Get Your Home Ready For Winter in Southeast Wisconsin
As a home inspector we often see the results of homes that have not been maintained properly and are damaged from winter weather. There are some easy things you can do to prevent damage to your house and get it ready for the cold weather coming.
Air conditioning condensers should not be run in cold temperatures. As a home inspector we don't check the air conditioning unless the temperature is 65 degrees or warmer. Running the air conditioning in colder weather can damage the condenser causing damage that may need to be repaired or worse the condenser may need to be replaced. A simple way to ensure the air conditioning is not inadvertently turned on when the weather is too cold is to turn off the air conditioner breaker on your electrical service panel. That way someone can't accidentally turn it on and create an expensive mistake. When your ready to use it when the weather turns warm simply turn the breaker back on.
The water for outdoor faucets should be turned off inside the house before freezing temperatures hit. If water is left in the pipe at the faucet and it's not a frost free faucet the water can freeze and burst the pipe. This could cause water leaking inside your home as well as a damaged pipe. If you have frost free faucets they are designed to shut the water off prior to getting to the outside portion of the faucet so they should not freeze. If the water shut off is easy to access it's better to just shut the water off inside the home even with frost free outdoor faucets.
Clean your gutters of debris. If your gutters are clogged with leaves and other debris they can't move water properly and can cause water leaking into your house if they get backed up. During the winter there are often times when the snow melts on your roof. If your gutters are clogged this can cause water problems and possible damage from moisture intrusion. It's better to clean them while the weather isn't bad and the snow and ice freeze int he gutters making them impossible to clean.
Paint, caulk, or seal any areas that need to be maintained on the exterior. Exterior wood and wood trim, areas where caulk or sealant is missing or worn, areas where moisture can penetrate into the home or behind the exterior coverings. If there are gaps in siding or areas where pipes or wires go into the home seal them up. It's critical during the winter to protect these areas due to freeze and thaw cycles which can create damage to these areas. It also prevents pests such as mice from making your home their home for the winter.
Have your fireplace and chimney maintained by a professional certified chimney technician. Many of the homes I inspect that have fireplaces and chimneys often have issues directly related to lack of maintenance. Many fireplaces are not regularly maintained and cleaned which can lead to creosote build up in the fireplace and chimney and cause a chimney fire. A fire in your fireplace is great, however, when it happens in your chimney thats a bad thing. Chimneys are seldom maintained and because they are often out of sight and out of mind they can be a significant problem. Ensure your fireplace is safe to use for the winter by having it professionally maintained.
Tune up your furnace. A furnace needs to be maintained and tuned up to ensure it is functioning properly and efficiently. It helps save energy costs and ensures when its bitterly cold outside your furnace will run and provide heat and not leave you calling a furnace technician because your furnace isn't working.
Divert water from your house by making sure gutters are extended at least 6 feet from the foundation to prevent water pooling around the foundation of your house and creating basement moisture issues.
Have your lawn irrigation system drained if you have one. Leaving water in the irrigation pipes can allow water in the pipes to freeze and damage the pipes creating costly repairs.
Test your sump pump and ensure it is running properly. Install a battery backup sump pump system to make sure water is being pumped out of your sump pit if the main pump fails or the power goes out. If you don't have a backup system and the power fails or the pump fails the water ends up in your basement.
These are just some of the things you should be working on to get your home ready for winter. Doing some work now will prevent future headaches and expensive repairs. At Dairyland Home Inspection we provide home inspections, radon testing, and mold testing in Racine, Milwaukee, Kenosha, Waukesha, Ozaukee, and Walworth Counties. Let us know if we can help you.
Bob Carter is a home inspector in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin. He is the owner of Dairyland Home Inspection.