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10 Tips for Winterizing the Exterior of Your Home

Our first unfortunate taste of winter in Minneapolis came a couple weeks ago with the unexpected (and unwanted) snowflakes on October 11th. It was a good reminder that you know what is coming. Soon. A little effort invested before the landscape turns white will yield worthwhile benefits in energy costs, comfort and peace of mind.

Here’s a handy pre-winter checklist to help identify and fix issues on the exterior of your home before old man winter visits.

  1. Check Weather Seals, Weather Stripping and Door Gaskets
    If you feel a draft coming in under your exterior doors, there are two simple things to check. First, how tight is the door sitting against the weather stripping where the door meets the door frame? If obvious gaps are present weather stripping is available at hardware stores and it’s relatively simple to install. The second thing to look at is the threshold. If it is adjustable, use a screw driver to raise it up so that it contacts the door sweep. If it is not adjustable, you can purchase a retrofit door sweep that attaches to the inside of the door to keep drafts from coming in under the door.
  2. Seal Windows
    Check to make sure all of your windows are closed and locked. Failing to engage the locks (if you have them) can increase unwanted air leaks by 30%. Next, consider applying window film to windows that are hopelessly drafty. Such film kits can be purchased at just about any hardware store and applied on either the inside or outside of the window. Ultimately, it is ideal to replace drafty windows but window film can work wonders for you between now and then.
  3. Install Heat Tape Where Needed
    Remember the terrible ice dams from last winter? We do, because many of you paid our sister company The Ice Dam Company to remove them with steam. It is admittedly expensive work and not the way anyone wants to spend their hard-earned cash. If you find yourself without the budget to re-insulate, heat tape is a good option. Be absolutely certain to use the correct type, however, as the cheap, constant wattage heat cable available at hardware stores is worse than installing nothing at all. Instead, use a high-quality, self-regulating heat cable such as Heat Tape Pro, by Radiant Solutions Company. There are ‘professionals’ in our area installing constant wattage heat cable, so always ask about what is being installed when receiving estimates to avoid wasting your money.
  4. Shut Off Outdoor Water Lines, Faucets and Hoses
    Make sure to shut off and drain any external faucets or sprinkler systems. You should also disconnect and store your garden hoses. Failure to turn off water to the exterior faucets can cause your pipes to burst just inside the wall cavity, causing thousands of dollars in damage.
  5. Check for Gaps
    As you inspect the exterior of your home, look for gaps between the siding and window frames and doors. Thoroughly fill any noticeable gaps with caulk. It’s an inexpensive way to fix air leaks and it will help save you money on energy bills, not to mention keep unwanted pests from living rent-free in your home over the winter.
  6. Clean the Gutters
    Remove leaves and other debris from your gutters to help promote good water movement away from your home throughout the fall, winter and spring. The majority of flooded basements in our area could be fixed or greatly improved by operational gutters around the home.
  7. Inspect Your Roof
    While you’re checking on your gutters, make sure your roof can handle the abuse winter doles out. We don’t recommend homeowners climb their own roof due to the inherent risk but even a novice can make solid observations from the top of the ladder. Are the shingles cracked or blistered? Are there any holes through the roofing material? Finding and fixing these deficiencies before winter can save a lot of hassle (and money).
  8. Inspect Chimney and Flue
    Check to make sure the chimney is clear of any nests from birds, squirrels or other small animals. Check the damper. Make sure it opens and closes fully, and that it is can be locked in the open or closed position. Check the chimney draft. Make sure the chimney will draw up the fire and smoke properly. Have the chimney cleaned. If it has been several years (or never) since you had your fireplace chimney cleaned, have it done by a professional chimney sweep. This is not a pleasant DIY project, and professional cleaning is not very expensive.
  9. Winterize the Air Conditioning Unit
    Cover the condensing unit: Left unprotected, the condensing unit can be damaged by wet leaves and debris that contribute to rusting and freezing of internal components. Although these units are designed for outdoor use, covering them with a breathable waterproof cover made for that purpose goes a long way to extending the life and efficient performance of the unit.
  10. Mind Your Foundation
    Inspect the perimeter of the foundation and seal any openings with foam sealant. Install covers over crawlspace ventilation openings. Cover basement windows with plastic shields. Rake leaves and debris away from the foundation. Tuck-point or seal foundation cracks and other openings to keep out mice and other pests.These maintenance tips may help ensure your home’s exterior stays safe and sound during the winter months.

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