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Tue, Sep 21st - 5:55AM

Winter Maintenance - Globe & Mail Published Article
Dianne Nice

Globe and Mail UpdatePublished on Monday, Sep. 20, 2010 12:00AM EDTLast updated on Monday, Sep. 20, 2010 6:58AM EDT

Even though it’s still warm outside, Roger Frost is thinking about winter. Time and again, the Barrie, Ont.-based home inspector has seen homeowners rack up huge expenses because they forgot to take a few preventive steps in the fall. The most common mistake, he says, is forgetting to seal window sills. A $5 tube of caulking is all it takes to fill in cracks and prevent moisture from damaging mortar and bricks.

“It’s probably the most expensive damage to most houses, other than just letting the roof go,” Mr. Frost says. “If you don’t notice it right away, it can only take one winter and then you’ve got damaged brick to replace.” For those closing their cottages for the season, now’s the time to seal any openings that could attract animals and trim back tree branches near the roof. Cottage owners should hire a local to remove snow from the roof to avoid a collapse, Mr. Frost says, and don’t forget to drain water from pipes and pumps before leaving for the winter.

Here is Mr. Frost’s list of fall maintenance essentials:

1. Check windows and doors. Windows should be caulked outside. Inside, make sure there is proper insulation between the window and the rough framing. Check window sills and frames for cracks where water can enter. If wood sills need repainting, get it done. Exterior doors can have weather stripping and an adjustable door sweep installed to reduce unwanted air flow and heat loss.

2. Winterize and store equipment. Drain the gas from your lawnmower. Wash and store patio furniture and gardening equipment in a dry area to prevent rust and mildew. Rather than covering your air conditioner, place some spacers on top with a weighted piece of plywood to keep snow off, but allow lots of ventilation to prevent corrosion.

3. Service your furnace. Run your furnace before it gets cold outside to avoid expensive emergency service. Annual maintenance by a technician is recommended and filters should be replaced monthly – or sooner if you have a lot of pets. If your home is still using a hot-water system, you should bleed the system by opening the valves at the radiator until water seeps out.

4. Seal your home’s exterior. Fill any gaps and cracks around windows, door frames, the foundation and pipes entering the home to keep water and animals out. Sealing your asphalt driveway, patio and wood deck can prevent them from cracking and sagging.

5. Inspect the roof. Check flashing and shingles for potential water entry points. To prevent ice build up, clean all gutters and downspouts of debris. Also, make sure your attic insulation is sufficient at the edges of the roof and that you have soffit baffles installed to allow ventilation.

6. Prevent components from freezing. Outside water supply taps and lines should be shut off from inside the home; the taps and lines should be drained of all water and left open. Insulating plumbing pipes will not only prevent any chance of freezing but it will also prevent condensation.

7. Inspect your fireplace. Clean debris from the rain cap on your chimney and check it for gaps and cracks, along with the bricks and mortar. Annual chimney cleaning is recommended and fall is the ideal time. Make sure the damper works properly. Store wood in a dry place away from the outside walls.

Written by Roger Frost


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