Winters are tough on houses — give yours the care it deserves this fall to keep it healthy all year long

Greg Cole has seen it all too often. “We just repaired the whole wall of a home on the ocean because of a failure in the flashings around the window and door openings that rotted the entire three stories,” says the Halifax contractor and owner of renovation company Colebuilt. “It cost the homeowners $35,000.” The root cause? Owner negligence. It’s best to do your home maintenance in the fall so you won’t have to face a pricey fix-it job in the winter, suggests Cole. Construction materials often don’t respond well to cold weather, which makes replacing windows, doors and siding much more expensive.

September

WHAT: Examine pipes

WHY: If you’ve never checked out your pipes, now is an ideal time to make certain they aren’t exposed to pressure, excessive moisture and heat loss during the winter. In older homes, pipes transition between hot and cold zones in the walls and flooring, and improper maintenance and degraded materials make them particularly susceptible to bursts. Spot-check to be sure your pipes are on the warm side of your home’s vapour barrier (between the drywall and the plastic film layered over the installation). If you’re unsure, consult a general contractor or home inspector before the first freeze. Also consider replacing exterior taps with frost-free faucets if you live in an extremely cold climate.

WHAT: Clean furnace filter

WHY: Cole advises homeowners to vacuum the heating system’s air filter twice a year, particularly in the fall and spring, so the furnace runs efficiently and circulates clean, contaminant-free air.

WHAT: Inspect driveway

WHY: Ice and water can accumulate in cracks in your driveway to form patches of ice that can erode your pavement. Fill flaws with an epoxy-based material, let it harden and then apply a sealant. If you have a gravel driveway, be sure to rake off excess gravel to create a level and clean surface for snow shoveling.

WHAT: Check windows and weatherstripping

WHY: To prevent heat loss, ensure locks draw the window tightly into the weatherstripping. Check windows for drafts, and consider replacing older weather stripping if it’s become stiff over time.

WHAT: Clean chimney

WHY: Cole recommends having your chimney regularly inspected and swept by a professional to ensure it is clean, safe and unobstructed by wildlife or debris. You’ll also want to remove any creosote, which is a combustible substance that builds up over years of enjoying cozy fires.

October

WHAT: Maintain exterior caulking

WHY: Caulking needs to be cleaned or replaced to prevent water-seepage and rot. Remove dirt and grime, then spray window  and door caulking with  a garden hose to check for leaks. Remember to strip and remove old caulking before applying new layers.

WHAT: Flush gutters and downspouts

WHY: To allow rainwater and melting snow to flow freely, clear your gutters  of leaves and other debris, then hose them out.  Ensure joints and corners where downspouts tie into gutters are sealed properly and not leaking. Check that your gutters are secured to the exterior to prevent ice buildup.

 

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