canadian Tire and Home Depot.
Other gaps might be invisible, such as those around attic hatches (use weather stripping here, too) and electrical receptacles. For the latter, remove the plate and install a foam gasket behind it.
Not only does fixing these drafts and gaps make your house more comfortable, it will also reduce your utility bills, as your heater, whether it’s gas or electric, has to work extra to keep the house warm.
4 – Test Your Detectors
With the gas or propane furnace and possibly your fireplace getting fired up (lol) regularly, fall is the time to check the status of detectors for smoke and carbon monoxide. (IF YOU DO NOT HAVE A CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTOR, GO BUY ONE RIGHT NOW.) In Ontario, you must have a working CO alarm adjacent to each sleeping area of the home if you have a fuel-burning appliance, a fireplace or an attached garage. Carbon monoxide poisoning kills people, it’s not some trivial thing. It’s the law.
If these detectors aren’t wired into your electrical system, change the batteries and test the alarms. Replace them before they are 10 years old. Then rest through those cold winter nights with peace of mind – and start looking forward to spring.
5 – Stock Up On Shovels and Snow
While this is certainly something you can do during the winter, it doesn’t hurt to get stocked up early.
Also, if you have a long driveway, now would certainly be a good time to hire a company for snow removal. There is a huge list of companies in Ottawa, but certainly something to get done sooner rather than later.
6 – Inspect the Fireplace and Furnace
Although wood burning fireplaces are becoming less and less common in modern homes, anyone still using them should have them inspected every year or two (this can be done by a WETT Inspector). At the minimum, at least clean it out. Consider burning dry birch or pine, rather than poplar, which can speed the buildup of creosote, which causes chimney fires.
Your furnace is also something to inspect yourself, or bring in a professional to do. If you have a high-efficiency unit, open the panel and inspect for rust or water. Either indicates the need for a pro, since the furnace should be capable of draining the moisture that it collects from the heat exchanger on the exhaust. If the interior is dry, vacuum out any dust. Change the filter, which should be changed a minimum of every 90 days.
Your furnace should also be inspected by a professional once a year, and at least once every two years. You do NOT want to be stuck in the winter with a broken furnace.
7 – Inspect Your Roof
Your roof is critical to the integrity of your home. Damaged shingles can cause water leakage into the attic or space between the roof and your top floor – and not all of these issues are covered by insurance.
If shingles have any curling, buckling, or crackling, they should be replaced. If you notice any issues, have it looked at by a professional.
If, in the middle of the winter, you notice there is a big gap between the snow on top of your roof, this could be a sign that heat is getting out of your roof, and it’s not insulated properly.
So – while not all of these are the funnest chores to be done, they can save you some money and peace of mind in the long run. Most of these chores are NOT something you want to be doing in the middle of winter. Get it done now so you can enjoy peace of mind during the cold season!
Want to talk about getting your home ready for the winter? Shoot us an e-mail at email@example.com – we’re always happy to talk about anything home related!