How to

21 June 2016

Preparing the Home for Cold Weather (Exterior)

House-related problems don’t come cheap and can be detrimental at times, costing an arm and a leg, figuratively and realistically. Leaving jobs until the last minute is never a wise choice, especially when it comes to property. So, here are some tips to prevent potential money-sucking issues from befalling your beloved home, best done before you’re infected by the plague of bad weather.

Clean Out Gutters

Unless you have a gutter guard installed, chances are your gutters are full up this very moment. Think about it, when was the last time you climbed up to check? Any time there is precipitation, and if you live in England that’s quite often, your gutters are at risk of collecting debris and clogging. This can lead to some expensive issues down the line if not attended to. Flooding near the foundation is a possibility, as is leaking within the home.

There are some great devices and gutter modifications that work to keep your gutters as debris-free as possible, but the best prevention is regular maintenance.

Install Heating Cables

Self-regulating heating cables strategically placed in gutters or below the first few rows of shingles are meant to slow the build-up of snow and ice. Essentially, the cable provides a free path for melted water to drain from. If there is no path for this water to follow (obstructed by heavy snow or icicles), pools of water can form, leading to leaks in gutters and roofs. As opposed to heating tape, this type of cable increases heat output as the temperature drops.

Repair Any Cracks in Driveway/Sidewalk

Cracks in concrete around the home have the potential to worsen in cold weather because concrete absorbs water which expands and contracts with the weather. Just take the roads for example; during winter, small cracks widen and potholes deepen. It’s inevitable that driveways will develop a crack or two over time, that’s part of it. Control joints are placed in concrete slabs to have a controlled crack along a set line, making the crack less of a draw on the eye. However, you can prevent pre-existing or newly-formed cracks from worsening by repairing them.

Concrete filler can be used to fill in small surface cracks. Caulking can work to seal and waterproof cracks as well. One preventative method to combat cracking is to routinely apply a concrete sealer which will minimize the amount of water absorbed by the concrete.

Install Storm Doors and Windows

Not a cheap undertaking by any means, replacing regular outlets with storm versions can increase energy efficiency by 45%. Drafts are automatically taken care of by the much more durable storm doors and windows. Additionally, the added door means another barrier between your home and any villainous lurkers outside.

Any window improvements are going to be costly simply because of multiple windows. There are two options to consider for storm windows: interior or exterior. Interior storm windows are easy to install and maintain. The seal created by the window, whether plastic or glass, creates another barrier between your home and the outdoors to reduce air infiltration. Exterior storm windows are generally made of wood, aluminium, or vinyl and are installed square with the primary window. A bit clunky, wood storm windows are hard to store and can obstruct views.

If this all sounds a bit much, consider purchasing a window insulation kit. A transparent plastic film, this kit acts as an alternative to double glazed windows. It prevents heat loss without a pricey investment.

Seal Gaps, Cracks, and Leaks

Over time, as with most things, things start to chip away, leading to holes in foundations or walls, around windows or doors. The best way to go about winter-proofing your home, including the garage or shed, is to seal holes with caulk and fix drafty windows or doors. Doing so can help save a noticeable percentage on pricey winter heating bills, anywhere from 5-10% depending on how effectively the job is done.

Caulking will effectively seal against any cold or warm air intruding by sealing any holes. There are a couple ways to check for air leakage, the easiest being a lit candle held up to seams. If the flame wavers, there is reason to caulk. Seal up any holes to ensure a toasty home. This project will have the longest-lasting effect if a caulking gun is used, versus aerosol cans or squeeze tubes. Check out this walkthrough for further information.

Weather stripping on doors will also wear down from exposure to the elements and repeated use, so it’s important to check yours before winter to ensure that you have no leaks. There are many different kinds of weather stripping available and some suit different doors better. It’s important to do research before purchasing.

Trim Dead Things and Prep for Spring

Before you grab your gardening shears, make sure you know when the best time to prune is. Excessive trimming before winter is not necessary since the optimal time for pruning is while the plant is dormant. By all means, make small clips here and there if needed, but major pruning should be saved until winter for trees, shrubs, and flowering bushes. When serious shearing is taken care of in the cold months, fresh cuts are exposed for minimal time before new growth takes over. With less to maintain, energy goes towards rapid growth in the spring. Let’s also all agree not to prune in autumn, unless you’re tending to maple, birch, dogwood, walnut, or elm trees.

It’s important to prepare your lawn for a long, harsh winter. Spreading some fertilizer over turf before winter will ensure it comes back greener than ever. Watering should continue up until it turns brown.

Weeding is best when left to willing children wanting to help in the garden, but make sure they’re rooted out before winter falls. If left till summer, weeds that go to seed can produce thousands of seeds and accumulate over the years. 

Jacqui Litvan

Jacqui Litvan, wielding a bachelor's degree in English, strives to create a world of fantasy amidst the ever-changing landscape of military life. Attempting to become a writer, she fuels herself with coffee (working as a barista) and music (spending free time as a raver).