Getting your home ready for winter

With the sun fading and the leaves drifting all around, it feels like the perfect time of year. But while fall is nice, it's also short. Before you know it, the winter cold will be amoung us. And this year, you don't want to get caught unprepared. So if you're already thinking about decorating your porch with pumpkins, then it's time to turn your mind to the little things you can do to safeguard your home through the chilly months ahead. Here are 10 ways by Home & Garden Expert Randi Chapnik Myers

1. Welcome plants indoors
As the temperature drops, make sure your favourite potted houseplants don't suffer a sudden death. Bring them indoors gradually, storing them first in an enclosed patio, or even in the garage, so they can adjust to the warmer climate.

2. Protect your deck
You've just bankrolled that waterproof patio furniture, but it's not meant to survive the snow. So banish mildew with warm water mixed with 15% bleach, and either cover it with tarps or store it in your garage or basement. Once the deck is vacant, check to see whether it needs an extra coat of sealer before the salt attacks.

3. Prevent the hose deep-freeze
After the final fall spray, don't forget to winterize your hose faucet to head off a frozen pipe disaster. Just turn off the water supply, open the faucet, then loosen the brass air vent cover to let the water dribble out. You'll reverse these steps soon, when the sun tells you that spring is on its way.

4. Turn off the sprinkler system
Before November arrives, call a sprinkler professional to officially shut down your sprinkler system. It's not just a matter of turning off the water supply. Any residual water trickling through the sprinkler lines can freeze, causing them to burst. Avoid that catastrophe now, by blowing compressed air through to dry them out.

5. Get rid of those pesky leaves
Raking the yard is not enough. Sweep your walkways and driveway clean, and protect all of your exterior air vents, as well as your chimney, with mesh screens. While you're at it, make sure to clear any lingering leaves from the drain gutters and point the downspouts away from the house.

6. Keep the water out
Before the snow starts dribbling its way into your cozy home, check that all doors and windows are properly sealed with weather stripping and fresh caulking. If that doesn't keep winter out, it may be time to invest in the new, more energy efficient window panes.

7. Check your heat
Nothing's more important than keeping warmy through the frigid winter months, so don't wait to for the heat to fail when you need it most. In the fall, replace your worn filter or top up the oil. Then call a pro for a routine furnace check, and to confirm that your attic insulation is thick enough that you're not paying for heat lost through the roof.

8. Prep the fireplace
Soon, you'll be in desperate need of fresh cut wood, so collect some now while it's still nice and dry. Then, as long as you don't hear birds or squirrels thumping around inside your chimney, open the flue to test if it's free of debris. Just light some rolled-up newspaper and watch the smoke disappear. If instead, you end up coughing, it's time to call your friendly neighbourhood chimney sweep.

9. Light up the night
As darkness descends earlier and earlier, you'll want to keep your house bright and inviting. Timers, which should be set to turn outside lights on at dusk and off at dawn, are worth the investment - especially if you're counting on your yearly winter vacation.

10. Load up on sand
If your driveway or front steps are made of stone or brick, keep in mind that ice-melting sand causes less damage than salt. Whatever you plan to use, consider adding a protective layer of latex-based sealer first - an easy-to-apply solution that preserves your home's exterior beauty.

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Roger Townsend

Roger Townsend

CENTURY 21 People's Choice Realty Inc., Brokerage*
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