Posted by: Daryl & Wendy Ashby | October 22, 2011

Are You Ready?

Making sure your house makes it through winter is pretty straightforward really.

Your goal is to keep it dry and keep it warm.

So how do you do that?

You need to control water and you need to control air. 

Keep water out

It should be obvious, but I’m going to say it anyway: Check your roof. It’s the umbrella of your house, and if it’s got a hole in it, water and snow will get inside. Water is the enemy of your home.  

Check the condition of the shingles. Check the flashing around all vents and around the chimney. Make any required repairs. Every dollar you spend on keeping your roof in good shape is a lot less than what you’ll spend repairing water damage caused by a leak. 

Clean and check your eavestroughs and gutters

Keep snow away from your house foundation. You shovel your walk and driveway every time it snows, right? You should also make sure you keep snow away from your house walls. If there’s snow drifting up against the foundation, shovel it away.

Think of your house as a sponge–the concrete, the brick, the wood–all of it will absorb water, and that water will travel inwards and cause trouble. And, when the snow melts in spring, all that water will travel down through the disturbed soil around your house foundation and immediately start looking for a way into your basement. 

Check your furnace

The first thing you need to do is start in the basement, with your furnace—the beating heart of your home. In the winter, you want to make sure that your furnace does not ever let you down. Have it checked over by a professional early and not at the last minute. You don’t want to wake up on a freezing February night to find your furnace not working.

A professional will inspect the fans and motors, and make sure the furnace is working well. He will clean it, but you need to make sure you change the filters regularly— as often as the manufacturer recommends. 

Carbon Monoxide

Of all the dangerous things in your home, your gas furnace is potentially one of the worst. A malfunctioning furnace can kill you. Carbon Monoxide is a silent killer.

It has no colour, and it has no smell.  In lower concentrations, carbon monoxide can cause breathing or respiratory problems, convulsions or a coma.  Exposed to high enough concentrations and you can kiss your bucket list goodbye.  In newer houses that are more airtight to save energy, carbon monoxide is even more important.  

If you have an open fireplace that is not direct-vented, it’s possible, especially in newer, airtight homes, that your house will become depressurized.  This might also happen if you have an exhaust fan going above the stove, or a clothes dryer running, and some bathroom fans.  If the house is depressurized and suck fumes back down the chimney, you won’t be available to fill next years holiday plans.  

The remedy: “Make sure you have a Carbon Monoxide alarm in your home.”

Insulate your attic space

It’s almost impossible to have too much insulation in your attic. You don’t want to have the insulation touch the underside of the roof, and you must make sure that the vents are all clear and open so the attic remains cold. Apart from that—add more if you don’t have enough insulation.

The attic temperature should be the same temperature as the outside air. Keep it well insulated to keep the warm air in your living space. Keep it well ventilated to keep the cold air flowing through your attic to keep your roof uniformly cold.

Control air leakage

Caulking and weather-stripping are such easy fixes for air leakage that you should take care of it once a year. Every year, do the rounds—check for cracks and gaps around doors and windows, in masonry walls and around wall openings for plumbing and venting and fill the gaps. It simple to do and saves you money on energy, while making your home a lot more comfortable.

Caulking

Caulking should be applied wherever two different materials touch—like your brick house and wood window frame. There are many different kinds of caulking, depending on the job you want it to do and you may need several different types for your house depending where they are used.

Did you know a caulking gun was a Canadian invention?

Spray Foam

For wide cracks—over a half-inch—expanding foam can help fill the area and it has the added benefit of reducing air leakage. For around windows, there are special low expanding foams that fill gaps without putting too much pressure on the window frame.

Caulking and weather-stripping don’t cost a lot and install easily.  Depending on the scope of the job, you might try being your own contractor. Spend a few dollars to give your house a windbreaker.  It’s an inexpensive solution to a drafty and costly problem.

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