It’s that time of year again in Southeast Wisconsin! Leaves are falling, the temperatures are dropping and pretty soon the snow will fly. Prepping your house for the deep freeze can save you time, money and hassle during the long winter months and into the spring.
- Garden Beds: Cut down and remove foliage from perennial plants like lilies and hostas. Annuals can also be removed. Stalky plants like sedum and ornamental grasses can be left until the early spring. Piling mulched leaves around small bushes can provide vital insulation and nutrients during the long cold months.
- Outside Hose Bibs: It’s incredibly important to properly winterize your outside hose faucet before the temperatures drop below freezing. Even a surprise cold snap can result in a flooded basement. Start by removing, draining and storing the hose. Then find the shut off valve to the hose bibs in the basement and turn off the water to the outside faucet. Then drain any remaining water at the outside faucet making sure to leave the faucet open (but remember it’s open in the spring time when you turn the shut off valve back on). Even “frost-proof hose bibs” should at the very least have the hose removed from the faucet.
- Clean Out the Gutters: Once the last leaf has fallen (but certainly before the first big snowfall), it’s a good idea to get up on a ladder and make sure all of your gutters are clear of any leaf debris. Clogged gutters can cause icy snow melt to build up and back up under your shingles, which eventually melts into your attic, or worse through your ceiling. Once gutters are clear of all leaves, run water through a hose down the gutter downspouts to make sure they too are clear of all leafy debris.
- Change Your Furnace Filter: Maintaining your furnace filter can ensure efficient operation, save money and extend the life of your furnace. Make sure the filter is facing the correct direction when inserted into the slot, and periodically check and replace as necessary throughout the heating season.
- Fireplaces and Chimneys: A fireplace inside your home can be a great way to supplement your heat and create a cozy ambiance. Natural fireplaces should be cleaned and checked by a qualified chimney professional at least every other year, or more often with frequent burning. Make sure there are no major cracks in the firebrick or mortar joints inside the firebox, and make any repairs as recommended by your fireplace professional in a timely manner. Chimneys and fireplaces can be very costly to repair. Gas fireplaces require less maintenance, but ensure the exhaust is free of any combustible materials before using.
- Shrubs, Bushes and Trees: The very late fall and very early spring are the best times to trim back any shrubs or bushes as this is the time when they go dormant. Trimming the tops of most shrubs and bushes will encourage outward growth the next year, and likewise, trimming the girth of a shrub will encourage upward growth.
- Insulation and Weather-stripping: Drafty windows and doors can greatly reduce your homes energy efficiency. Use the last few weeks of fall to install any weather-stripping around doors or windows. Blowing insulation into your attic is not cheap, but will greatly reduce your energy bills over the course of a winter. Just make sure to not insulate over soffit vents as this will cause larger problems down the line. Lastly, ensure the sill boxes in the basement are packed with plenty of insulation. This is the space above the block walls and between the joists.
- Clean Up All Leaves: This one goes without saying, but every year there are always a few people who wait too long to rake their leaves and then BAM, we get our first 6-8-inch snowfall that sticks around until March. Raking and removing thick layers of leaves will ensure a healthy lawn and no mess in the springtime.
- Snow Removal: Finally, preparing for snow removal in the fall will make that first snowfall easy and enjoyable. Have your snow blower serviced and ready with a full can of gas and made easily accessible. Find or buy your snow shovel and sidewalk salt early in the season to avoid the long line of procrastinators at the big box store the morning after the first big snowfall.
Prepping your home now can help you stay warm, be efficient, and survive the long dark Wisconsin winter months. Relax, your house is prepped and spring will be here before you know it!