Protecting your home from the harsh winter
Extreme weather has a way of showing weaknesses in the infrastructure of your home. Oppressive heat tests your air conditioning unit, heavy rains can stress your drainage and brutal cold puts your furnace through the paces. As a homeowner, you have to be ready for the litany of events that Mother Nature can throw your way. If you’re enduring your first Minnesota winter as a homeowner, it’s important to understand a few basic precautions that will help you and your family make homeownership a joy, rather than a series of unpredictable home improvement projects. Here are some simple home maintenance tips for the winter:
Pay attention to common house problems
- Frozen pipes. Most homes in the Midwest are built with proper insulation around pipes, but when temps get really low, it’s always possible for pipes to freeze and burst. Your best defense is identifying the location of the main water valve and the valve on your water heater. In the case of a pipe bursting – turn off the main water immediately and call a professional.
- Ice dams. If you’re a first time homeowner and are unfamiliar with ice dams, beware! It snows, the winter brings freezing temperatures, then a mild day and sunshine melts the snow, followed by more icy temps. This can lead to ice dams. Ice collects in areas on your roof, then water runoff from the roof gets trapped by the dam and eventually backs up the roof, travels under the shingles, and can leak into the house. While a permanent fix for ice dams usually requires increasing the insulation, sealing, and ventilation in the attic, there are ways to temporarily fix the issue. There are roof rakes and de-icing products on the market that some believe will melt away the ice for a quick fix. But, depending on the compound used, some damage can occur to your roofing materials. Steam is considered the best way to remove an ice dam, which requires hiring an ice dam removal company. Bottom line, is you want to take care of ice dams sooner rather than later.
Be prepared for outdoor hazards.
Many people spend time outdoors in the winter working, traveling, or enjoying winter sports. Outdoor activities can expose you to several safety hazards, but you can take these steps to prepare for them:
- Avoid accidental slipping on your driveway and walkways by sprinkling cat litter or sand on icy patches.
- Driveways that are not shoveled or plowed soon after snowfall can create an icy build-up on the surface, especially as cars travel over the surface. Try to clear snow from your driveway as soon as possible to prevent the slippery, hard, icy pack.
Take care of your furnace
Contrary to what many homeowners believe, long and sustained runs of your furnace are actually good for the HVAC system. Of course, if you like to sleep in a cooler house, turn the thermostat down at night. Most of all, be sure to clean the filters of your furnace once a month through the winter. When your furnace is working hard, you’ll help preserve the equipment by keeping the filters clean. Keep in mind, it breathes easier when the filter is clean and this will create less stress on this important part of your home.
Winter brings opportunities for outdoor adventures and cozy family time around a fire. But it also can present some challenges for you and your home, so take the time to double-check you’re prepared for whatever the chill of winter brings.
The Minnesota Association of REALTORS® is the largest professional trade association in the state with more than 17,000 members who are active in all aspects of the real estate industry.