There are many things to look forward to during the fall: changing leaves, apple picking, pumpkin carving, the crisp air that makes you want to curl up under a blanket and sit by a warm fire. But before you light that match, there are a few things to double-check to make sure that your home is winter-ready.
These quick steps will only take a couple hours and could save your family thousands in the long run.
Walk around the house: Are there missing or damaged shingles? Are your gutters overstuffed with leaves? Is there a tree branch hanging just a little too close for comfort? All of these things are important to note early to prevent damage caused by heavy wind or snow.
“If you’re having leaks or problems in the summer, the winter will only make it worse,” said Greg Platts, owner of Home Ready Property Services in Southampton. “If there are problematic areas on your roof or gutters where snow and water can get in and freeze, I recommend doing those repairs beforehand.”
Make sure you don’t forget to drain all outdoor plumbing, irrigation systems or pools.
“Get all the water out so you’re not getting any freeze-up when the cold weather starts to come,” said Mr. Platts, whose company specializes in home care. This includes garden hoses as well.
If you have an outdoor air-conditioning unit, be sure to cover it to prevent weather damage. Mr. Platts said heating and cooling systems should be checked for leaks or damage every two years at least. Pipes should be checked for leaks or other damage as well.
“A broken pipe can cause an irreparable amount of damage,” Mr. Platts said. “I always say it’s worth it to double-check.”
Chris Tanner, co-owner of Hamptons Property Services, said not to forget to winterize outdoor plumbing by disconnecting exterior hoses from spigots, as well as to set up fuel deliveries and to open the chimney flue before lighting the first fire of the season.
His company, which has offices in Southampton, Bridgehampton and East Hampton, specializes in managing vacation homes. The company also assesses risks to homes from storms and other problems.
Mr. Tanner recommends keeping the heat on between 55 and 60 degrees at all times to protect pipes. “Obviously, you’d have to pay the utility or heating bill, but it could save a lot in the long run,” he said.
Both he and Mr. Platts said that getting the chimney swept and the flue cleaned is one of the most important precautions and one that many people forget.
Chimneys are more susceptible to fires if they have not been cleaned out. So, before you get ready to light the first one of the season, make sure the flue is clear of debris and the bricks are not damaged. One way to test to make sure the airway is not blocked is to light a piece of paper on fire and watch to see if the smoke goes straight up. If it does not, there may be a problem with the chimney.
Lastly, in preparing a home for the bitter chill of the winter, check the doors and windows for cracks or air leaks. On a windy day, shut all of the doors and windows and feel the perimeter of each door and window. If a window or door is weather stripped and you feel air blowing in, Mr. Platts suggested replacing the weather-stripping as soon as possible.
“Twenty-percent of your heat can go right out of those doors,” he said. “A simple fix can save you thousands of dollars.” He said any type of sealer will do the trick, but in some cases, it would be simpler to replace a door to prevent future problems.
Mr. Tanner agreed, noting that your potential risk depends on how much preparation a homeowner is willing to put into their home. “You’re typically talking about hundreds of dollars to prevent potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage,” he said.