TIPS and CHECKLISTS
There is truth to the old adage that “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” – especially when it comes to taking care of your home. A regular schedule of preventative home maintenance can thwart a host of expensive problems down the road and keep your house in tip-top condition. Preventative maintenance is also far easier than waiting until something breaks and then having to scramble to get it fixed.
Winter weather can be harsh on your home. The below-freezing temperatures can cause a number of problems, including frozen pipes and roof damage. To prevent winter harm and avoid calling a professional in the middle of a blizzard, be sure to check these winter items off your home maintenance checklist:
- Cover your air-conditioning unit.
- Check basement for leaks during thaws.
- Inspect the roof, gutters, and downspouts for damage after storms.
- Vacuum bathroom exhaust fan grill.
- Vacuum refrigerator and freezer coils and empty and clean drip trays.
- Clean drains in sinks, tubs, showers, and dishwashers.
Bring out the snow blower. Make sure your snow blower is in good working order before it snows. You do not want to be caught in the first major storm with only an orange shovel to dig you out, Send the snow blower to a small-engine repair company for a tune-up. Some companies will pick up and drop off your equipment for you. Expect to spend $60 to $200, depending on the size of your blower, Make sure you have gasoline and motor oil.
Stock up on supplies. Stock up on ice melt before the Weather Channel tells you a storm is coming. Pet owners and parents should shop carefully, as chemicals in ice melt can harm pets and people alike, if ingested. Look for brands free of salt or chloride. But even products billed as “pet safe” can still harm your pet, so wipe their paws and don’t let them lick treated snow. Ice-melting products can also damage your foliage, so use sparingly. Make sure your shovel survived last winter because you will need to dig out of stairways and narrow pathways, even if you have a blower.
Ice dams. When ice accumulates along the eaves of your roof, it can cause a dam that can damage gutters, shingles and siding. As water leaks into your house, it can wreak havoc on your paint, your floors and your insulation. Throughout the winter, inspect the exterior of your home regularly for signs of ice dams. Look for icicles, because the same forces create dams. Consider buying a roof rake. This $30 tool will help keep ice off your roof in the first place by removing fresh snow from your roof after a storm. Do not hack away at the ice, as that could harm you or your roof
INSIDE YOUR HOME
Heating systems. Check and change filters on your heating system, as filters need to be replaced anywhere from twice a year to once a month. Keep an eye on the water levels in your boiler to make sure they do not fall too low.
Frozen pipes. When water freezes in pipes, it expands, damaging or cracking the pipes. When the ice melts, and the pipe bursts, your home fills with water. Pipes near the outside of your home are at greatest risk, like outdoor faucets, pipes in an unheated garage or swimming pool supply lines. A few tips:
- Shut off and drain outdoor faucets before the cold weather hits.
- Insulate pipes where you can.
- On cold days and nights, keep the cabinets below sinks open to let warm air in.
- You can also run the faucet at a drip to keep water moving.
- Keep the thermostat set at a steady temperature.
- If you go away, set the thermostat to a minimum of 55 degrees, according to the American Red Cross.
- Generator. A portable generator can provide you with a lifeline in a blackout Power it up every three months, and have it serviced twice a year (even if you never use it). Keep fuel and motor oil on hand in the event of a storm. Do not let fuel sit in the tank for long periods of time, as that can damage it. Check it regularly for corrosion and wear.
Winter storm prep. A heavy winter storm can leave you housebound for days. Stock up on wood for the fireplace, gas for the snow blower and canned food and bottled water, in case you lose power. Check your emergency supply kit for batteries, a radio, a first-aid kit and any medicines you may need. Check in on neighbors who may need help shoveling out (a little camaraderie in a storm goes a long way).
Home Safety Tips
Home safety is an important part of preventative home maintenance. You can avoid personal injury by following a few safety tips.
- Avoid overloading extension cords and electrical outlets.
- Turn off appliances when you are not using them.
- Do not store flammable liquids such as paint supplies near heating units.
- Keep flammable objects such as dish towels, curtains, and aprons away from stoves, and don’t wear loose fitting clothing while cooking.
- If a pan catches fire, cover it with a lid and turn off the heat.
- If a fire gets out of control, immediately leave the house and call the fire department using a neighbor’s phone or a cell phone.
- Develop an escape route out of your house and practice it once a month with your family.
- Create a family disaster preparedness plan.
- Establish a meeting place outside your home and the neighborhood in case of a community disaster such as flooding, mudslides, earthquakes, or radiological and hazardous materials accidents. Make sure everyone in the family knows how to contact each other if you get separated.
- Establish an out-of-state contact (relative or friend) that you can call after the disaster to pass the word around that you and your family are okay.
- Assemble a disaster survival kit and stock emergency supplies. You will need:
- A three-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day.)
- A three-day supply of ready to eat canned meats, vegetables, and fruit for each person.
- A change of clothing and footwear for each person.
- A first-aid kit that includes prescription medicines.
- One sleeping bag or blanket per person.
- A battery-powered radio and flashlight and extra batteries.
- Special need items such as diapers, formula, baby bottles, denture and contact lenses supplies.
- A credit card, cash, or traveler’s checks.
- Tools and supplies such as paper plates, cups, and plastic utensils; a battery powered radio, flashlight, extra batteries, non-electric can opener, tube tent, plastic storage containers, compass, matches and plastic sheeting.
- Sanitation needs will include toilet paper; soap and liquid detergent; personal hygiene items; plastic garbage bags, plastic bucket with a tight lid; and household chlorine bleach.