While we often think about how our homes protect us from the Illinois winters, we very rarely think about how we need to protect our homes. At Restoration Authority, we want our client’s homes to stand the test of times. We suggest taking the following steps to make sure your home is as ready for Chicago’s winter wonderland as you are.
Check your heating and air conditioning system
Most heating and air systems typically last 12 to 15 years. Some systems that are pretty much dead at 10 years and other are still going strong at 20 years. A lot of this has to do with how they’re maintained. Before the weather turns cold (which could be any day now), take this time to, at least, change your filters. We recommend having your heating and air systems inspected by a reputable HVAC contractor annually. This is a good idea to make sure that your heat will work when you need it to.
Paint, caulk, and seal exterior wood
Wood trim can add appeal to a home, but it can also be hurt by the winter cold. Before winter hits, all of the wood on the exterior of your home need to be protected from the blistering winter winds. While a lot of exterior wood come pretreated, such as the wood used in your deck, trim around your exterior doors and windows are not. The trim is usually made up of one-inch pine boards that will rot very quickly if it is not protected.
Replacing this trim is expensive and difficult even for professionals. Prevention is the best way to preserve this wood by keeping it painted and caulked. This is the perfect job for the DIYer in you! But once the wood is rotted, it is time to call in the professionals. Before it gets to the point, walk around your home and make sure that the caulk is not cracking, and the paint is not chipping. If it is, scrape away the old and replace it with new paint and caulk.
Even though your deck may come pretreated, it still needs an added coat of protection. While you do not need to stain and seal your deck every year, you need to ensure that it is protected. This can be done by pouring water on your deck and making sure it beads up. If the wood absorbs the water instead of beading up, you need to clean and seal your deck.
Protect your hard surfaces
One place a lot of people don’t think needs winterizing is your patio. But it does. Even if you have a concrete patio, driveway, or sidewalk, they need to be protected. This can be done by occasionally applying a concrete sealer to your flat exterior concrete surfaces. All concrete eventually acquires cracks. Before applying the sealer, check and fill any cracks. This will prevent water from getting into the crack and freezing.
Asphalt driveways also need to be protected. These driveways also require resealing to prevent cracking in the winter. This process can be done by the pros or you can do it yourself. Similarly concrete also needs its cracks filled before sealing.
Clean your gutters
Once all the leaves are pretty much off the trees, it’s time to clean your gutters. When your gutters back up, they overflow, and when they overflow, that water runs down your home, speeding up the wear of your exterior. It can also lead to deterioration of your foundation, water in the basement and to settling under your concrete porches and walks.
Clean your chimney and order firewood
The best time to use your fireplace is in those freezing cold months. It is important when using the fireplace to be safe. It’s a good idea to have your fireplace inspected annually.
Another thing to prepare for winter is the wood to go into your fireplace. Take the time to stack and cover the wood in a good, dry location. Make sure to remove any firewood that is rotten.
Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
Winter is the time most house fires happen. Your furnace is blasting and your whole family is gathered around the fire; it’s a recipe for a house fire. You’re also more likely to have your home closed up tight, making carbon monoxide a bigger problem. Make sure to check all your smoke detectors and make sure they follow Illinois’s new law. Consider replacing your smoke detectors with new ones that have a 10-year battery to ensure your family’s safety. If your home is not equipped with carbon monoxide detectors, consider getting some. This is also another good reason to get an HVAC inspection because it is the most likely source of carbon monoxide.
Shut down the pool and the sprinkler system and drain outside faucets
Sadly, it is time to close up the pool. Make sure that you are doing so properly so that it is ready to go for next summer. Consider having a professional close up shop to avoid expensive repairs in the future.
Another system that needs to be properly shut down is your sprinkler system. Most systems require the lines to be blown out to remove all the water. This process it worth having a professional come out and do. It is a lot cheaper than fixing the system come spring.
Your outside water faucet is completely unprotected from the elements. It will freeze over the winter, and they can even split the water line well inside the home, flooding the basement. In less extreme cases, outside faucets develop nasty leaks. Take the time to do a basic drain of the line. You can simply shut off the water valve to your outside spigot, then go outside and open the exterior spigot valve and let the water drain out of the line. You don’t have to get every drop out. Now if the water in there freezes, it has plenty of room to expand without breaking pipes or seals. Leave the water shut off to the faucet until you need to use the hose next spring.
Prepare your lawn for winter and set it up for a great spring
If you want that beautiful spring lawn, you have to give it attention in the fall. New grass does not grow when it’s too hot or too cold. If you want new grass to grow, you really only have September and October, then April and May to do it. If you neglect the fall, then you’ve cut your time in half. After you seed it, in about late October or November, apply fertilizer with winterizer.
Another important step is the remove all of your leaves. When leaves are left under the winter snow, they get wet and heavy, making them harder to remove in the spring.
Check your trees
Before all of the leaves fall, take a look at your trees and make sure they’re still healthy, especially trees that could fall on your home or a neighbor’s home. Not all dying trees will be obvious. Sometimes you really won’t notice, especially if you have a lot of trees. Fall isn’t a good time to trim your trees, but if there are branches up against your house, it’s a good idea to trim them away before winter so you don’t have ice-coated branches against your siding or windows.
Make sure your attic doesn’t become a critter hotel
It’s going to get cold out and your attic is the perfect winter home for squirrels and birds. These critters can cause a lot of damage and potentially some heath problems. Make sure your trees are trimmed well away from the house, and make sure your gable vents are intact. It’s a good idea to tack a screen up behind your gable vent just in case. Also walk around your home and look up at your soffit and fascia. Make sure there are no holes that will allow birds to get in.
Prep your lawn and yard care equipment
Before you put your lawn equipment away for the season, drain the gas. Gas goes bad and come springtime old gas can gunk up your fuel filters and make your equipment run sickly. You can also just put a fuel stabilizer into the gas if you want to keep it on hand.
If you used your pressure washer this year, then make sure the gas is out of that as well. Run some pump-protecting antifreeze through the system. There is a special product just for this. All this equipment is expensive; take the time to protect it.
Cover your patio furniture
Get your patio furniture protected, but make sure you wait until a clear, warm day to cover it so you don’t trap moisture on it.
Prepare for snow removal
Dig out the snowblower and fire it up before the big one hits. Make sure it’s ready for that snowy morning. If it’s not, then get it repaired now. Also take inventory of your salt and shovel situation. You know you won’t be able to find a shovel after the big snowstorm hits. Make sure to also pull out the ice scraper for your car. You don’t want to be late to work after searching all morning.
At Restoration Authority, we want our client’s homes to be safe and happy. We want to help you prepare for winter to give you the peace of mind you deserve. Call us today! The damage is done, let the restoration begin.