With school underway and long work days, it’s hard to remember to add yet another thing to your to do list such as the need to update your home for the changing season. Not many of us want to spend what little free time we have upkeeping the home. It’s true – cold weather, ice, and snow can do real damage to your home, especially during Illinois winters. But, you must take the time to prepare it before the cold comes!
It’s important to remember these five cold weather tips for homeowners:
Winter drafts can make your energy bill hefty — and take away from the cozy vibe you want inside your home when it’s cold outside — if your windows have any air leaks. But by reducing drafts you can lower your home’s energy costs by up to 20% per year, according to the U.S. Energy Department, while also making your living space more comfortable. Fight the Illinois wind with these five easy and cheap fixes!
- V-seal weather stripping. Add this plastic weather stripping along the sides of the sashes. Windows can open and shut evenly with the V-seal in place. (Pro tip: Weather stripping also works wonders on doors.)
- Rope caulk. This soft, sticky stuff can be molded to fill the gap — and the caulk removes easily at the end of the cold season.
- Shrink film. Applied with double-sided tape, this clear plastic sheeting shrinks drum-tight when heated with a hair dryer. The film seals off drafts and captures an insulating buffer of air. Use rubbing alcohol to help release the tape in the spring to avoid stripping off any paint.
- Nail polish. If carefully applied, clear polish fills the crack almost invisibly. Once hardened, it will stabilize the glass until you can replace it in the spring.
- Draft snake. If the bottom of your window is letting in cold air, buy a foam-and-fabric draft snake kit. Cut the 36-inch foam tube provided to length and slip the washable cover over it. Then place the snake on the sill, and shut the window on to seal the deal.
Trim Tree Branches
We all know how bipolar midwest weather can be. One day it’s 50 degrees and the next it’s 20 degrees and a winter storm. Don’t let the winter storm lose the wrath of that mighty tree whose branches are angling over your roof! Additionally, overhanging limbs can cause excess water to seep into cracks in your home’s roof or siding, which is why you want to make sure any tree limbs or branches surrounding your home are at least 3 feet away from the house.
Inspect Your Fireplace
Visually inspecting your home both on the inside and outside can ensure that your wood-burning fireplace is good to go for the harsh winter in Decatur. Things to keep in mind during your outdoor inspection:
- A chimney cap is present and in good condition.
- There is no bird nest or debris buildup on the cap.
- There are no tree limbs above or near the chimney.
- The mortar and bricks on the chimney aren’t crumbling or missing.
- The chimney rises at least 2 feet above where it exits the roof.
- The chimney crown — the sloping cement shoulders at the top of the chimney — is beveled, which helps air flow.
- The flue liner is visible above the chimney crown.
- The chimney is plumb and not leaning to one side or the other.·
- The roof flashing is tight against the chimney.
Things to keep in mind during your indoor inspection:
- The flue damper opens, closes, and seals properly.
- There are no combustible materials, such as animal nests, or other foreign objects in the flue.
- The fireplace surround, hearth, and firebox have no cracked bricks or missing mortar.
See any damage? Order a professional fireplace and chimney inspection. Inspection costs vary, on average, between $79 and $500, depending on whether you’re ordering a level-one or level-two inspection.
Gas fireplaces require less maintenance, but you should still:
- Inspect the glass doors for cracks or latch issues.
- Check that the gas logs are in the proper position.
- Turn gas off at the shut-off valve and test the igniter.
- Ignite the fire and look for clogged burner holes. If present, turn off gas and clear obstructions with a pin or needle.
Check the Roof
You certainly don’t want to find out you have a leaky roof after the first snow hits. A roof inspection can help you spot any potential issues.
Don’t want to get on the roof? No problem! Put those binoculars to use and do a thorough inspection from the ground.
Work your way around your house, looking for these defects:
- Cracked caulk or rust spots on flashing.
- Shingles that are buckling, curling, or blistering.
- Missing or broken shingles.
- Cracked and worn rubber boots around vent pipes.
- Masses of moss and lichen, which could signal the roof is decaying underneath. Black algae stains are just cosmetic.
Some roofing fixes are easy to do yourself, such as repairing shingles or calking flashing, if you’re comfortable working on a roof. If you’re not, you’ll want to consult a specialized roof inspector. Be prepared to pay between $119 and $296 for a standard roof inspection.
Clear Out Gutters and Downspouts
Clogged rain gutters or downspouts can damage your home’s foundation or cause ice dams, which can lead to expensive repairs. So, after the leaves have fallen, clean your gutters to remove leaves, twigs, and gunk. Be sure to make a leaf pile for the kiddos to jump into! Also, make sure the gutters aren’t sagging and trapping water, tighten gutter hangers and downspout brackets, and replace any worn or damaged materials.
Midwest winters can be harsh, but with these easy tips, surviving the cold will make you a true Decatur-an.