A man is using a caulking gun to fill in cracks in the siding of his house.

Preparing your house for the winter months!

By Janet Galant, OFNTSC Senior Housing Policy Lead

It’s that time of year again to make sure you keep the winter weather from entering into your home through the little cracks and gaps that may occur during the warmer months.  By checking these various items before the temperatures drop will save you time and money and likely reduce your chance of having to do any major repairs to your exterior in the cold winter months.

  1. Check windows and screens for cracks and separations in the caulking. 

Not only will the caulking reduce the draft coming into your house, but it will also reduce the chance of having little critters making their way in to a warmer climate.  Fill the cracked or missing caulking joints with exterior grade caulking.  Don’t forget to check pipe openings also!

  1. Check shingles and flashing for any lifted parts and ensure vents are sealed properly.

A man on a roof is using a caulking gun to fill in gaps in the shingles

It may be impossible to catch every lifted piece of shingle or flashing on the roof but looking for areas that look like they may have been compromised by weather can save you major repair to your roof and potentially attic insulation and ceiling finish.  And again, be sure to use exterior grade caulking where you see a potential for weather to enter the building envelope. 

  1.  Inspect and/or clean out septic tank if it has been a while.

A tube is coming out of a hole in the ground where the septic tank is

If you forgot to inspect and pump your septic tank in the spring, now may be a better time to do this than in the cold winter months when the snow has accumulated.  For minimal preventative maintenance, most septic companies recommend your septic tanks be inspected and pumped every 3-5 years depending on the number of bedrooms and use.  The cost may range from $100 to $300.  It’s worth the money if it’s been a while, just to have peace of mind. 

  1.  Winterize any landscaping and remove leaves.

A person is raking leaves outside

Keeping a thick layer of leaves in your lawn through the winter will smother your lawn.  This thick layer can invite pests to burrow and cause damage for your lawn once the snow has melted. The best thing you can do, according to David Mizejewski from the National Wildlife Federations, is to cut up your leaves with a lawnmower and drop them in a flower bed or another part of your lawn that doesn’t get leave cover.  If you compost, you can add them to that too.

  1. Check eavestroughs and downspouts for debris.

An eavestrough is overflowing with leaves and debris

Removing the debris from your eavestroughs and downspouts prior to a heavy rain will prevent backflow in the spring, potentially damaging your walls, soffits, fascia, siding, basements and foundations.  The pooled water can start to eat away at gutter materials which can cause holes and leaks.  Wet gutter interiors can also attract insects!

  1.  Shut off exterior water supply.

A water valve

Typically, there is a shut off valve located in the basement or crawlspace of your home that is for the exterior water supply used for your garden hose.  Turning this off before the colder weather will prevent your pipes from bursting causing damage to your basement or crawlspace.  To do this, find the pipe in your house that leads to your outside faucet.  Turn the valve clockwise until it stops turning.  If there is a on/off lever, turn it to the off position or clockwise.  Once this is done, be sure to go outside to release any trapped water in the line.

  1. Lastly, check and clean your HRV filter and furnace filters.

A dusty old musty air filter is being pulled out of the HVAC system

This is a good time to schedule the maintenance of your HVAC equipment filters.  It will be kept as a reminder to do this during this time of year.  Simply remove your Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV) filter (while the unit is off) and wash with dish soap and water.  Rinse thoroughly to get the soap out.  Change or vacuum your furnace filter if possible.  The cycle for changing your furnace filter may vary depending on the size of your home, pets and type of filter you have.  Be sure to check your furnace filter manufacturer’s recommendation for replacement.