10 Things to Do Before It Snows
No one wants to think about it yet. But this precious golden autumn zone in which you can still occasionally wear summer shorts is the best time to make sure you don’t get caught with your pants down on a cold winter night.
The Farmer’s Almanac predicts below normal temperatures in these parts in December and January, with heavy snows in early- to mid-December and early- to mid-January, late February and early- to mid-March.
The good news is, there are still more than 40 days and nights before winter “officially” begins, so here’s a checklist of 10 Things to do Before it Snows to help make sure you’re ready.
P.S. If you find that with any of these jobs you’d rather have a professional take care of things for you, Teakwood Builders’ skilled craftspeople have added a home maintenance service this year. We call it Teakwood Concierge, and we’re the only call you’ll need to make for your home. Call or email Christopher Haskell at Teakwood Concierge for details.
1. Don’t rake your leaves – chew them up. Just run them over with a mulching lawn mower. It’s easier than hauling bag after bag to the curb, and the added organic matter will make your lawn that much healthier in the spring.
2. Clean your gutters. Clogged gutters can cause huge problems with flooded basements and ice dams (a ridge of ice that forms at the edge of a roof and prevents melting snow from draining off the roof. The water that backs up behind the dam can seep into your home and cause damage to walls, ceilings and insulation.)
Many water-in-the-basement problems start with clogged roof gutters. Leaves are falling late in the season this year, so you really want to wait until all the leaves are down before you clean out the gutters (unless, of course, they’re already backing up when it rains). If you can’t get on a ladder yourself, hire someone.
3. Check where your roof drains. If the downspouts from your gutters stop at the base of your house, rain and snow melt can pour right into your basement. Your landscaping may also be serving as a retaining wall, causing a moat effect. Make sure that all landscaping is pitched away from the house and if necessary, hire someone to dig trenches and install underground drain pipes to pull roof water away from the house.
4. Get your furnace inspected. You really don’t want to have to pay emergency rates and wait out the waiting list on a freezing night. Annual service may help avert breakdowns, keep your furnace working for extra years and make sure there are no dangerous conditions that could pump carbon monoxide into your home. If possible, sign a contract with a reputable heating company. Many oil and propane suppliers are happy to bring you on board with an annual service contract. It’s worth it.
5. Peruse the roof. Check for any loose, damaged or missing shingles. The joys of winter – ice, rain, snow, wind, humidity and rapidly changing temperatures can take a little curl and make it a big problem.
6. Order firewood. If you wait until you need it, it will be hard to find. In New York State it’s now illegal to move untreated firewood more than 50 miles from where it was grown or bring it in from another state. Ash is the only wood which can be burned indoors “green” without drying it out for a year and there are now 14 restricted areas from which ash may not be removed because of infestations of the emerald ash borer. Consequently, many “gourmet” firewood businesses have sprung up offering widely differing prices, levels of service and quality of wood. If you don’t have a trusted source, ask friends and neighbors for suggestions and don’t wait until the last minute.
7. Hire a chimney sweep. How often should you clean? If you have 40 to 50 fires a year, you should do it every year. There have been two harsh winters in a row, so a lot of wood burning fireplaces have seen more action than usual. Even if they look fine, there may be internal water damage to the bricks that you can’t see.
8. Smooth out the outside. Broken joints or cracks in walkways, steps and stone path can cause winter water to travel to new depths. They can also make shoveling and snowblowing annoying and dangerous. Check the foundation for cracks, and caulk around areas where masonry meets siding, where pipes or wires enter the house and around the windows and door frames to prevent heat from escaping.
9. Cut down on heating costs. Instead of spending too much on wasted heating, spend a little ahead of time to make sure you home is snug and cozy. Repair any cracked, broken or loose windows. A professional can find the places around windows, doors and outside walls that need more insulation and caulk before a frigid breeze makes it painfully obvious.
10. Inspect your trees. Snow laden branches and fallen trees can be catastrophic, and the severe outcomes are usually preventable. Get a certified arborist to walk around your yard with you to look for rotting trees or damaged or dangling limbs that may come down in the next storm. You can triage the eminent threats.