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Is your home winter ready?

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A 5-point checklist that could prevent some costly repairs

Cooler evenings remind us that fall is just around the corner — and winter is quickly approaching. Fall is the perfect time to tackle exterior maintenance projects before the temperature drops and the first snow flies. The following tips can help ensure your home is well prepared to handle the cold, snow, rain and ice that winter brings.

1. Tackle exterior repairs

Take a walk around your property and do a thorough visual inspection of the roof, siding and foundation. Repair any damaged or missing roof shingles. If there is significant damage, consider replacing all the roof shingles. Your roof is your primary defence from the elements and worth the attention. Seal up any holes or cracks in the foundation to prevent any water penetration. Ensure that the ground around your home slopes away from the foundation wall as well, so that water does not find its way into your basement.

Caulking is an inexpensive home maintenance repair that can be tackled by homeowners to prevent both heat loss and water penetration. Be sure that the caulking around your windows and doors is in good repair. It can dry and crack over the years when exposed to the elements. Caulk where pipes or wires enter the house. Check all the windows and doors to ensure they close tightly, repair and replace weatherstripping if required. Don’t forget about the garage door either. Weather stripping provides a good seal between the garage door and the ground to prevent drafts and keep out unwanted critters.

2. Clean gutters and downspouts

Clear your gutters and downspouts of all leaves and debris. Consider installing gutter guards to make the job even easier for next year. Seal joints and repair brackets, as necessary. Flush water through downspouts to ensure proper drainage. Ensure that downspouts direct water away from your foundation, being careful not to direct it at your neighbour. Keeping gutters free from clogs will ensure that water does not pool and cause damage to the gutters, roof or siding. Clogged gutters are one of the main causes of ice damming. If you are not comfortable getting on a ladder to inspect and do repairs, hire a qualified professional for the job.

3. Shut off water to exterior faucets

To prevent exterior water pipes from freezing when the temperatures dip below freezing, turn off valves to all exterior faucets. Run the water to completely drain the pipes. Water left in exterior faucets and pipes can freeze and expand, causing the pipes to crack and possibly cause flooding. Drain and remove garden hoses and store inside, if possible.

4. Service furnace or heating systems

Ensure that your furnace or boiler is serviced annually, or as recommended by the manufacturer and that it’s done by a qualified professional. Heating systems will use fuel more efficiently, last longer and have fewer problems if properly serviced. Bleed air from hot water radiators.

Check chimneys for obstructions such as nests before turning on your furnace. Check and clean or replace furnace air filters each month during the heating season. Ventilation system filters, such as heat recovery ventilators, should be checked every two months. If you burn wood, have the chimney inspected, cleaned and repaired, if necessary, before lighting that first fire of the season.

5. Check carbon monoxide and smoke detectors

It is a good habit to test carbon monoxide and smoke detectors every six months. An easy way to remember to do this is to make it part of your spring or fall maintenance schedule or during daylight saving time when you’re turning your clocks back or forward. Replace old batteries with brand new ones that have never been used. Also, it is a good practice to have back-up batteries on hand at all times. Check the expiry dates on carbon monoxide detectors, smoke detectors and fire extinguishers and replace them if necessary. The typical life span of smoke detectors and fire extinguishers is eight to 10 years and just five years for carbon monoxide detectors (some individual alarm testing can suggest even earlier replacement). Many carbon monoxide and smoke detectors have an end of life mode to alert. It is important to note that your carbon monoxide detector will not detect carbon monoxide when it is in end of life mode, so the best practice is to change it before the expiry date.

Fall is also a great time to test your home for radon gas. As the weather cools and we keep our windows and doors closed, radon can become trapped inside our homes. Radon can have harmful health effects if levels in our homes get too high. Do-it-yourself radon kits can be purchased at hardware stores and online from the Lung Association. Or you can hire a professional to conduct this test, just ensure it’s the long term test. If levels are higher than the national acceptable level, it can be successfully remediated by a qualified professional.

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