Early Bird

By Vicky Katz Whitaker

June 19, 2009 5 min read


It's never too early to prepare for colder weather

Vicky Katz Whitaker

Creators News Service

Crisp autumn days, chilly nights and the prospect of snow may seem far away when you're basking on a backyard chaise on a warm summer day. But if you're a savvy homeowner, it's not too soon to start weatherproofing your home, experts say.

In fact, the earlier you begin, the better, said energy analyst and home inspector Ron Isaacson, owner of Space-Man Consulting in Chicago and president of the National Association of Certified Home Energy Analysts. The best time to start the process is now, "while you have fresh memories of being cold in certain parts of the home, when you can remember the weather-stripping you used didn't quite work, when your fresh from the 'thermostat wars' with other family members -- each trying to achieve a level of indoor comfort that doesn't involve putting on or taking off sweaters -- and, most importantly, when winterization materials are on sale."

Most homeowners wait until Labor Day nears to begin. "Timing will depend on where in the country you live," said Steve Ramos, co-host for HGTV's House Detective and a certified home inspector based in Santa Rosa, Calif. "Northern climates may begin in September and more temperate climates may wait until late October."

To get a handle on the best time to begin, Ramos recommended checking historical weather data at websites like weatherbase.com. And if you need someone else to do the work, hire a professional early. If you wait too long, "you may have trouble finding reputable contractors to perform services prior to the first frost," he said.

You can get ahead of the game by taking advantage of a lull in the hectic summer season to do small jobs that are part of normal home maintenance, suggested Reggie Marston, president of Residential Equity Management Home Inspections in Virginia. That way, he said, you won't have to "cram all the fall maintenance into a weekend, especially during football season."

Marston recommended focusing on the exterior first, from roof to ground.

"After all the summer thunderstorms and high winds, it's a good idea to check out the roof first," Marston said. "Look for missing or damaged shingles, missing or deteriorated flashings at chimneys and walls." This includes the flashings around vent pipes and other penetrations through roofing material. Caulk joints where the flashings adjoin the areas they protect and "replace any missing or damaged shingles, replace deteriorated flashings and re-caulk the flashings as necessary for a water-tight seal," he advised.

Once temperatures start to dip, low-slope roofs also may need to be resealed -- something you can detect by climbing on the roof or, in some cases, using binoculars. If you're not comfortable shimmying up a ladder or the roof is inaccessible, "this would be a good time to call in a pro to access the roof and make any necessary repairs," he said.

In fact, Marston said some weatherproofing jobs are best left to professionals, like trimming trees around electric lines, servicing mechanical equipment, inspecting and cleaning the chimney and handling electric work. Do-it-yourselfers may be more comfortable painting and caulking, repairing windows and doors, handling small plumbing jobs, installing weather-stripping, yard maintenance and trimming trees and shrubs that aren't around power lines.

Here are some other key winterization projects the experts recommend:

* Clean, replace and/or repair leaders, gutters and downspouts.

* Inspect and replace damaged trim and siding.

* Caulk all windows and doors and penetrations through the exterior envelope of the home -- but don't caulk holes in those window systems that are designed to allow water in the lower track to drain out.

* Replace air filters, have your oil or gas burner professionally calibrated and duct work cleaned if you want to trim your heating bill.

* Trim trees, tree limbs and shrubs, especially those close to the house.

* Check attic insulation and ventilation.

* Test and replace batteries in all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

* Shut off and drain all exterior water faucets.

* Clean and store patio furniture and grill.

* Waterproof the deck.

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