Fall is already upon us and Old Man Winter is coming in next. Now is the perfect time to take advantage of cool autumn days to get the outside of your home and property ready for the winter season. We recently published an article on winterizing your home from the inside and now we would like to share with you ways to do the same for the outside of your home.
- Clean out your gutters – plenty of leaves and old branches find their way to the ground this time of year and some of that debris is going to land in your gutters. Be sure that all gutters are clear of leaves, dirt and debris that can impede the flow of melting snow. While you have access to your gutters, take a close look at your roof as well to determine if any leaks or damage needs repair before the first snowfall.
- Drains away from the house – As the snow and ice melts and refreezes throughout the winter you are going to want to ensure that any excess water is taken away from the foundation of your house. This is an important factor all year long, but in the winter months, any water that makes its way towards your foundation can then refreeze, expand and cause significant damage. Make sure drains lead water at least 6 feet away from your foundation and check your dirt grade. Low areas should be filled in with more dirt to try and ramp the water away from your home.
- Turn off the outside water – First find the indoor water shut off for all of your outside water lines. If you cannot find the shut off valve you may need to have a plumber point this out to you. Next go outside and turn on all of the hose spigots to let the water drain out completely. Don’t forget to drain all hoses as well. As for irrigation systems, the best way to drain them is with the use of an air compressor. You can attach the compressor to the main irrigation line and blow all excess water out of the lines so they do not freeze and burst. This may require hiring an irrigation specialist, but will certainly beat the price of digging up and replacing burst lines come spring time. Bird baths and anything else that might freeze up and break needs to be drained and prepped for the freeze as well.
- Seal the chimney – About every 4 to 5 years you should reseal your chimney to prevent damage caused by leaks. If you are comfortable on a tall ladder then you can apply a clear acrylic water sealant to the outside of the chimney whether it is brick, block or cement. Applying the sealant is pretty much just like painting a wall. Thompson’s Water Seal Multi-Surface Waterproofer is a good choice and comes highly recommended by professionals. If you are not comfortable with heights while working on a ladder then you may want to hire a pro.
- Seal the chimney – You also want to make sure your chimney is clear of anything. Birds routinely nest in chimneys which is something that can lead to dangerous carbon monoxide build up. Even after you’ve cleaned your chimney, you should get a device for carbon monoxide gas detection. It could save your life.
- Inspect your decks and walkways – look for splintering and other signs of wear in your wooden decks. It might be time for another layer of sealant to help it get through the winter season without further damage. As for paved surfaces on your property it is a good idea to look for cracks, loose pavers or missing mortar. Fixing a loose paver is pretty straight-forward. With a little bit of paver sand you can lift the loose paver, add a little paver sand and then use a rubber mallet to help reseat the paver in a secure position. For missing mortar and cracks you can either mix some mortar up then use a trowel to replace it or get yourself some Quikrete caulk to seal up the problem. If water is able to get into these cracks, freeze and expand, you are probably going to have an even bigger repair job come spring.
- Assume ice will be everywhere – Keep plenty of sidewalk salt on hand for the upcoming season. Icy walkways are the number one reason for injury outside of the home during winter. Check all of the handrails on any outside stairs to make sure they are safe and secure. You should also do an inspection of outdoor lighting around your home so that you can easily see any ice on the walkways to minimize the chance of a slip and fall happening.
- Remove dead branches – Trimming your tree for any dead branches will stop them from becoming iced over or blown off by the wind. Pay special attention to any branches that are too close to your home or power wires. An iced over branch can be very harmful to your home, power wires and anyone that may get in their way. Even small branches can become very heavy and deadly when covered in ice.
- Aerate, seed, fertilize, mulch – To help your landscaping look its best come spring time you should first aerate your lawn while the temperatures are still warm. Aerating now allows more water to get to the grass roots where it is still needed until the freeze hits. If seeding is necessary then you should add that now as well. This will give the seeds a little head start to root themselves before the spring thaw. Next you should apply fertilizer to your lawn during November to give the grass plenty of nourishment to survive the winter. You should also add fertilizer to your shrubs in November as well. For our last landscaping tip you can help to create a good looking yard for the winter by pulling up any dead plants and flowers. Clear out any sticks and leaves as well. Use a rake to aerate the soil in your flowerbeds and then mulch all of the stuff you just cleared away. Not only will it make your flower beds look nice, but it will also help prevent insects from nesting under any debris.
- Prep the patio furniture – A simple solution of soap and water can clean off summer dirt and debris from almost any patio furniture. Once clean you need to decide whether the furniture can be stored outdoors or needs to come inside. Cushions can be machine washed and should be stored indoors completely dry to avoid any mildew and mold. For the furniture itself, most hardwoods will fair just fine in the outdoor winter weather. Softer woods, thin aluminum and plastic furniture should more than likely be brought in to help protect it. Any furniture that is left outdoors should be covered with a breathable Gore-Tex type of fabric. This fabric allows moisture to escape from underneath the cover while preventing any outdoor moisture from penetrating. Be sure the covers are pulled tight to eliminate any pooling of water that can then freeze.
- Get the garage ready – Whether you keep your tools and shovels in a garage or shed you should organize them now so you are not scrambling to dig things out at the first sign of snow. You won’t need your gardening tools for a while so give them a quick clean and store them toward the back of your storage area. Keep items like snow shovels, ice breakers, the snow blower and rock salt with easy access. This is also a good time to inventory any liquids in your garage or shed that might freeze. Probably a good idea to find a temporary place to store them inside.
Tending to these outdoor tasks and giving your home a good once-over before the year’s first frost is going to make your winter a little more enjoyable. By being proactive with these responsibilities you are going to really extend the lifespan of everything outside of your home and you won’t be out in the cold winter air trying to catch up or make repairs.