Fall home improvement: preparing for the winter season

(Rugged Minnesotans know what lies ahead in the weather department, needing little reminder that there will be snow, cold, ice and wind chill in the coming months. However, whether they head south as 'Snowbirds' or remain in the Gopher State for the duration, there are several things which can be done to prepare a house for the winter weather—the 'Survivors' will be more comfortable during the winter months and the 'Snowbirds' will have peace of mind knowing their northern home was ready for cold weather. Here are some tips for outside and inside home improvement preparations):

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Outside the home

• Check your windows and trim. Fall is a great time to paint, but don't use latex paint when the temperature drops below 50 degrees.

• Check steps, walks and driveways. Small holes and cracks should be repaired to prevent water from penetrating, freezing and creating larger problems. The homeowner can repair small ones, but larger problems need professional help.

• Roofing. Replace damaged shingles, patch damaged flashing and remove surface debris to facilitate watershed and prevent leaks. A safety suggestion: Use binoculars to inspect shingles and flashings without getting on the roof and putting yourself in danger.

• Weather stripping and caulk application will reduce air leaks, which saves money on energy bills and increases comfort of the home. Common areas which may need work are around windows and doors, cracks where chimneys and fireplaces penetrate and gaps around the dryer, bath and kitchen vents. For information on how to weatherize and which products are best, contact the Minnesota Department of Commerce Energy Information Center at 651-296-5175 or 1-800-657-3710.

• Check the siding. Caulk and patch gaps and cracks to prevent leaks and damage which follows. Prime raw siding as a temporary waterproofing and then do a thorough job in spring. Seal brick exteriors with a high-quality masonry sealer to prevent freeze-thaw damage.

• Replace the siding. Many homeowners are having new permanent siding installed, and in many cases insulation and siding is put right over the existing exterior, providing two additional layers of protection.

• Clean the gutters and check them for leaks. Once again, safety is the prime concern, as many people are injured by falling off ladders. There are many new and efficient gutter products available. Check with a professional for what would best serve the needs of your home.

• Check drainage around the home to be sure downspouts are not discharging water at the base of the foundation. Provide grading away from the home if necessary.

• Landscape irrigation lines should be blown out to prevent damage from freezing.

• Complete the lawn chores of fall such as fertilizing, raking, final mowing(s), and general cleanup. Cleaning up in fall is much easier since debris becomes matted down and difficult after a long winter.

• Clean and store lawn and patio furniture which will then be ready for the coming of spring.

• Clean the garage and/or storage sheds to make room for winter snow removal and recreational equipment.

• Later in the fall, have the snow removal equipment ready. Having the equipment serviced early will ensure yours will be available when needed, rather than waiting for that first snowfall when the service people are swamped with calls. Also, don't forget to locate those ice scrapers and brushes for the car and have plenty of fluid in the windshield washer tank.

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Inside the home

• Replace smoke-alarm batteries so the unit will work if needed and make sure there is at least one carbon monoxide detector in the home. Test older units with a smoke device or replace them..

• Insulate your attic, for a well-insulated and properly ventilated attic will save on heating bills and prevent possibly dangerous and damaging ice dams.

• Inspect your fireplace for creosote-lined flues that are a fire hazard. Have it cleaned by a professional if necessary. Gas fireplaces also operate more efficiently if properly serviced by people who are trained for the work.

• Replace those filters. Many service technicians recommend changing furnace filters monthly to improve air flow and efficiency and lower your utility costs. You may also consider installing decorative ceiling fans to move heated air trapped near the ceiling, which lowers the heating bill and reduces condensation on windows and glass doors.

• Schedule furnace and water heater checkups and servicing with a contractor or local utility. Don't wait until cold weather hits and the service people have to put you on a list.

• Questions? Check with suppliers and service contractors in this Fall Section for information on preparing your home for the winter season!

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New Prague, MN 56071

Phone: 952-758-4435
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