Mike Holmes' Advice - Winter Home Maintenance Checklist

The information below was provided to us by Mike Homes. Visit his website at www.MakeItRight.ca


I get asked a lot about when’s the best time to prepare my home for winter. Most feel like their home is a full time job during these months because if you were following my fall maintenance checklist you would know it wasn’t that long ago that we were preparing for fall.

The end of the year can be hard on your home, you first to have to deal with falling leaves, cold drafts but now you need to prepare for Old Man winter and the harm he can do to your home. There are some simple steps you can take to winterize your home.

Change Your Furnace Filters

Proper ventilation is key during the winter months. We’re spending less time outdoors and more time indoors. HVAC systems are working overtime and while it should be common sense to replace your furnace filters people do forget – which is not good! 

Also make sure there is proper air circulation in your home, check your kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans to make sure they’re doing their job and removing moisture from the air. Have you tried the tissue test? Hold up a tissue to your bathroom exhaust fan to see if it’s pulling in the tissue.

Did You Know?

During the winter months you should be changing your furnace filters monthly. Not like the summer months when you can get away with changing them every 3 months. I like to set a reminder on the 1st of every month to replace the filters.

Foggy Windows Means Weeping Windows

If you notice your windows starting to fog and form condensation, there could be a number of reasons. It may be an excess of humidity, faulty windows or poor ventilation. You need to investigate this because weeping windows can lead to mold and can compromise the structure of the window. You can buy a hydrometer to check the humidity levels throughout your home. If the humidity levels are high in different areas of your home, you can buy a portable dehumidifier. Or call an HVAC professional to install a furnace integrated dehumidifier. Your home should have a humidity level between 40 and 60%


5 Signs your windows need replacing

I say this a lot but a simple job that homeowners often neglect is caulking around your windows and doors. If you see caulking that is cracked, it should be replaced. 

Instead of turning up the heat to resolve the issue, inspect the caulking and replace the seal and weatherstripping on doors and windows to stop cold drafts from coming in.

Chimney Inspections

There won’t be any chestnuts roasting over an open fire these holidays if you’re not inspecting your chimney properly. Be on the lookout for creosote or soot (a chemical mass of carbon formed when wood, fossil fuels, or tar is burned).  Creosote is a serious fire hazard and fire in the chimney can spread throughout your home in a matter of minutes. 

When inspecting your chimney, see if there’s any damage to the chimney’s flue. A block or crack in the flue can lead to toxic fumes (such as carbon monoxide) entering your home. Even if you have a gas fireplace you should inspect it regularly because you want smoke going out and heat coming in, definitely not the other way around.

Check Your Smoke Alarms & CO Detectors

While on the topic of fire hazards, you should test every smoke alarm. During the holidays we like to use candles more frequently and tend to cook a lot more. This is why you should inspect every smoke detector in your house to make sure it is in proper condition and replacing the batteries if needed. The same goes for carbon monoxide detectors. Remind yourself to do this on the 1st of every month and you’ll be glad that you did. It’s better to be safe than sorry. And never leave any fires unattended, whether it’s in the kitchen, your fireplace, or your candles.

Did You Know?

Winter is a great time to test for radon. Many homes have higher radon levels in the winter because we tend to keep our homes closed up. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. You can purchase a radon test kit yourself.

Plug In Safely

When plugging in your Christmas lights or other decorations these holidays, avoid overloading circuits! Inspect your power bars and extension cords and make sure they’re in good condition. If you see any rips or tears, don’t tape them! Throw them out and buy a new one. If you want to know more about how to protect yourself with electrical fires, I recommend you read my other blog post about electrical fires.

Pay Attention To Icicles

As I mentioned in my Halloween Safety article, ice dams should not be ignored. Ice dams form around the edge of the roof from your home that prevents melting snow from draining off your roof. This back up of melted snow can find its way into the shingles and into the attic. It can also flow into your exterior wall cavities and end up in your basement. If you suspect an ice dam forming, you’ll need to hire a professional to take a look at your eavestroughs and inside your attic because you need proper airflow and insulation in the attic soffit area to prevent ice forming.

Winterize Your Pipes

When there’s cold air, it creates the potential for freezing on your pipes. When water freezes, it expands, putting pressure on pipes that go below insulation or through cold zones. The pressure within these frozen pipes can cause the pipes to break, leading to flooding in your home. What I recommend doing is wrapping your inside pipes in insulation material and ensure that the exterior plumbing lines have been drained. If you do find a frozen pipe, there is the potential for others in the same area to freeze. I always use a non-freeze hose bib that prevents the pipes from bursting. Another reminder I like to set, is if you’re heading out of town this winter, keep your thermostat set to at least 16 degrees Celsius to keep pipes from freezing while you’re away. If you do have frozen pipes, call in a licensed plumber to fix the problem.

Clear Driveways and Walkways

It’s every homeowner’s responsibility to clear your driveway from snow and ice. The last thing you want is an injury on your driveway because of your negligence to pick up the shovel. But shovelling the snow may not be enough. Apply a deicer, and be generous! I’m not a big fan of salt – it destroys your grass and eats away at brick mortar. It can also make your pets sick. I’d rather use a generous amount of gravel as a natural alternative. Whatever you use read and follow the instructions carefully.

If you have any cracks in your walkway, they can become a tripping hazard – especially as the freeze-thaw cycle can cause those cracks to expand and heave. You can make repairs yourself using Sikadur Crack Fix.

Typically, you should see about 6-8 inches of the foundation/concrete above ground on your exterior walls, below the brick exterior. You should clear any snow away from the brick around your home. If not, you risk it flaking and spalling.

Travelling Smart

Lastly, many of us like to go away in the winter to visit family or to a sunny destination. Be smart about being away. Install programmable lights that you can control through your phone so that your lights aren’t turning on at a predictable schedule. Smart locks (like the Sense Smart Deadbolt from Schlage I have and love) are great because you get instantly notified if someone entered your home. You can also remotely let someone in while you are away. This is helpful if you have asked a friend to check in your home while you are away, or drop off the mail. It adds an extra layer of security.  

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