Some areas of the country have already had an early start to winter and for the rest of us, time is getting short.
Now that the leaves are off the trees it is a good idea to clean the eavestrough, downspouts, gutters and valleys to prevent ice dams and unnecessary weight in the eavestrough which cannot drain properly.
When you are outside cleaning your eavestroughs it is also a good time to take a quick look at any trees on your property. Look to see if any limbs are brushing up against your house, near your chimney or are in contact / close proximity with your power or telephone lines. Damage can occur as result of high winds or ice-laden boughs. Appropriate trimming by a licensed arborist now may save you considerable inconvenience this winter. Also look for trees that are leaning and may come down on a power line and contact the utility company for removal.
Steps and sidewalks can be hazardous to your wintertime health - if you use de-icers pick them up early so you have them on hand when you need them. Remember some of these products are not recommended for properties with wells or concrete surfaces. For locations where chemical de-icers are not appropriate, sand or non-clumping kitty litter will provide some traction but do not melt snow.
This is the time of the year when people start thinking about ways to heat their homes more efficiently.
If your heating equipment is over 20 years old, consider upgrading it. New equipment is much more efficient than the older versions.
Change the furnace filter often and have heating equipment serviced and cleaned on a regular basis.
Install a programmable thermostat. This allows you to setback the temperature when you are asleep or away, automatically.
Wood Stove: Homeowners who have wood burning appliances are organizing wood for the winter months. You should only burn seasoned wood in your wood burning appliances.
The number one thing to remember is that your chimney / flue requires regular cleaning in order to be safe! Chimneys should be visually inspected to ensure there are no obstructions, such as nests or debris, and cleaned before operating a wood burning appliance for the first time in a season.
Creosote is an unavoidable product of wood burning stoves. Creosote is a tarry build-up in the chimney / flue which can cause a chimney fire. To avoid excess creosote, only burn dry, seasoned wood. If you are burning greener wood, you should leave the draft in your fireplace open to allow the fire to burn hotter and clean your chimney / flue more often.
To cut down on creosote build-up, avoid smoldering fires. Keep your fire hot enough to prevent creosote accumulation. Check your chimney. If you see heavy smoke, creosote is probably forming. If your stove has been working well and then begins to smoke around the doors or ports, or if you see a black / dark brown substance running down metal pipes, you should check for creosote.
Wood should not be stored inside your home. Even seasoned wood carries a 20% moisture content which will affect the health of your home and your family.
If you must store wood inside your home, place a dehumidifier next to the wood and/or an air circulating system such as a fan. This will help to dry the wood and help minimize the molds and mildews which may occur as a result of the high moisture content.
Pellet Stove: You should clean your pellet stove yourself or have it cleaned professionally prior to its first use this season. Most manufacturers have detailed instructions on how to do yearly pellet stove cleanings either in their manual or on the web – follow these instructions carefully. The pipes need to be brushed and vacuumed well. Vacuum the heat exchange tubes as well as behind the baffles. The chimney cap also gets a buildup of wet ash and should be cleaned.
Heat Pump: The outdoor unit should be kept clear of grass, dirt and mud; a garden hose can be used to rinse the unit off. The area around the unit should be unobstructed for good air flow.
The indoor unit will need the filters vacuumed; many units have indicator lights to tell you when this is required but if there is no light, once a month is a good idea.
If you have a ducted heat pump, ducts should be professionally cleaned every 3-5 years.
September is an excellent time to do an exterior check-up on your home so that any necessary repairs or maintenance can be completed before winter arrives.
Check all exterior wood trim particularly around windows and door openings. Where required, scrape and paint all exterior wood trim.
Exposed wood will eventually deteriorate, resulting in wood rot and water leakage.
Check the caulking around exterior window and door openings. Recaulk where you notice deterioration.
Replace any damaged weather stripping to ensure that your home is energy efficient and water tight.
Do a quick check of your roofing shingles. Repairs are more easily completed when the shingles are still soft and pliable in the early fall. While you’re looking at the roof, check the flashings around the chimney and plumbing stacks.
The flashings help protect those transition areas from water penetration. Check for flashing that has lifted, cracked or separated and could allow water entry.
For those with an asphalt driveway, now is the time to fill cracks to prevent further deterioration.
Preventing water damage inside our bathrooms is as important as directing water away from the foundation. As part of your routine home-owners maintenance, you should inspect the grout and/or caulking in tubs, showers and vanities for cracking.
If cracks are left unrepaired with the high humidity in your bathroom, it can become an open invitation for mould and mildew to grow, often out of sight. Mould is recognized as contributing to health and indoor air quality problems.
Loose grout or sealant usually causes cracks around the bathtub, shower or bathroom tile joints. If these cracks are not quickly cleaned out and filled, they can let in water that can damage your walls and the framing behind them.
To prevent this, immediately remove any damaged caulking (showing signs of cracking or gaps) or loose grout and replace it.
Cracks should be cleaned thoroughly before installing new caulking/grout. New grout should be installed in the joints between tiles. Ensure you follow-up with a quality grout sealer spray as grout is porous and treat with same annually to prevent water entering through the grout.
Since tubs expand and contract slightly due to temperature differences, grout is not suitable between the tub and the tile walls. Silicone sealant is required in that location.
Remember proper maintenance is much less expensive than the costly repairs that may be necessary if you sustain water damage.
Check your basement floor drain to ensure the trap contains water; refill if necessary. Also, if you have a plumbing fixture that is not used often, such as a spare sink or tub, run some water briefly to keep water in the trap. Keeping water in traps prevents sewer gas from entering the home.