Houseplans Blog

Winterizing Your Home

Winterizing Your Home
A well sealed house lets winter do its worst while you stay warm
Is your house ready for cold, wind, rain, ice, and snow? It’s important to seal the outer envelope of your home and to prepare for temperature swings. Start at the top of the house with a thorough roof inspection. Loose or broken shingles should be replaced, flashing around chimney and vents should be checked and if necessary sealed with Henry Plastic Roof Cement or a similar asphalt based sealant. Gutters and downspouts should be cleaned out and tested to make sure that there are no leaks and that they are well attached. Where the downspouts reach the ground, they should be angled away from the house to ensure that water is directed away from the foundation.

Check Wood Siding, Stucco, or Brick
If your house is sheathed in wood siding or stucco,  the exterior paint is your first defense against water. All loose paint should be scraped off and replaced with a good quality primer and two coats of exterior paint. Stucco exteriors should have all cracks filled with a good quality stucco caulk. For holes larger than 3/8” use stucco patch. For brick houses, check mortar to make sure that none is loose or missing. Repoint any missing or loose mortar. Once you’re satisfied that the exterior envelope is patched, painted and sealed, it’s time to take on window casings and trim. All trim should be well painted and sealed and the caulk should be inspected. If caulk is dried out or missing, use a good quality silicon caulk to seal all trim around windows and doors. Lastly, check the windows to make sure the material that holds the glass in place (such as DAP 33 Window Glazing) is in good condition well painted. This is another place for water to penetrate and cause dry rot. Remove any loose material and replace, prime and paint. The windows themselves should be well painted and sealed. Unpainted windows rot quickly and are expensive to replace.

Prepare Decks and Porch for Weather
Both Decks and Porches require maintenance in order to last long and look good. If a deck is discolored or dirty, it should be washed and brightened with wood bleach before adding a protective coat. After washing wait a minimum of four days before applying  a protective finish. We recommend using oil based products such as Messmer’s UV Plus. This is the best product we know of for repelling water and protecting your deck. It is available in a clear finish or a finish mixed with a stain. See Messmer’s web site to view colors that are available. Oil-based deck finishes should be applied every two years for best results.

For porches we recommend a very hard porch paint such as U.G.L.’s Drylock product. This paint is very hard and stands up well to wear. Drylock comes in a  range of colors,  all of which can be tinted to your taste. Porches should be scraped  and painted every four to five years depending on the exposure. Drylock is self priming and should be applied as two thin coats rather than one thick coat. For homeowners who want a bulletproof system for protecting their porches, they can chose GacoDeck. This is a rubberized product that should be applied in three or four coats. It is more work and more money but it is a complete waterproof system and will last seven years between applications.

Winterize Doors and Windows
Once you’re sure the exterior is well sealed it’s time to check doors and windows for weather striping. In colder climates, consider installing storm windows. If you already have storm windows, make sure they fit well and don’t leak. In very cold climates, add window wrap to the inside. Window wrap can be purchased at your local hardware store and makes a big difference in energy conservation. Improperly sealed homes can add up to 15% to your heating bill. Every pipe, duct or wire that penetrates to the outside can leak air. Seal all holes with caulk.

All attics should be insulated to keep the heat in. Don’t forget to insulate the hatch door that opens into the attic. Attic insulation has the highest payback for your energy investment. In colder climates, it is also beneficial to insulate the crawlspace. Use the highest R Value recommended for your region.

Check the fireplace to make sure it’s clean and well functioning. Make sure that the damper closes well so that warm air is not drawn out of the room. The smoke chamber should be checked for a build up of soot. Use a flashlight and mirror to look up the flue. Check for cracks or holes in the mortar.  

Exterior Pipes
Cover all exterior pipes and insulate with Styrofoam or similar insulating wraps. Disconnect all hoses. Turn off the shutoff valve if there is one inside your house. If you have an irrigation system, drain the pipes before the first frost.

Test Your Sump Pump
Add water and make sure your pump comes on.

Furnace Inspection
Replace your filters religiously. Dirty filters make the system work harder and can lead to premature failures.
Have your furnace serviced by a professional. This should be done every two or three years for a natural gas system and annually for an oil burning furnace. The inspector will make sure the system achieves the manufacturer specified efficiency and will usually check for CO2 leakage as well. Duct work should be checked and tape added as needed. This is important both beneath the house and in the attic. You don’t want warmed air escaping into your attic. Ducts should also be insulated in the crawl space or the attic.

Home Energy Audit
To bring your home to the highest level of energy efficiency, consider having a professional home energy audit. The inspector will use scientific methods such as an infrared detector to measure heat transfer rates (R Values). Such an audit usually costs several hundred dollars but pays for itself in energy savings. It can help you determine cost effective ways to improve the efficiency of your home.

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