Ready Or Not, Here It Comes… (By Chad Vankoughnett)

House in the snow
The time has come to start getting your home ready for the cold days of winter. As depressing as that seems, there are some relatively easy steps you can take in order to help keep your house warm and your life easier over the months to come. Not only will these ideas keep you relatively sane, they might even save you some money, and who doesn’t like that?

1. Clean your gutters – taking the time to clean your gutters will ensure that melt water will run freely and prevent you from having water back up into your home. It is also essential to make sure that your gutters empty out away from walkways and other high traffic areas. It may not matter much right now, but with the melt/freeze cycles we see in spring you know you will end up with a skating rink instead of a walkway if you don’t redirect your runoff. Believe me, your backside will thank you for your foresight.

2. Check for air incursion into the home – this could happen any number of ways, from a poorly fitting window or door to a crack in the foundation or lack of vapour barrier around outlets. With your lights off during the day, look for light leakage around your doors and windows. Make sure that they fit snugly and that there aren’t any large gaps around the openings when the door or window is closed. In my first home, the front door had a rotten corner (which the previous owner patched over), so when, in the middle of winter, the patch broke I suddenly had a 1” gap on one side of the door. Needless to say it had to be replaced, and replacing a door in the middle of winter isn’t ideal to say the least. Check the condition of all doors and windows, including frames, before the weather turns too nasty. If there is a bit of a gap around the opening, get yourself some weather stripping to help stop the airflow, or if necessary, replace the item outright.

You will also want to take a walk around your home looking for any cracks or holes in the foundation that might need to be patched or filled. Depending on your situation, repairing something like that could be as simple as a bit of spray foam, or it might require expert repair. Regardless, a crack or hole should not go unrepaired.

An easy way to check to see if air is getting into the house, take a piece of tissue paper or a lit candle around to each window, door, and outlet (on exterior walls, obviously) and hold them an inch or so away from whatever it is you are checking. If the flame or paper flutter or move, you may need to do some work there. If you get really ambitious, you might want to take the casing off the wall from around the windows/doors and make sure that the gap between the frame and the wall studs has been properly insulated. It is a good idea to use an expanding spray foam (available in cans for under $10) to fill the gaps instead of simply stuffing batt insulation into the space.

3. Change your furnace filter regularly – the cleaner your filter, the easier it will be for air to flow through it and into your house. It is a good idea to replace your furnace filter on a regular basis, although how often really depends on the filters you buy and the type of heating/cooling system you have. A good rule of thumb is to follow the recommendations of the manufacturer, but if you can’t find them, go with once a month. It will never hurt to change them more often than recommended, but if you wait too long between changes it forces your furnace to work much harder than it should to heat your home, and that can lead to expensive repairs if you aren’t lucky.

4. Get those Christmas lights up early – if you are the type of person who likes to put up lights for the holidays, it is a good idea to do that before the snow flies and your roof becomes a slippery slope of death. People may wonder why you are doing it so early, but they’ll stop wondering when they are struggling with their ladder in 3’ of snow while you are sitting in front of the fireplace drinking hot chocolate.

5. Clean up the yard before the snow flies – if you have kids, this especially applies to you. Nothing is worse than wondering if there is a bike under that pile of snow, or knowing that somewhere out there is a sprinkler or a hose. Not only is this bad for whatever item is missing, it makes snow blowing a risky venture. It will only take a few minutes to clear off the toys, yard implements, sprinklers, hoses, shovels, rakes, etc, leaving you with a clear path and peace of mind.

6. Lastly, it is a good idea to get your winter gear in order before winter truly hits us. Find your shovels and get your snow blower tuned up before the weather turns. Put them at the front of your shed or garage so you can easily get to them when the snow comes. A few minutes of forethought will save you a lot of grief later on.

At J&H, we know what winter is like and what it can do. After all, we live in Saskatchewan…we know that -40 is chilly, and we know that anything less than 30cm of snow is a light dusting and not a blizzard. Still, it’s nice to stay warm and worry free during the winter. We carry everything you need to keep your home warm, your walk cleared, and your peace of mind intact. If you have any questions, feel free to give us a call. We’d love to help you out (in a “sell-you-a-shovel” kind of way, not a “shovel-your-walk” kind of way).

– Chad Vankoughnett