Ten Tips to Avoid Winter Woes

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With frost settling on pumpkins, porches and lawns, now is the right time to think about getting your home ready for the winter ahead. Making your house winter-ready is neither difficult nor time consuming. Spending some time prepping your house can mean savings and convenience that will last all winter long.
WARD OFF WINTER WINDS -- Before winter?s frigid drafts sneak in, check all your windows and doors for loose caulk or deteriorated

With frost settling on pumpkins, porches and lawns, now is the right time to think about getting your home ready for the winter ahead. Making your house winter-ready is neither difficult nor time consuming. Spending some time prepping your house can mean savings and convenience that will last all winter long.

WARD OFF WINTER WINDS -- Before winter?s frigid drafts sneak in, check all your windows and doors for loose caulk or deteriorated weather stripping. Repair or replace it. If windows seem weak, consider installing ?replacement? windows. These can be inexpensive and are built to the exact size of the old window, minimizing the need to do major carpentry work during installation.

CHECK CHIMNEY -- A fireplace can be a welcome friend during a chilly night. But first you?ll need to make sure the fireplace is safe. Have the chimney checked and cleaned by a certified chimney sweep. Repeat this process once for every cord of wood burned or at least every other year. Also, before starting any heating appliance or fireplace, it?s important the chimney be checked for build-up or blockage that can cause dangerous carbon monoxide build-up. Leaves, sticks and sometimes animals can plug up a chimney.

ROUGH ROOFS -- Winter is extremely rough on roofs. So, now is a good time to examine it for any cracked, broken or missing shingles. Also, be sure to look at the flashing points where pipes, vents and chimneys come through your roof. This is where most leaks occur. Use roofing cement to secure any loose flashing or shingles, or gaps around pipes.

PREP PATIO FURNITURE -- Cold, damp winters can be almost as hard on furniture as leaving it out all spring and summer long. Before putting your patio furniture away for the winter, take some time to prep it for use next spring. Avoid mildew growth that can stain PVC furniture over the winter by wiping it down with a one-third solution of bleach and warm water before putting it away.

For wood furniture, lightly sand and apply a coating of teak oil to preserve and protect the wood from cracking due to big temperature swings. With wrought iron furniture, sand, prime and paint rust spots.

SPRAY-OUT SPRINKLER SYSTEMS -- Water that stays in lawn sprinkler systems over the winter means you?ll surely have pipes freeze and break resulting in a few extra geysers you didn?t count on next year. Blow out all sprinkler lines using compressed air or have your sprinkler contractor do it for you. Then, remove batteries from outdoor timers and unplug them for the winter.

LET LIGHTS SHINE -- With dark winter days ahead, good exterior lighting is more important than ever. Check all your bulbs and add timers or photoelectric sensors to turn lights on at dusk and off in the morning. For spotlights, replace incandescent bulbs with halogens for improved clarity. Add or adjust motion detectors for safety and security. You?ll really appreciate the view next time you drive in to a darkened driveway.

AVOID FROZEN FAUCETS -- Storing garden hoses for the winter is just the first step in avoiding problems with faucets. All hose faucets must be properly winterized to avoid causing frozen pipes. First, turn the water off inside the house. Next, open the hose faucet. Lastly, loosen the small brass air vent cover on the side of the valve body to release any water stored inside the faucet. Leave this way all winter long and then reverse the steps to restore water to the spout in the fall.

GUTTER CHECKUP -- When water freezes in blocked gutters, ?ice dams? can form at the roof edge, which will allow melting snow to leak into your home and cause major damage. Keep gutters and spouts clean and make sure they pitch to drain properly. If the gutter spikes are loose, replace them with long gutter screws. These are available at most home centers, are inexpensive and won?t fall out.

WINTERIZE LAWN EQUIPMENT -- After taking the final cuts with your gas powered lawn mower or weed whacker, take time to preserve and protect it for sure starts next spring. First, drain and replace the oil. Next, add fuel stabilizer and run the engine dry. By adding stabilizer first, you?ll avoid residual fuel turning to varnish over the long winter months. Lastly, remove, sharpen and replace the blade of your lawnmower now so it will be ready for fresh cuts when the lawn returns.

DRESS UP YOUR DRIVEWAY -- Before subjecting your driveway to salt-laden cars, add a layer of driveway sealers to protect the pavement. Driveway sealers are mostly latex based, easy to apply and effective against the road dirt and salt you?ll be subjected to.

Winter is no wonderland when it breaks your pipes, rots your roof or ruins your lawn furniture. Getting ready now will make sure spring showers bring beautiful May flowers and a problem-free house to enjoy them from!

Note: Tom Kraeutler is the Home Improvement Editor for AOL and host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program. To find a local radio station, download the show’s podcast or sign-up for Tom’s free weekly e-newsletter, visit the program’s Web site.

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