That chilly little nip in the air and the early morning frost warns us winter is coming. It also means it’s time to get your home ready for that cold weather. Preparing your home in the fall may sound like a lot to do, but in reality, it only takes a little time to get things ready. With our Fall Home Maintenance Series, we’ll show you why it’s a good idea to spend a few hours over the next few weekends inspecting and preparing your home for the arrival of winter. With these practical tips, you can protect your home’s value, keep your family comfortable, and reduce your energy usage (and hopefully, energy bills!) all winter long..
Fall may be nearly over in some parts of the country, but there’s plenty you can do outside before the really cold weather arrives. Rain gutters, pools, and the exterior of your home all need some end-of-season care to both protect them from the cold and wet of winter and to prepare for spring’s return.
Here’s the truth: overflowing gutters eventually can turn into major repair problems. Consider that 1 gallon of water = 231 cubic inches. During a regular storm that drops one inch of rain, 1155 square feet (25 x 46.2) of roof will collect about 60 gallons of water. If your gutters are blocked and overflow, they can dump several gallons down the side of your home, allowing it to penetrate the siding, get into the sheathing, and seep into the basement or crawlspaces.
Repeated occurrences can lead to wall rot, mold, and expensive repairs, so address the problems now before winter brings increased precipitation.
- Cleaning your gutters usually requires time on a ladder scooping out muck. There are other ways, such as building your own gutter-cleaning hose wand out of PVC piping.
- Keep an eye out for cracks, holes, and disconnections that could leak water. Rain gutters with holes can be patched with a number of materials (including fiberglass auto body putty), but damaged or corroded gutters should be replaced.
- Remove any sticks or branches lying on your roof, as these can slide into the gutters and block them.
Also, check for downspout leaks and that water drains well away from your home. In colder climates, plastic conduit that goes underground can freeze solid all during the winter, causing water to back up and freeze in your downspout. As a seasonal fix, use above ground drain tiling. Water may freeze but it will be able to thaw easier in sunlight.
Shutting Down Your Pool
Closing pools involves a definite shutdown sequence you’ll want to follow to protect both your pool and its plumbing:
- One week before closing, clean out debris and test the pool pH, total alkalinity, and calcium hardness. The pH should be between 7.2 – 7.6, alkalinity between 100-150 ppm, and calcium hardness should be 180-220 ppm.
- Shock the pool. Chlorine levels should be slightly higher (3.0) than normal .
- On pool closing day, clean the pool one last time, making sure to scrub any trace of algae or silt from the bottom and sides.
- Remove ladders, chemical feeders, solar blankets, as well as any debris floating in the water.
- Remove the skimmer basket.
- Drain water from the pump, filtering, and heating systems.
- Drain the pool below the mouth of the skimmer inlet to keep water out of the pumping system.
The process is a bit different for above-ground vinyl pools:
- Insert plugs into the pool filter water intake and outflow openings.
- Disconnect all hoses from the pool and let drain. Store these some place dry and sheltered.
- For garage storage, cap the ends with PVC pipe caps and duct tape to keep mice out.
- Disconnect and drain all water heaters, pumps, filters, skimmers, automatic chlorinator or salt chlorinator. Store these in a warm, dry place to prevent because plastic can become brittle from the cold.
- Lastly, inflate and deploy the pool pillows. Then secure the cover over the pool so it doesn’t blow away and so the pool pillows can help any accumulation of ice or water drain easily away.
Your Home’s Exterior
Your home’s exterior takes a lot of punishment from winter weather. You can reduce it by taking a little time to tidy up your home’s exterior before the wind and cold arrive:
- Clear clumps of wet leaves from corners, especially where they come in contact with siding.
- Clear leaves between house foundation and shrubs to promote air circulation and reduce humidity. This reduces the chance of moisture and mildew infiltrating your home through unseen gaps in your house’s mudsill, joist band, siding, or windows.
- Make sure any outside spigots and faucets are protected from the cold. Cover them with insulated faucet covers.
- Clear any yard debris from around your HVAC system’s outside condenser. Avoid using plastic covers — many professional have found covering the unit encourages rust and provides a warm place for mice to chew insulation and collect wiring for nesting material.
- Put a piece of 1/2” plywood over the top fan venting to prevent damage from ice and help keep leaves from being blown inside.
- Put summer patio furniture in storage so it’s out of the cold weather and away from the sun.
- Disconnect, drain, and store garden hoses.
Don’t Forget the Yard
- Mow your yard one last time. Cutting your grass (no shorter than 2 inches) allows it to store food for spring growth, while preventing snow and ice from matting it down, which can cause disease and fungus problems.
- Compost and mulch around trees and in gardens to help restore nutrients for spring.
- Seed the bare spots in your lawn by putting down some “weed and feed.”
- Don’t prune trees and shrubs until spring, but do cut out the dead branches.
We hope you have enjoyed our Fall Home Maintenance Series! In case you missed earlier installments, we discussed your HVAC system in Part 1, fireplaces and chimneys in Part 2, and doors and windows in Part 3. For more tips about taking care of your house throughout the year, please check out the Home Improvement section of the Live Brighter Blog.