Texas may be infamous for its stifling summer heat, but we have winter, too, and the worst is yet to come! We’ve accumulated some very important winter home maintenance items that every homeowner should complete to protect their home from winter damage.
Drain your faucets and wrap your pipes: Undrained water in pipes can freeze, which will cause pipes to burst as the ice expands. As soon as the temperature starts dropping, disconnect all garden hoses and drain the water that remains in faucets. If you don’t have frost-proof faucets (homes more than ten to 15 years old typically do not), turn off the shut-off valve inside your home.
Buy materials before it gets too cold so they won’t be sold out. Protect your central air conditioning unit with a cover, and remove and store window air conditioners. Wrap your pipes in insulation tubes made of polyethylene or fiberglass. Take special care of those that have been previously damaged by freezing temperatures or have been recently repaired, and these are more susceptible to damage. Let cold water drip from any faucet served by an exposed pipe – keeping water running through them will release the pressure to help prevent freezing and more importantly, bursting. Open cabinet doors around the sink to expose pipes to more heat. If you are going to be away from your home during the holidays, keep your heater on at a temperature no lower than 55 degrees.
Drain your sprinkler system: Call a professional to do the job. Your sprinkler service will charge $50 to $150, depending on the size of the system. Draining sprinkler-system pipes, as with spigots, will help avoid freezing and leaks. Shut off the water supply to your sprinklers and wrap the main shut-off valve with insulation. You should also protect any exposed valves and back flow preventers.
Prepare gardens, trees, and plants: Clean up and cover your garden. There is lots of unseen activity going on under the surface, so protect it by adding a new, thick layer of mulch to insulate the soil and plants and keep the temperature even.
Protect the bark of young trees from creatures by wrapping trunks with wire or other tree-guarding products. Screen young evergreens with burlap “fences” or screen cloth shelters to protect from winter winds that can dry them out. In the case of young or tropical trees, such as palms, wrap the trunk to prevent the bark from cracking. Consider investing in a “blanket” to cover trees during freezing periods.
Remove dead leaves and buds from potted plants. Bark mulch or leaves will help insulate the roots and soil. Wrapping the pot with bubble wrap or fleece will also help the soil to keep from freezing. Plants can get very thirsty in the winter, especially if they are under eaves. The amount of water they require depends on the size of the pot – to be safe, make sure that enough water goes through so water runs out of the bottom of the pot.
Winterize your pool: Regularly check your pool’s equipment to make sure it is in the proper working order and maintain a pool cleaning regimen even when it is not being used. Leaf nets are great to help keep your pool clean during non-freezing temperatures. Run your pool pump a couple of hours every day of non-use to keep the water running and keep an eye out to make sure algae isn’t growing in the water. If the weather is about to freeze, make sure you have the correct type of pool cover and ensure that it is securely placed over your pool. Be sure to keep it clear of debris such as leaves or pine needles so it doesn’t tear.
Check your heating system: For about $80 to $100, a technician will inspect your heating system to make sure it is clean, in good repair, and that it can achieve its manufacturer-rated efficiency. The inspection also measures carbon-monoxide leakage. Making the call now will help you avoid being stuck waiting at the end of the repair line while freezing temperatures rage outside.
Reverse your ceiling fans: If your ceiling fan has a reverse switch, use it to run the fan’s blades in a clockwise direction after you turn on your heat. Energy Star says the fan will produce an updraft and push hot down into the room from the ceiling (remember, hot air rises). This is especially helpful in rooms with high ceilings — and it might even allow you to turn down your thermostat by a degree or two so you can save some energy.
Apply caulk: If the gaps between siding and window or door frames are bigger than the width of a nickel, you need to reapply exterior caulk. (Check the joints in window and door frames, too.) Silicone caulk is best for exterior use because it won’t shrink and is resistant to the elements.
Clean your gutters: If your gutters are full of pine needles and leaves, water can back up against the house and damage roofing, siding and wood trim — plus cause leaks and ice dams. You’ll typically pay $70 to $225 to clean gutters on a single-story house, depending on its size. Also look for missing or damaged gutters and fascia boards and repair them.
Clean your chimney: Before you start a fire, make sure your fireplace (or any heating appliance burning gas, oil, wood or coal), chimney and vents are clean and in good repair. That will prevent chimney fires and prevent carbon monoxide from creeping into your home.