Winter can be a tricky time of year for a homeowner. There are significant home preparations to consider when fall begins to submit way to winter. Dwindling heat and daylight make some applications tricky or impossible, so starting some projects early (like outdoor patching, caulking, and painting) is a crucial step in successful winter home protection. Remember, proper home maintenance will pay off in many ways…from home heating savings to lower and less frequent repair costs to maintaining your home’s value.
Keep in mind that there are hundreds of products for this time of year to entice consumers into unnecessary purchases.
1) Heat system
Be sure to service your heater and ventilation. The general rule is fuel oil should be serviced every year, while cleaner natural gas and propane systems get serviced every other year. Remember to change filters every month while the system is in use and once before you turn on the heat. These simple steps will help your heater burn more efficiently and greatly reduce the chances for costly repairs or replacement down the road.
2) Home Interior
Check the weather stripping on all doors and windows around the inside of the house. Clean the vents and air exchangers as necessary. Consider closing off areas that can get by with lower temperatures such as a spare bedroom or that dusty workout area. Also, watch for leakage or condensation in the ceiling and/or attic, as this is likely to be an indication of roof leaks or other issues.
Begin by inspecting all of the traps and drains for leaks or deterioration. If you have a septic tank, it should be serviced every other year as well. If you are hooked up to a sewer system, ensure that the sewer cleanout is cleaned and free of obstructions. Don’t forget to drain exterior water lines and shut off the local water supply to those lines.
Consider an additional layer of insulation if your snow often melts off the roof in the winter. If there are patches of snow and patches of bare roof, this can be an indication of heat loss through the rafters. Look also for signs of moisture and water build up, as well as signs of critter infestations.
5) Windows and Doors
Check all glazing putty and caulking for cracks or a weathered look. Replace decayed sections. Check all weather stripping. Look for signs of issues on window sills and around doors. Water stains can be an indication that things may need further repair or even replacement.
Check chimneys, vents, louvers, and air exchangers for signs of squirrels, insect infestations, or bird nests. Relocate nests if possible. Visually inspect the roof for signs of damage or wear. Replace or realign damaged or lost shingles.
7) Home Exterior
Clean all gutters and window wells and ensure your sump pump (if applicable) is working properly as well. Be sure downspouts are not pushing water toward the foundation of the home. Check siding for cracks or breaks. Repair or replace if needed. I have found that a sample paint jar (matched to my siding) and some exterior caulking work wonders for damaged siding. Total cost of about $5.
Don’t forget about the garden! You can get a great jump on the next growing season by preparing a bit in the fall. Most recommended regimens suggest digging down 12 inches to clear rocks and weeds along with a compost and fertilizer mixture to soak into the soil. This is a relatively fast and cheap process, especially if you do your own composting! Composting can not only reduce gardening costs, but it helps reduce your garbage waste and provides a greater yield at a far cheaper price than fertilizers – especially organic fertilizers.
9) Bugs and Pests
There are many home remedies for bugs and pests that are far less expensive and less toxic than these “specialized poisons” for every type of bug, spider, or hornet out there. Some examples include: fruit flies are attracted to apple cider vinegar with a few drops of dish soap. Add water for bubbles and watch them fly to their demise when caught in the bubbles. Add a drop or two more soap and a bit more water after the bubbles all go away. Spiders hate peppermint for some reason, so essential oil and water can be sprayed in problem areas.
Prepare your vehicles with a fall tune up. Buying a Chilton guide and doing your own work is a great way to save serious cash on basic vehicle maintenance. Be careful to not take on repairs that are too big for your skill level. Check your battery, brakes, tires, and filters to ensure efficient and safe driving through the winter.
While you are dredging through your checklist o’ chores, remember all the savings you are raking in by doing it yourself and avoiding costly problems down the road. That extra money can be a great way pay down debt, establish emergency savings, or even start saving for that late winter vacation! Whatever the goal is, it is a great way to stay motivated on your projects.
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Author Malcolm Johannessen is a Certified Financial Counselor with LSS Financial Counseling and he specializes in Foreclosure Prevention Counseling.