‘Tis the time of year to get ready for the colder weather, and what better way than to inspect the areas of your home that allow cold air and drafts to enter. As a home inspector, I look at the conditions of the windows and doors: weather-stripping, alignment, locks, and glass seals. Now is the time to replace and repair as needed to save on heating costs.
For the windows, check the top and bottom of each sash and with doors don’t forget the bottom sweep. These are easy to change in a few minutes. When you remove any screens for the winter, you can check these items out along with the condition of the caulking around the windows and doors. Separated caulk seals can add up and equal the same as an open window on a house coming in small one-inch gaps. Caulking is only good for two to five years if installed correctly.
When you remove and drain your garden hoses you should drain the non-freeze protected hose bibbs, and it is always good to install an insulated cover over them for a little more protection in the inevitable below-zero cold snaps. Leaving even a small amount of water can cause a large amount of damage.
Have you had your chimney inspected and cleaned for the year? Animals will nest in them during the spring, summer and early fall. As you stack your firewood for the season remember to have the main stack 20 feet from the house and just a few days of logs nearer the door. This will prevent unwanted vermin intrusion at the house. Speaking of wood, are there any tree branches that need trimming away from your home and power lines? Do you have any branches that look like a good wind could cause them to come down on your home? The winds will surely come, and now is the time to cut out the dead wood before the snow settles in and makes these chores harder to manage.
Now let’s shift gears to home safety. October was fire prevention month. Have you made an escape plan and talked about it with all the family members? Please check your fire extinguishers for the service charge – the arrow must be in the green area on the dial. Replace or service if needed. Give them a good shake to keep the material inside loose so it will work properly for you if you ever need it to save your home or life. They are very effective so review how to use one with the family. Use an old one to demonstrate how it’s done.
Now that you have closed and sealed the windows in your home, you need to make sure the smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms are working. Install new batteries and push that test button to verify. While we want to seal up the house against the cold, if your house is sealed too tight, the draft flue vent on water heaters and heating equipment can draft into the home when the wind blows or when your exhaust fans are turned on. This is why carbon monoxide alarms are so important. They do save lives.
Learn and show your family members where water, gas, oil and electric shut-off valves or switches are, to be used in emergency situations only. You don’t want to wait until there is an emergency to figure this out.
As part of your annual home maintenance review, you should trip the test buttons on all GFCI outlets and your electrical breakers one at a time to make sure they work. Test your emergency generator before the season starts. It may need a preventative service call so it will run when required.
With the holiday season approaching, remember electrical safety while decorating inside and out and do not overload outlets: one socket – one plug. Do not run electric extension cords where they will be a trip hazard to grandma (and others). Be careful not to over-reach when on a ladder hanging lights or tree decorations. Use safe practices when lighting the yule log and dinner table candles.
If we all can do this, then we will have a safe and happy holiday season. Best wishes, health and happiness to all in this season of hope from Eagle Home Inspection Solutions.
Michael Canavan is the owner of Eagle Home Inspection Solutions of Norwich, Vermont. Learn more at www.EagleHomeInspectionSolutions.com, or (802) 526-2642.