Fall Home Improvement

fall home improvement

Home care projects to give you peace of mind this winter

With colder days and the first snowfall fast approaching, it’s time to put some preventive work into your home in order to avoid costly winter problems later in the season.

Simple tasks such as adding cleaning gutters, adding weather stripping, and insulating pipes can prevent much more expensive damage down the line, as well as the difficulty and inconvenience of dealing with them after the snow begins to fall.

According to Home and Garden Television (HGTV) (diynetwork.com/how-to/how-to-winterize-a-home/index.html) one of the first steps is an important, but widely disliked, task: clean your gutters.

Clogged gutters can lead to “ice damming” which in turn causes gutters to overflow leading to possible water seepage into the ceiling or walls.

In addition to exterior home preparation, there are several small indoor tasks that can save you grief this winter.

Caulk cracks in the siding of a home and use outlet seals (which you can find at any hardware or home improvement store) to stop small leaks around your outlets. The importance of functional weather stripping cannot be overstated. Check all windows and doors for worn out weather stripping and add or replace it as needed. Don’t forget the garage door. A rubber seal on the bottom prevents melting snow, as well as icy drafts, from entering the garage.

Butch Vernon, owner and CEO of Budget Home Center in Longmont, says windows should be at the top of your priority list this fall.

“The main idea is to save energy costs,” Vernon said. “Your biggest energy eater for heat in fall, winter and early spring is leaky windows.”

Vernon offers several solutions to this problem.

“There are several things I would suggest that you look at,” he said. “One is possible replacement. The new windows that are available now are a lot more energy efficient. If you can’t afford new windows, the next best thing is storm windows.”

Storm windows are mounted on the front trim of your house, over the existing window. This creates dead air space and insulation in between the storm window and the original window, explains Vernon.

“The third thing you can do that’s less expensive is a stretch film that you can put on the trim of the window,” he adds.

Vernon warns that with the decrease in cost comes a decrease in effectiveness for preventing leaks.

A concern many homeowners have with the approaching winter season is pipes potentially freezing and cracking or bursting. Vernon says this is one of the most common problems he’s encountered in home care.

“The most common thing that breaks in a house is the outside spigots or faucets,” he said. “It just takes a pinhole type area to cause a little cold air to get into that faucet and freeze it up and it splits and causes a water leak.”

Vernon advises thorough caulking around the faucet and potentially covering the faucet with a foam cap or electric heat tape. Keeping your home’s interior temperature at 65 degrees and above will also help keep pipes running smoothly during the winter.

Outside the home, lawns and gardens will need a lot of care in the fall if they are to fare well over the winter.

Colorado lawns can be a little tricky to maintain with our wildly fluctuating temperatures and unpredictable weather, but winter distress can be combatted by spreading fertilizer, aerating, raking and winter watering. Be wary of the fertilizer; it should be spread evenly and only in the recommended amount.

Though it is important to follow the given instructions, Vernon of Budget Home Center also emphasizes the importance of fertilizing at this time of year.

“It’s the best time of year to feed your grass,” he said. “Most of the research finds that fall fertilization is probably the most beneficial.”

Aeration, or removing evenly spaced plugs of soil, provides an easier pathway for air, water and nutrients to reach tender grass roots. Aerating can be one of the most beneficial and affordable types of fall lawn care.

Vernon says aeration is particularly important in Colorado.

“In our clay soils around this part of the country, aeration is a big deal,” he said. “If we get a lot of snow, the moisture will go into the soil instead of running off.”

You can rent a motorized or manual aerator at Budget Home Center or your local home improvement store. Aerators that remove a core of soil are preferred over options that just drive holes into the ground. There is little difference in the results acquired with manual equipment when compared with motorized. While the motorized aerator might save you a little time, it is also heavy equipment and requires a bit more upper body strength to control. However, if your yard is very large, it might be a better option. Speak with the professionals before you choose to determine what best suits your situation.

Another thing most homeowners don’t consider when it comes to fall/winter lawn and garden maintenance is winter watering. During very dry winters, plants may require supplemental watering to prevent root damage.  The Colorado State University Extension recommends the following;

Water only when air and soil temperatures are above 40 degrees fahrenheit with no snow cover.

Established large trees have a root spread equal to or greater than the height of the tree. Apply water to the most critical part of the root zone within the dripline.

The timing should be exactly opposite of what is advisable during the summer months; water at the peak warmth of the day to prevent ice build up and excessive freezing. Just be sure to disconnect water hoses before nighttime temperatures fall.

From windows to faucets to lawns, there are many areas of the home that need tending to prepare them for winter. Whether you decide to complete one or all of these projects, your home and garden will be better off for it, now and in the coming spring.

Published to Longmont Magazine on 8/27/2013.

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