Winterizing for Fall

Summer is over and the fall season is upon us. This is the perfect time to start preparing for the coming winter season by winterizing your home. It might sound like a conflict of interest for AFTERDISASTER® to offer tips to help you prevent many potential disasters at your home, but we feel AfterThoughts® readers deserve special treatment. (We will get enough winter disaster work from other people who either do not read this or fail to follow our tips.)

Let’s start by looking at trees around your house. Are there dead trees or limbs ready to fall on or against the house? Removing them is much easier and safer now than during or after a storm. Prune trees and shrubs that are growing too close to the roof, siding, or foundation. When subjected to the weight of ice or snow, the branches may scrape shingles, siding, or paint and even wedge under these building materials to allow water penetration underneath causing structural damage.

Thinking about trees, don’t forget to keep the falling leaves away from the house. Piles of fallen leaves against the foundation interfere with proper drainage away from the house and can cause excessive moisture in the foundation, crawlspace, or siding. On roofs, they will hold water that should be draining to dry the roof. The gutters and downspouts need to be cleaned to allow the water from the roof to drain to a safe area. Don’t forget to check for the secure attachment and proper slope of the gutters and downspouts to insure the flow away from the house is not impeded. Also check that the splash blocks are positioned to move water away from the foundation. French drains or other drain systems must be clear throughout to receive and distribute the flow.

Every winter we encounter damage caused by a problem called “ice dams.” Imagine a typical home with a moderately sloping shingled roof, average overhangs, and gutters. Snow and ice are on the roof. The outside temperatures hover around freezing for several days. During the day, there is a slight thawing and melting under the snow and ice on the roof. This melting changes the ice and snow to water that drips and flows downward underneath the unthawed material toward the gutter. Unfortunately, before the water is successfully drained away, the nighttime temperature again drops below freezing causing the water to refreeze, creating a “dam.” As you know, water expands when frozen. (That’s why frozen pipes split, then leak when thawed.) This expansion of the water on the roof under the already frozen solid ice and snow above forces the newly frozen water to creep under the shingles. This process may repeat progressively for several days. Without x-ray vision, no one sees this happening until the temperatures rise enough to allow extended thawing. At that point the ice formed under the shingles melts, changing back to water. Shingles shield the roof from water above but not below, and the water finds entry into the attic and ceilings below. In this case, it is possible for roof leaks to occur to a roof with perfectly good shingles. Occurrences of ice dams can be reduced by better slope for faster draining, increasing insulation in roofs and overhangs, keeping roofs and gutters clean, etc.

If a leaking basement has been a problem, the fall is a good time to investigate solutions before winter storms arrive and the ground freezes. Check to be sure that the slope of the land is away from the house and that landscaping isn’t draining toward the foundation instead of away. Sometimes a waterproofing contractor needs to be called. (Be sure to check references and reputation.) Don’t forget to remediate and repair damage that already happened. Walk around the inside and outside of the house and inspect for damaged or missing caulk around doors, windows, vents, trim, steps, etc. where moisture or cold winter air might enter. Repair any damaged materials. Window wells need to be clear for drainage. Also check the exterior for peeling, blistered, or faulty paint areas exposing bare wood. Look at the roof for damaged or missing shingles. Don’t forget to close crawlspace, garage, workshop, and shed doors to prevent outside animals from establishing a winter residence in
your home.

Now let’s go inside and winterize. Have your heating system checked by a professional for safety, clean operation, efficiency, and make any repairs needed. Furnace puffbacks from a malfunctioning oil furnace can release oily soot into the entire house by the faulty system ducting into every room. Remember to change HVAC filters to prepare for more inside living. Many homeowners routinely have their duct system cleaned in the fall as part of their overall HVAC maintenance program to ensure a healthy indoor environment. AFTERDISASTER provides thorough duct cleaning for a healthier home environment.

Many HVAC contractors also offer plumbing service. While the technician is checking the HVAC system, ask him to check the water heater and any gas appliances (gas logs, grills, etc.).

AFTERDISASTER® provides HVAC and duct cleaning services to insure a cleaner, healthier home or work environment. Regularly cleaning the HVAC system removes dust and mold. Cleaning the HVAC system after a fire damage removes soot and smoke odor in the system and prevents redistribution of soot into other parts of the home. If the ducts or HVAC system is affected during a water damage, it is imperative that the HVAC system is cleaned and treated to inhibit mold growth.

AFTERDISASTER HVAC and Duct Cleaning Services:

  • Drop cloths are placed inside the home over the furniture and on the floors to prevent contamination.
  • All vent covers are detached, cleaned with an antimicrobial and painted if necessary.
  • An access is cut and a 99.97% efficient HEPA machine is attached to the HVAC unit and the vacuuming process begins.
  • A 360-degree rotating brush is then inserted into the ducts, dislodging debris on the interior lining of the duct-work.
  • A 25-foot air nozzle is attached to an air compressor and using the correct air pressure (cfm’s), debris is pushed into the air passage of the HEPA vacuum unit.
  • An antimicrobial is fogged throughout the duct work when performing mold decontamination. A soot and odor sealer is fogged throughout the duct work when removing soot and odor.
  • The fan blower and coils of the unit are cleaned.
  • The filters are changed.

Because chimney fires are a common threat, have a professional check the fireplaces and chimneys for cracks, buildup, leaks, “critters,” proper airflow, etc.

Finally, definitely test all fire/smoke/carbon dioxide (CO2) detectors and replace batteries. (Many homeowners do this on the day the time changes. This year we will “Fall Back” on Sunday, October 26 at 2:00am.) It is also a good time to check your alternate energy equipment to prepare for power outages.

I know all this winterizing may take a little time, but remember that repairing problems on a beautiful fall afternoon is much preferable to dealing with more extensive and expensive damage repairs in freezing, nasty weather later.