Autumn has arrived in the Northeast. (If it hasn’t found you yet---be assured, it’s coming). The hum of my air conditioner is silenced, and soon it will be replaced by the sound of leaf blowers buzzing throughout my neighborhood. Gone are the lazy, hazy days of summer, and it’s time to really start tackling that list of “things to do” to prepare our homes ready for winter. It’s time to clean up the mess that summer left behind, and start making sure that we’re ready for all that winter has ahead.
To help you get organized and started on your winter preparations, (or to assist you in making a honey-do list of what needs done to get ready for winter) we’ve made a list of the “Top 10 Things to Do Before It Snows.” I know, I know, it’s too nice outside to even think about snow. Still, it will be here before you know it and you want to be ready! Just think---when you’re done, you can relax and curl up in front of a warm fire, knowing that you’re ready for whatever winter throws at you. Ready? Let’s get started!
1. Saying “Goodbye” to Summer
It’s true---we’ve had some good times, but now it’s over. We have to say goodbye to summer and move on into autumn and eventually winter. This means it’s time to put away or cover outdoor furniture and barbecues. It’s always best to give them a good scrubbing before storing them away.
2. Ending the Water Wars
Next, we need to continue the “goodbye” process by draining and shutting off the sprinkler systems and other exterior water lines to avoid frozen and broken pipes. Also, unhook any hoses from outside faucets and drain all water from the hoses before moving them inside for the winter.
3. Time for a Trim
Right now the trees are beautiful and brimming with color. However, in a few weeks those same trees could become dangerous when they are covered with heavy snow. That’s why you should arrange to have someone trim back any branches that are close to your house or power lines.
Trimming branches keeps snow and ice from knocking them down and causing damage. Many times the electric company will do this for free if it directly affects their power lines. (Call the electric company to see if this applies to you) After all, who wants to be without power or have a branch crash through their window in the middle of a blizzard? A few hours of trimming branches will keep your house safe from trees.
4. Up on the Roof
Before you can hear the sound of reindeer on the rooftop, you’d better make sure that your roof is prepared for all that winter has in store.
It’s time to give the roof a yearly check-up. After all, you don’t want it leaking when it rains or snows. Start by checking to see if any shingles are loose or missing. The best way to do this is to use a good pair of binoculars…it's easier and much safer than using a shaky old ladder. You can use these same binoculars to check your chimney. If you have a chimney, you should check it for loose mortar and masonry. If everything’s in order, it’s time to move on to the next job. If you see problems, you’d better call a repairman before the snow begins to fall!
5. Chim, Chiminey, Chim, Chiminey---It’s Time to Clean the Chimney
Speaking of chimney’s, if you plan to use a wood stove or fireplace this year, check your chimney before hand for soot build-up. It should be cleaned before it reaches one-fourth inch thickness inside the chimney flume. We have our chimney swept by a professional every 3 years; however, we don’t have a fireplace. If you have a fireplace, you should have it swept every year. Also, close the chimney damper when not in use, but don't forget to open them before you light the fire!
6. It’s Time to Clean the Furnace
While you’re making appointments, you might as well put it on your schedule to have your furnace professionally cleaned and maintained. You should have your furnace system serviced once a year or as recommended by your manufacturer (or gas or oil company). At our house, we mark it on the calendar to make a furnace cleaning appointment once a year. That way we know that everything is in working order when the first cold snap hits. After all, I don’t want to be shivering inside while I wait for the furnace to be repaired in the middle of the first snow storm! Better have it checked out beforehand!
7. Raking the Leaves
Before we can start thinking about snow-covered landscapes, we need to deal with the debris that is currently covering our landscapes. It’s time to get the leaves off the grass and away from our trees, plants, and shrubbery.
Why is it so important to remove the leaves?
Leaves block sunlight, which your lawn desperately needs as it stores food for the dormant winter season. It’s also important to remove any leaves that have gathered around trees and shrubs because leaves deprive the soil of needed oxygen and water that the plants need to grow. Basically, all of those leaves are forming a blanket preventing your grass and plants from getting everything they need to survive the long cold winter. That’s why they’ve got to go!
Another good reason to rake your leaves is that if leaves are left piled around the house through the winter, they can prevent melting snow from draining properly, causing the water to leak into your house. Who wants to deal with that mess? Not me, I’d rather rake leaves!
8. Checking the Foundation
Speaking of your home’s foundation, while you’re outside raking the leaves take a few minutes and spray your home’s foundation with a hose to see if water runs away from the house. (You could also wait until it rains and then watch the water flow closely) Also, make sure the downspouts carry water at least three feet away from the house and onto ground that slopes and drains away from the house.
Trust me, these are important steps to take. Last year, we had heavy rains right after a big snowfall. The result was water in the basement. What a mess! It is much better to make sure the water is properly flowing away from your home now, than clean up a mess in the winter.
9. Cleaning the Gutters
While you’re outside, check your soffits for signs of moisture build-up. (Soffit is the underside of an eave.) Also, check your gutters. You may need to clean out accumulated leaves and messy "gunk" from gutters and drainpipes. Then run water through the gutters to make sure they drain properly and don't leak.
I know, it sounds disgusting. You may want to hire someone to do this for you or put it on a “honey-do” list. The important thing is that you arrange to have the gutters cleaned, and if necessary, repaired or replaced.
Why? Gutters perform one duty: controlling the water around your home. Improperly functioning gutters can cause serious problems including water in the basement, cracking in the foundation, leaking roofs, rotting wood and slippery sideways. What a mess! That’s why it’s so important to make sure the gutters are clean and in good condition. Even if you need to hire someone, it is worth the investment. After all, you don’t want clogged gutters creating havoc when it starts to snow.
10. Baton Down the Hatches
Soon the hollowing winds will be creating blizzard-like conditions as it whips winter snow against the doors and windows of your house. Fortunately, if you get the next thing off of your “to do” list, you’ll be warm and cozy inside as the storm rages on. However, if you skip these steps, you’ll soon feel the outside beginning to drift inside as the cold seeps on through the cracks in your doors and windows.
That’s why the next thing on our “to do” list is to check all windows and doors for air leaks. The average American home has leaks that amount to a nine-square-foot hole in the wall, according to EarthWorks Group. Most of these leaks can be fixed be re-caulking windows and doors. A five dollar tube of caulk can save you loads of money in heating your home, and caulking is a very easy job.
If you have screens in your windows, you should take them out and replace them with storm windows. If you don’t have storm windows, may I suggest making this investment in your home? They are a one-time investment that will save you money on your heating bills for years to come. We bought our storm windows about 10 years ago, and they made a significant difference in our home’s heating costs.
If you do not have storm windows, you should install a window insulator kit. Basically, the kit is plastic sheeting that's affixed to a window’s interior with double-stick tape. Then use a hair dryer to shrink-wrap the sheeting onto the window. Either way, the goal is to keep the cold air outside and the warm air inside.
Reality is that we can’t avoid winter and its bad weather. However, we can be good stewards over God’s money and possessions by preparing for the winter months. A few hours of winter preparation work will help us stay safe and warm through the long winter’s months. After you’re finished you can stand proud and say, “Bring it on winter, I’m ready!”
Proverbs 31:21, “When it snows, she has no fear for her household;”