Mon. Apr 22nd, 2024

Now that winter is coming, we had time to think about all the other things that needed to be done around the house. Particularly to prepare for winter.

As new homeowners, we really didn’t know where to begin. We knew the basics, like raking leaves, cleaning eavestroughs and bringing in lawn furniture, but that was it.

I found a few good checklists herehere and in our home inspection report. 

Outdoors

  • Clean yard; put away all garden tools and pots
  • Trim branches, especially near electrical wires
  • Shut off water, drain garden hose
  • Winterize BBQ
  • Clean gutters and check for loose pieces
  • Clean the roof
  • Get winter tools out (shovel, ice pick, de-icing material)
  • Cover the air conditioner

Yard Cleanup

We lucked out with some late-November warmth and took advantage by cleaning up the yard. Our poor backyard didn’t get a lot of love this year. During the summer, we used it for dinners and breaks when the inside was a renovation war zone. As it got colder outside, we stopped using it for breaks and only used it for construction-related activities, like cutting wood or pouring out drywall compound water. Yummy. 

It was a small construction cemetery.

We raked the leaves, cleaned up all the construction debris, washed out the planters, trimmed the trees back and put away all the lawn tools. Seven garden bags later, it didn’t look half bad.

Branch Trimming

Except for the cedar trees in the backyard, we didn’t trim any of our trees this year. By the time we were finished with our living room renovation, it was far too cold and icy to start messing around with trees. We’ll deal with our outdoor problems in the spring.

Water Shut-Off

The house came with a few instances of galvanized pipes, which are known to corrode from the inside out. Our insurance company wasn’t thrilled about these pipes and gave us some time to replace them. We had been putting it off since we were busy with other things, but since we had to drain the pipes anyways, we figured we should deal with the galvanized pipes. My dad and Alex went to work and removed the old pipes and replaced them with new, shiny copper pipes (and new faucets!).

They also installed new valves inside the house so we can now turn water off from inside.

BBQ Winterizing

I wasn’t sure if we needed to do anything to our BBQ to winterize it, so I went to my trusted internet. I found a pretty good article on how to winterize a BBQ. Since we don’t have a cover and we won’t be overly sad if this BBQ dies a horrible death (it burns everything and there are always flare-ups), we did nothing. Our BBQ stands alone to bare the worst of this winter. Good luck, @$*hole.

Eavestroughs

Cleaning our eavestroughs was no fun. We needed a ladder tall enough to reach the second floor, so we borrowed an extension ladder from our wonderful and local Tool Library and carried it back to our house.

We set up the ladder and I started to climb. The whole thing was super wobbly so I only made it about 5 feet up before chickening out. Alex then climbed and made it up about 7 feet, but also decided that this ladder business was too scary. We decided the best thing was to wait for my dad to be back from vacation so he could at least tell us if the wobbliness of the ladder was normal. 

In the meantime, my aunt sent me a Groupon for eavestrough cleaning. I checked the fine print and everything seemed legit, so I bought one and scheduled an appointment. Unfortunately the company doesn’t clean eavestroughs in the winter so we’ll have to wait until the Spring. This isn’t ideal, but it is what it is… 

Roof Cleanup

Since we didn’t get onto our roof, we didn’t do anything to clean our roof for winter. There’s always next year…

Winter-Ready

We also got ourselves our very first shovel and ice pick. We’ve already had a lot of snow this year, so we might be in for a snowy winter.

I’m not super keen on throwing salt on the sidewalk. It’s not great for pets, and it’s harmful to plants and the environment in general. But it’s effective. I tried to find an alternative for salt, but there aren’t a lot of great options. There are several products out there that “contain no salt” or are “safe for pets” but when you read the ingredients, they just have other harmful chemicals.

The best recommendation I read was to throw sand down. Regular ol’ sand. We considered this option, but I think itFs purpose is to provide traction over the ice rather than melt the ice. So, we shamefully purchased a small bag of salt and promised to use it sparingly and only in the worst ice conditions.

Air Conditioner Winterizing

The only thing we needed to do to our air conditioner was throw the cover on it!

Indoors

  • Check windows for drafts
  • Replace weather stripping on front and back doors
  • Replace filter in furnace
  • Open water supply to furnace to engage humidifier
  • Check attic for unwanted guests and drafts

Minimizing Drafts

Our house is already cold. We have a decent furnace but there are a few things working against us. Our windows are old and drafty and our heating ducts barely work. We’ll deal with the duct problem later, but we needed to do something immediately to stop all the drafts.

We found a window seal kit at Home Depot (similar here).

The only problem with this kit is that it is for a standard window, which ours is not. I had about a 2″ gap at the bottom of the window, which I realized  so I had to do some arts and crafts and seal up the rest.

For the rest of the windows, I used a roll of the shrink-wrap which dealt with my window problem and was also much more cost effective. I also bought it at Home Depot. The film and double-sided tape was tricky to work with and I had difficulty keeping the plastic straight, so I kept coming up short on the side. Luckily I was installing the film upstairs, so my shotty craftsmanship will go mostly unnoticed.

When it first goes on, it’s pretty wrinkly.

But once the dryer hits it, it starts to smooth out.

It’s not the worst looking thing in the world, but it leaves a cloudiness to the window.

The film has been effective, but isn’t a miracle worker. If we can get our heating issue fixed this winter, then it shouldn’t be quite so cold.

Weather Stripping

We have flimsy screen doors at both the front and back entrances that do little of anything. We were going to apply weather stripping to them, but we didn’t think it would be very effective. Instead, I made a couple of cute door draft snakes, which seemed to help quite a bit.

Furnace Winterizing

Back in our sanding walls days, we managed to temporarily break our furnace. Turns out those cold air returns really do suck air back to the furnace and if your house is filled with dust, it will eventually clogged the filters and trip the sensors on the pilot light. Who knew?

Since we were still renovating, we replaced the clogged filter with fairly cheap ones. Now that we’re done, it’s time to replace them with something a bit sturdier.

We purchased a multi-pack of the 3M Filtrete filters from Home Depot. They seem pretty good.

If we had a humidifier, this would be the time to turn it on. We clearly do not have a humidifier because the air is crazy dry and our hardwood floor is starting to contract. After some research and watching this great video, I learned that purchasing a humidifier isn’t a big deal and doesn’t have to be specific to our furnace brand. Given how dry it is, we might actually install one of these before the winter is over, or wait for a sale in the spring.

Attic Check

Unfortunately we have a large hole in our bedroom closet, which we needed during the electrical work to get access to the attic.

Fortunately, this hole lets us see what’s going on the in attic. Luckily there are no raccoons or other unwanted guests living upstairs… or at least for now…

Hopefully next year we do more ‘winterizing’ so that the house is super ready for winter.

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