One of the best ways to celebrate winter is curling up on the couch with a hot drink and a good book. One of the worst ways is frantically calling an HVAC maintenance specialist during the first snowstorm of the year because your heat has suddenly stopped working. Yet many Treasure Valley homeowners still skip basic maintenance and home checks each season until they have an emergency on their hands.
That’s a hard and expensive lesson to learn–and one you can avoid with a few easy steps each fall. Below, we’ve outlined everything you need to keep in mind to get your Boise-area home ready for a cozy, emergency-free winter.
Inspect Your Roof
You may not be thinking of selling your home at the moment, but simple annual maintenance will save you a headache–and perhaps thousands of dollars–if you ever do. Some of the most common (and expensive) repairs that show up on inspection and appraisal reports are due to a lack of maintenance–and as you can imagine, roofs are a big one. Repairing and replacing shingles is much easier and less expensive than replacing an entire roof, which is why inspecting your roof is a great thing to do each season.
You can easily hire a roof inspector for this job, or if you’re up to it, you can do it yourself. The key is to look for loose, damaged or missing shingles that need replacing. While you’re up there, make sure to check around the chimney flashing or any other roof openings (like skylights and vents), which are prone to leaks. You’ll want to get those patched up before Boise’s first snow of the season.
Clean and Maintain Gutters and Downspouts
Most homeowners remember to clear their gutters of leaves each fall, but there’s a little more involved in keeping your gutters in tip-top shape. Annual ice and snowpack can cause gutters to sag and detach over time, which in turn can cause external damage to your house. In addition to checking them for leaves and debris, ensuring your gutters are securely fastened to your roof will help preserve the integrity of your roof and siding.
Also be sure to check that your downspouts clear the side of your house by at least five feet–this will help prevent flooding and damage to your foundation during winter storms.
Check for Depressions and Holes Next to Your Foundation
As you might have gathered by now, from the peak of your roof to your foundation, water is your home’s biggest enemy. One simple, proactive step you can take to protect your home is to walk around the perimeter and check for depressions in the soil next to the foundation. These low spots often develop over time. If you’re not careful, they collect and funnel water directly into your crawl space and basement. If you find depressions or holes, you can fill them with a high clay-content sand (or topsoil), which is less porous than soil and won’t easily erode.
Examine Your Siding for Damage
Water doesn’t just destroy your foundation, it can also get behind your siding and lead to expensive structural damage. This doesn’t just apply to wood siding–even siding that is advertised as “leakproof” won’t protect your home from water damage if there’s a small gap in it. These small gaps can lead to big problems later on, so be sure to check your siding for them as well as holes, curling paint, cracking, splitting, rot and other signs of damage.
It’s also important to pay special attention to outside corners and trim around windows and doors, which are great spots for moisture to seep in.
Blow Out Your Sprinklers
Getting your yard ready for a long winter slumber is just as important as your house. If you have sprinklers, schedule to get them blown out by the end of November, at the latest–or risk getting a busted sprinkler line during one of the Treasure Valley’s many cold spells. This service costs less than $100 in the Boise area. In addition, make sure all of your garden hoses are disconnected and your outside water faucets are drained.
It’s also productive to spend the last of fall’s warm days by fertilizing and seeding your lawn, and trimming your trees and shrubs. Your plants will thank you for the attention when they awaken next spring.
Check Your Fireplace and Fire Safety Equipment
Before you strike a match on your first winter fire, make sure you’ve checked your fireplace and chimney for creosote buildup–a sticky, black, tar-like substance that builds up with each fire you light. Creosote is incredibly flammable, so as the amount of it builds up in your fireplace and chimney flue, so does your risk of a chimney fire.
Fortunately, it’s an easy problem to diagnose. Look for black soot around your fireplace’s opening. You can also use a poker to scratch above your dampener and if you find traces of it, call a chimney sweep. Also be sure to close the damper to check for drafts. If you feel a breeze or coldness, your damper may be damaged or rusted, and may need replacing.
Fall is also a great time to check that your carbon monoxide detectors are working, and to inspect your fire extinguishers.
Service Your HVAC System
While people prize their HVAC systems in both Idaho’s hot summers and frigid winters, few people take the simple steps to ensure they’re running smoothly. For homes on the market, HVAC issues are among the most common home inspection items we see. Yet the problems they have are often avoidable with regular maintenance. An inspection can reveal issues like wear, tear, rust and leaks that require immediate repair. Technicians will also check for electrical failures and airflow, giving you peace of mind knowing that your home will stay warm, regardless of whatever winter weather throws our way. If you skip a full inspection, at the very least, change your furnace filter.
Winterize Your AC System
Similar to your HVAC system, properly taking care of your air conditioning system will save you a ton of money in the long run–and ensure it's always performing at its best. You don’t want to discover your AC system is on the fritz during Boise’s first 100-degree summer day!
That’s why in the fall, it’s important to clean off the outside condensing unit. A simple spray hose will do the trick. Then let the unit dry completely before covering it with a breathable, waterproof cover for winter.
If you have window air conditioner units, it’s best to remove and store them for winter to avoid cold drafts in your home. This is also the perfect time to wrap, insulate and drain sediment from your water heater, which will increase your water heater’s lifespan and efficiency.
Protecting Your Home While Traveling
One of the most stressful parts of traveling during the holidays is worrying about frozen, busted pipes and flooding that can happen while you’re away. If you’re vacationing October-April, set your home’s heat at a minimum of 55 degrees for new construction homes or 60 degrees for older homes to avoid frozen pipes.
If your home is newer construction, you can also turn off the main water valve when traveling to help prevent water leaks and serious damage if your plumbing fails. (We do not recommend this for older homes.)
If you take these simple steps, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that your home and yard are prepared to successfully winter the weather–and you and your family will be, too.
Lisa is a top Idaho Realtor and creator of WeKnowBoise.com. Whether buying or selling a home, we provide full-service real estate solutions dedicated to helping our clients achieve their goals. From Southeast Boise to the North End, up to Eagle and west to Meridian, or right in the middle of the Boise Bench and downtown - We Know Boise.
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