Checklist for getting home ready for winter

Home Work

December 13, 1998|By Karol V. Menzie and Ron Nodine

NOW THAT winter appears to actually be here, you may be getting daily -- and nightly -- reminders -- that you have leaky windows and doors. Or maybe you're still cold after the heater comes on, or maybe some uninvited critters have come inside to join you. Now is the time to take action, before the weather gets worse. Recently a reader from Baltimore wrote in and asked us to give a checklist for winterizing a house, so here it is:

* Windows -- Caulk interior and exterior gaps to prevent air and water infiltration. (Don't caulk the sash). If you have old single-pane windows, heat-shrink film insulation kits work well to stop drafts and provide a thermal air gap. The film is applied to the interior frame of the window. First you apply the two-sided tape, keeping it nice and straight and a uniform distance from the edge of the frame. Next apply the film -- this is best accomplished with two people. Stretch it gently and try to avoid any creases or wrinkles at the tape. Trim off the overlap with a razor and shrink the film with a blow dryer. If the application is done carefully, you will hardly notice that the film is there. Among the drawbacks to this system are that you can't open the windows in the winter, and in the spring, when you try to remove the tape, it can be difficult to get off.

* Doors -- Also caulk any gaps you can find. Weather-stripping can make a big difference on a door. There are several types to choose from, but whatever type you choose, the important thing is to seal the gap. If you can see daylight around the edges or under the door, air is getting in along with the light. Check under the door for leaks -- you may have to lie down on the floor to see this. Thresholds come in a variety of shapes, too. Some are adjustable, some may need only a new rubber strip, some may need to be replaced.

* Attics -- Check to see if the insulation above your ceiling is adequate. It should be a minimum of 9 inches thick. You want to insulate the heated space in your house (the ceiling) not the attic (the roof). The temperature in the attic space should be as close to the outside temperature as possible. This prevents condensation and ice damming.

* Heating systems -- Have your system checked by a professional if there is any question that it may need service. For forced-air systems, change the filter. For hot-water systems, bleed the radiators. For wood, pellet or oil systems, have the chimney flue cleaned.

* Water lines -- Close the inside valve to your outside faucet and open the outside valve. If you have exposed water pipes, take precautions to protect them. If you have a vacant house, shut off the water at the meter, drain the entire water system, put antifreeze in all the traps (toilets and sinks).

* Gutters -- Now is the time to clean out the gutters. If they become clogged, water will freeze in them and cause a number of problems.

* Painting -- It's unlikely you will be able to find a painter to do exterior work this late in the year. However, if you have exposed exterior wood, it would be a good idea to at least get a coat of primer on it to protect it from the weather.

* Cracks in driveways, sidewalks, foundation walls -- Seal them with an appropriate caulk or sealer so water can't get in; otherwise it will freeze there and make cracks worse.

* Mice -- This is the time of year they'd like to move indoors where it's nice and toasty. If you can figure out where they're getting in, seal up the holes or crevices with steel wool (something they can't chew through). Karol has this problem every winter, because her house backs up to woods. For some reason the problem was especially bad this year, but she finally beat them (she thinks) with a pair of small ultrasonic sound emitters that keep them away. Hers came from a catalog, at $19.95 each; but check home-improvement centers and hardware stores.

* Finally, if you can't face all this, head for Florida, and leave winter problems behind.

Ron Nodine is owner of American Renovator Inc., a Baltimore design-build remodeling firm, and current president of the Remodelors Council of the Home Builders Association of Maryland. Karol Menzie is a feature writer for The Sun.

If you have questions, tips or experiences to share about working on houses, e-mail Ron at henovator.net or Karol at karol.menzialtsun.com. Or write c/o HOME WORK, The Sun, N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278. Questions of general interest will be answered in the column; comments, tips and experiences will be reported in occasional columns.

Pub Date: 12/13/98

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