Real Estate Q&A: Easy steps to winterize Grand Valley homes
YOUR JOURNEY HOME
Free Press Real Estate Columnist
Q. We became home owners earlier this year, and our first winter is approaching. Can you give us some suggestions on how to winterize the house?
A. Congratulations on your new home ownership and your responsible, proactive outlook on preparation for winter.
Since you did not ask for any particular prep, let’s start at the roof. If you have a swamp cooler or two up there, they will need to be drained for the winter. Many people like to do this themselves while others will use a plumbing company (or the same company that deals with the lawn irrigation system). If you do it yourself, be sure to detach and drain the water pipes completely from the cooler back to the water heater or water source. If those pipes are not blown out with pressurized air, water may remain in there that can freeze in winter and crack one of those pipes. This in turn could cause an attic water leak next summer when the water is reconnected.
Then take a look in the gutters. Even if they are not filled with leaves, gutters often fill with blown sand. Leaves or sand, clean it out so melt water can move freely through the gutters this winter.
Also on the roof, look around for missing shingles or loose shingles that need to be nailed back down. Winter winds can be vicious on shingles, ad an icy winter roof is not a safe place to be.
If you see an electrical wire running up your gutter downspouts or a zig-zag pattern of electric wires tacked on the roof edges, you have ice damming issues in the winter. This is most typical on north-facing roofs or areas of complex roof lines. Be sure those “thaw” wires are well attached and the electricity running to them has not been interrupted. Once snow flies, you’ll want to turn on these wires to melt ice that forms along the roof eves, which is the area sticking out past the vertical walls of the house. The thaw wires are also installed to melt ice or prevent freezing in the gutters and down spout.
At the opposite end of the house, do you have a crawl space? If so, going down there is necessary — at least once. There are probably vents around the perimeter of your foundation. Those should have been open for summer ventilation, letting warm moist air escape. To keep the house warmer and assure pipes down there will be less likely to freeze, close the vents for winter to keep out frigid air. The dirt floor or the crawl space should also be covered with a heavy duty clear plastic sheet. This prevents moisture from rising from the ground and condensing on the underside of the flooring members. If there is not plastic sheeting, install it. If it has tears, those should be repaired with duct tape to maintain a uniform and complete floor cover.
How do your doors look? If you can see daylight between the door and frame or if there is visibly broken or missing rubber seal material, that is a sure Saturday job before winter. Keep cold winter wind out by replacing door frame seal material. Sides and bottoms are all subject to deterioration in dry air and wind driven sand. Caulk around windows and doors is often dried out by our weather conditions or age; either way, check it and recaulk where it’s cracked or missing.
Walls are typically well insulated, but one place often left uninsulated is around electrical outlets along the interior walls. Take off the plastic faceplates and look around the edges of those little electrical boxes. If there is wall space with no insulation, fill that space with a handful of batt-type wall insulation. That will further cut down on cold air invasion.
The plumbing and HVAC companies love responsible homeowners this time of year because they are contacted to do inspections and maintenance of furnaces or boilers. Being a new home owner, ask the technician to explain the heating system to you, show you any shutoffs, how to relight pilot lights and any other tips and tricks they can offer. If you have a hot-water boiler, be sure they tell you about zone valves.
Outside the house, walk around looking up at the gutters and down at the area where gutter water reaches the ground. Be sure that water is directed away from the foundation. Water pooling along the foundation walls can possibly penetrate those walls and the crawl space, which is a bad situation in summer and even worse in winter. Be sure to disconnect water hoses and drain those exterior faucets. Both of these little tips may prevent hose bibs from freezing, which could possibly cause unexpected water leakage later at or near the wall where the hose bib emerges.
Doug Van Etten is a local Realtor with Cherry Creek Properties, a Colorado-wide realty firm that recently opened a Grand Junction office. Van Etten has been helping home buyers, sellers and investors accomplish their real estate goals since 1992. To contact him, email DouglasVanEtten@gmail.com.
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