5 Tips to Prep your Home for Winter

Homeowners in the Midwest do not need to be fans of the show Game of Thrones to know that winter is coming. With subzero temperatures and precipitation that can freeze, thaw, and freeze again, the structural and functional integrity of a home is constantly threatened during the winter.  Homeowners that take proactive steps in the fall to protect their home from the elements will be able to rest easier (and warmer) than those who wait until something goes wrong.

At Towne & Country Building Inspectors, we help individuals and families in Milwaukee understand their homes through expert home inspections so they can best care for this important asset. If your home is in an area where terms such as “snow day”, “blizzard”, and “white-out conditions” are part of the local vernacular, read the following five tips to prep your home for winter.

Check the HVAC System

If the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system in your home fails in the winter, you will notice very quickly. At the bare minimum, you should plan to replace the furnace air filter each fall. This is a simple DIY project that involves no more than a trip to the hardware store.  However, homeowners who want  extra peace of mind should consider contacting a local HVAC repair service to perform a maintenance inspection to determine if their system is in good working order. Some companies offer annual maintenance contracts. By establishing and maintaining a professional relationship with a trusted HVAC service in the fall, you will be able to reap the benefits of a fully-functioning HVAC system when you need it most.

Seal Exterior Wood

This is a general tip that can take many forms. For example, the wood trim that surrounds exterior windows is typically sealed with a bead of caulk specifically designed for outdoor use.  Although this caulk is designed to withstand the elements, it will eventually deteriorate and crack, allowing cold winter air through and into your home. Reapplying caulk around the exterior window trim can therefore help you save on heating by keeping the heat in. Painting after applying caulk adds another layer of protection from the elements. Finally, checking to ensure that your deck is sealed and protected will help prevent cracking and splitting as winter precipitation freezes and thaws. To test the sealant of your deck wood, simply drip some water on your deck.  If the water beads, the sealant is intact. However, if the water seeps into the wood, this is a sign you’ll want to apply a fresh coat of sealant before it gets too cold.

Ensure Proper Drainage

Adequate grading around your home is essential year-round, but in the winter it can mean protection from intense damage. As the ground freezes and thaws, the pressure changes can cause cracking around the foundation and into the walls and other structural supports. When you have a sufficient level of soil pitch against your home, water easily slides away from the foundation, ensuring the ground remains dry enough.

A rule of thumb for determining sufficient pitch is to place a tape measure at the top point of the soil that lies against the foundation. For every linear foot away from the foundation wall, you should have at least one inch of clearance perpendicular to the ground. For example, holding the tape measure straight atop the soil should show 3 inches of clearance when standing 3 feet away from the house. If there is less clearance, add more soil against the foundation to steepen the pitch.

Opt for soil with a high clay content. This soil will not retain water, allowing it to instead drip away from the home. Additionally, check your downspouts and gutters to make sure that water is draining far enough away from the home. If necessary, clean your gutters and add downspout extenders.

Drain Outdoor Faucets

If your outdoor faucets are not frost-free, it is very important that you drain them to avoid cracks and leaks caused by frozen water. To do this, simply shut off the water valve to your outdoor faucet, then turn on the faucet outside. As long as you get most of the water out, you should be just fine. You can leave the water shut off until you’re ready to use the faucet again in the spring. For an added layer of protection, you can put faucet protectors over the outdoor faucets.

Trim Nearby Trees

Trees and other plants that run against the side of your home are trouble waiting to happen.  Rainy wet branches bring moisture against the siding. When these wet branches freeze, they also scrape and scratch the siding, which over time can degrade its effectiveness.

At Towne & Country, our team of expert home and building inspectors can help you better understand how to care for your property. From historic homes to new construction, Towne & Country is Milwaukee, Waukesha, Wauwatosa, and Brookfield’s favorite home inspection team. Give us a call to get started today.