November 13, 2017 | Danielle Py-Salas

The Halloween decorations have been cleared out and there’s a bracing chill in the air—time to get ready for winter!  Here are a few tips on what you can do this month to prepare your property for the cold winter months ahead.

Before you light up your fireplace to take away the fall chill, take a moment to give it a quick inspection to make certain everything is in working order. Begin by checking the brickwork in your fireplace for wear. Check the damper, as well—it should open and close easily. Look into the smoke chamber above the damper to see if it has a buildup of soot. Open the clean-out door, which is located either in your basement or outside the house, and empty out any ashes or other debris. Using a small mirror and flashlight to see up the flue, look for soot buildup and also any cracks, holes, or separations. If in doubt, call in your chimney professional for a good cleaning and checkup.

Inside the house, check the area around your chimney for any stains or dampness. These could be caused by faulty flashing around the chimney at the roofline, or by a damaged flue liner. If you see signs of water around your chimney, make sure to have it repaired before winter sets in.
A chimney professional can spot things that even a diligent homeowner could miss. Call on a pro to do regular cleaning and safety checks as a part of your home maintenance routine. Then throw another log on the fire, sit back, and enjoy the warmth.

A small crack or one leaky window might not seem like a big problem, but taken together, your home’s small drafts can add up to lots of wasted energy dollars. Seal any gaps around electrical outlets, ducts, windows, and doors with foam sealants, caulking, or weatherstripping.

On the outside of your house, use caulking to seal anywhere different materials meet, like between the siding and the chimney, window and door frames, and at the foundation. Even small gaps around cables, lighting fixtures, spigots, electrical outlets, dryer vents, and air conditioning pipes can add up to big air infiltration problems and compromise your home’s thermal efficiency.  You can use expandable polyurethane foam to fill large gaps, but use it sparingly since it can over-expand.

If you haven’t done so already, this is the time to winterize your seasonal equipment. Drain fuel from lawn mowers, leaf blowers, and chain saws. Cover and store outdoor furniture and barbecues in a protected area. And, be sure to empty out pots, containers, and planters, as soil left in clay pots outside can freeze and cause the pots to crack.

Disconnect and store your garden hoses. If your home has a separate shutoff for external spigots, turn it off and drain the water from those spigots. If you have a sprinkler system, you may want to call in a professional company to blow out any leftover water in the underground lines.  Also, check to see that all of your snow equipment and generators are close at hand, fueled up, and ready for use.

Deal with dead tree limbs and leaves. The No. 1 thing most homeowners fail to do before winter sets in is eliminate dead tree branches. Falling limbs -- or trees -- can harm roofs, siding, gutters, porch railings, decks, and cars, not to mention unsuspecting passersby.  Additionally, clearing out the leaves in the yard now before the ground freezes will make the task a bit easier and will also help with allergy sufferers.  Old wet and moldy leaves lying around can worsen allergies, trigger asthma attacks and cause problems for people with compromised immune systems.


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