We seldom stop to consider the exterior of our homes. We assume it’s weatherproof and was built to last. Living in an environment where the winters bring us periods of deep freeze followed by thaws and then more freezing, wreaks havoc on the exterior of our homes. Taking a few simple steps each fall will ensure your home is ready to withstand the elements dished out by Mother Nature each year.
A great deal of exterior home maintenance is visual and starts with a thorough inspection from top to bottom – paying special attention to any signs of wear and tear. Start with your roof – inspect it for curling or cracked shingles or and areas that water could penetrate. Repair these areas as needed. If your home is prone to ice damns (freezing water at the roofline) the problem may lie with the insulation inside the attic. For a temporary fix, consider installing radiant heat lines along your roof to prevent forming of ice damns over the winter months that could cause a great deal of water damage. Look for any small holes or openings around the roof line, soffits, fascia and in the flashing – keeping critters out is essential. Animals can cause extensive damage once they make their way into your attic space. Seal up any open spaces with a heavy gauge wire mesh to keep them out.
The adage “out of sight, out of mind” will not serve you or your home well heading into the winter. Check your chimney caps – repairing any cracks or replacing damaged bricks altogether, and repoint any missing or damaged mortar. Take a quick look inside your roof and at your attic. Make sure it is properly insulated and vented and that there are no sign of water damage, mould or critter nesting.
Moving down, look at the brickwork and woodwork around your home. Repair any cracks, damaged bricks or missing mortar.
If paint is chipping, peeling or cracking, or stain is showing its age anywhere, repaint and reseal these areas. The goal is to keep water from penetrating your home’s exterior surfaces.
Check your windows – Gently press a key or flat screw driver into any woodwork showing wear – if it gives at all or feels spongy, it’s time to repair or replace it.
Caulking is one of the most important maintenance items. Call a caulking expert, it’s worth the time and expense. They use superior products that are properly colour matched to each application and professionally applied.
Removing screens from inside of windows is one thing that is often overlooked. Screens prevent proper ventilation on the inside face of windows making them more prone to condensation. If you have older windows, consider sealing them with removable caulking or installing heat-shrinking plastic film to eliminate drafts and heat loss.
While most of us remember to turn off our outdoor taps, we may forget to drain the lines. This is especially important for both sprinkler systems and outdoor kitchen faucets. After shutting off the water, blow out the pipes to ensure there’s no water left in the lines that can freeze, which will ultimately break the piping. Take the time to remove your outdoor faucets and store them inside as most manufacturers will not warranty these items left out over winter months.
At the foundation level, check for any cracks or damage and have it repaired. Make sure that the earth is graded away from your home, allowing excess water an easy and direct path to anywhere but your basement. Take a quick look for any small holes or signs of penetration – keeping moisture, drafts and critters out of your basement is just as important as keeping them out of your attic. Caulk any small penetrations through the foundation wall with silicone or Polyurethane caulking.
As we tend to park in our garages more through the winter months, we need to pay special attention to the garage access door. Making sure it is properly sealed to keep carbon monoxide and cold drafts from entering your home. Replace worn weather stripping on these and other doors. Don’t forget the overhead doors either – Install a draft stop around and on the bottom to prevent cold air infiltration, especially if you have a room over your garage.
Have your furnace serviced and clean and/or replace filters. Invest in a good humidifier if your furnace doesn’t have one. Proper humidity levels in a house are important for your health and the health of your interior finishes. Evaporator type humidifiers work well for an average-sized house, however, for homes over 3000 square feet, invest in a steam humidifier. Finally, take the time to test all fire, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, changing batteries and replacing them as needed. The time and effort put into these small repairs in the fall will protect your biggest investment throughout the winter months.