Winter can be brutal, especially in some regions. Winter weather can wreak havoc on a house that has not been taken care of or built well. Unfortunately, you may not know the condition of your new home until temperatures lower and harsh winds blow. As a first time homeowner, it's a good idea to thoroughly check your home out before winter sets in.
- Service the heating system—Have the heating system serviced before you turn it on for the first time. Unless the previous owners told you, there's no way to know whether or not the heating system is functioning properly or when it was cleaned last. Click here to learn more about heating repair services.
- Clean the heating ducts—Ducts could have dust, debris, pests or mold in them. If you turn on the heating system and an abundant amount of these things are present within the ducts, it could cause obnoxious and noxious fumes to fill your home.
- Check the attic insulation—Attic insulation will help keep your home warm, but only if it is not damaged from water or pests. Insulation that is water damaged may not work properly and could cause mold growth. Pests may have made holes in the insulation which could limit its effectiveness.
- Find the drafts—Cracks around windows and doors could cause cold drafts. Find the drafts by hiring a professional to conduct a blower door test for a home energy audit. When air leaks are found, seal them tight with caulking. If the drafts are extreme, you may want to consider installing replacement windows and doors.
- Check the ventilation system—A ventilation system that is not working properly can cause your home to have a stack effect which can lead to negative air pressure. This can cause problems with radon, carbon monoxide and sewer gases inside your home.
- Clean the chimney—Creosote inside your chimney could ignite if enough of it is present. Creosote is a by-product of burning wood. Since you don't know how well the previous owner maintained the chimney, or how often they used the fireplace, it's a good idea to hire a chimney sweep to clean and test the chimney.
- Insulate the pipes—Pipes that are not protected from cold temperatures can freeze. When frozen pipes thaw, it can cause the pipes to burst. This could lead to a disastrous, soggy mess that may cause a lot of water damage to your home. Wrap insulation around pipes in the basement and underneath sinks that are located on an exterior wall.
- Turn off outdoor faucets—Outdoor faucets are also at risk of freezing. Turn off the shut-off valves of each outdoor faucet. An alternative is to remove the faucet handles so they can't be turned to open the faucet.
- Seal holes and cracks—Pests like to be warm in the winter, especially mice. They can squeeze their bodies through tiny holes and cracks in your foundation. Seal holes and cracks in your foundation to keep mice out.
- Clean out the gutters—Leaves, twigs and other debris in your gutters can cause ice dams to form along your roofline. Ice dams can lift roofing materials up and cause water damage. If you are not comfortable with climbing up a ladder, hire a gutter cleaning service to clear out the gutters. While they are up there, have them install a gutter guard to prevent problems in the future.
- Seal driveway cracks—Cracks in your driveway may worsen through winter. Water and ice can make these cracks expand. This type of damage can become severe enough to cause corrosion to the ground underneath the driveway, which can lead to potholes or sunken spots in your driveway surface.
- Remove weak tree branches—Snowfall can be heavy enough to cause branches to break off of trees, especially if the branches are weak. Check the branches of the trees on your property, paying close attention to the ones that are close to your house.
Most of these things will need to be done each year to get your home ready for winter. However, since you haven't yet experienced a winter in your home, it's a good idea to check everything thoroughly for the safety of your home and your family.