As Canadians, we know how beautiful and majestic winter can be. However, we also know and dread what the cold weather can do. Here are some helpful tips you can use to stay ahead of the temperature drop and winter blues.

Stop cold air from getting in.

Feel a cold breeze? Take action in early winter as soon as you notice a problem. Boost your home’s energy efficiency and stop cold air in its tracks with these tips:

  • Check and repair caulking around doors and windows and anywhere something penetrates a wall, like outside faucets and air vents.
  • Check weather-stripping on doors and windows.
  • Seal cracks in foundation walls.

Prevent frozen pipes.

Because water expands as it freezes, frozen pipes can burst, leading to extensive water damage and costly repairs.

Steps to prevent pipes from freezing in winter:

  • Insulate pipes — at least those by windows and doors, and in unheated areas of the home.
  • Disconnect your hose from the outside hose bib (outside faucet).
  • If prone to freezing, leave faucets dripping slightly — the theory is that running water does not freeze.
  • Keep the heat set no lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit (12.7 degrees Celsius) when you are away.

Too late? Here’s what to do if a pipe freezes:

  • Turn on the tap of the frozen pipe and leave it open while treating the pipe.
  • Allow warm air to flow safely to the affected area — always use any heat source (electric heating pad, blow dryer, space heater) safely to avoid potential harm and damage to your home and its occupants.
  • If you’ve found one frozen pipe, check all the taps in the house — if only a drip comes out, there is likely another frozen pipe.
  • If you cannot access the frozen pipe, or if your efforts to thaw it do not work, call a licensed plumber.

Protect entryway flooring.

Between tracked-in snow, ice, road salt and sand, entryway floors can really take a beating in the winter. Increase the longevity of your flooring by using floor mats both inside and outside each entrance to your home. Provide a boot scraper or brush outside for removing excess snow, and a waterproof tray inside for placing wet shoes and boots.

SPM - Snow Path

Keep paths cleared of snow and ice.

Regular shovelling (or snow blowing) is the best way to keep walkways, driveways and sidewalks safe and ice-free all winter. Keep some pet- and plant-safe ice melt or sand on hand to provide traction on stairs and other slippery areas, and flag the edges of your driveway and sidewalk so you know where to stop shovelling when the snow gets deep.

If you plan to be away during the season (and your area gets snow), hire a service in advance to clear the snow while you are away. Some cities give tickets if you allow the sidewalk in front of your home to become impassable, because this creates unsafe conditions for pedestrians.

Check that heating system and humidifier are running smoothly.

If you notice any strange new noises coming from your heaters, or if one area of the house suddenly seems colder, have the system looked at right away, as these can be signs something is wrong.

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Ice dams.

Ice dams form because the edges of a home’s roof are colder than the upper regions (where more insulation is below), causing ice to form around the eaves. Snow melts above, and the melted snow backs up behind a “dam” of ice, potentially causing leaks and permanent damage to the roof and home — if you’ve ever experienced an ice dam on your roofline, you know what a nightmare it can be.

Before winter weather sets in:

  • Remove debris from gutters — water can back up, causing leaks and ice dams or damage to your roof and siding.
  • Inspect and upgrade attic insulation and ventilation.
  • Purchase a roof rake.
  • Remove snow as quickly as possible after storms — use your roof rake to regularly remove snow from the roof of your home (or hire someone to do this for you).

What to do if you notice the beginnings of an ice dam:

  • Carefully remove snow and ice if possible without damaging roof and gutters.
  • If you have heat cables, turn them on. Heat cables cannot prevent or fully remove ice dams, but can melt enough of the ice to create a channel for water to flow out, preventing some damage.

See how SPM safely and accurately inspects roofs.

Outdoor furniture and the deck.

Cover up your patio furniture or store it away. Bring any pots and planters that might crack into the warmth for the duration of the season. After you’ve put your garden furniture away, give your deck a good clean, as a means of warding off mold and mildew. This would also be a good time to put extra sealant on, if necessary.

Check batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors monthly.

This is especially important during winter, when we keep windows closed and use wood-burning stoves and fireplaces more often. Make sure you have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in each bedroom, on each floor of the house and in the kitchen. Check detectors monthly and change batteries as needed.

SPM - First Aid Case

Emergency supplies.

With winter storms comes more potential for power outages — be prepared with fresh bottled water, shelf-stable foods, flashlights and batteries, first-aid supplies and a hand-cranked radio and smartphone charger.

From all of us at SPM, we hope the colours of autumn have warmed your heart. Winter is on its way and we’re here to help.

Further Reading: The Importance of Property Inspections

Looking for help?

If you have any questions or concerns regarding these or other maintenance tips, please feel free to contact us.

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