By Keith Dmytryck
Winter is moving into the area, and there’s nothing to be done about the onslaught. But you do have some say about how just much it bullies its way into your home. In the first part of our checklist for winter, we offered troubleshooting for windows and trim – major problem spots for cold air and water intrusion. Here are hints about the other main weak points in your home’s winter armor.
ROOFS AND GUTTERS
If your roof is leaking, you already have your clue and are arranging repairs or tackling them yourself: a tricky project requiring its own DIY article!
In checklist mode, you’re scoping out suspicious looking cracks; flashing that is puckered, buckled or torn; shingles that are curled, warped or missing; and gutter damage or blockage. Save yourself and do your initial roof inspection with binoculars. If you discover repair points and are skilled at DIY, you should obviously use caution when walking the roof to replace a shingle or flashing segment. If moisture or rot are hiding beneath the surface, there could be deadly weak spots that won’t hold your weight.
If you find gutter problems, don’t blow them off until spring. The periodic melt and freeze of winter can be devastating. The overflow from missing, damaged or clogged gutters can cause wood rot, roof damage, cracks and undermining of the foundation, and water seepage into the house and basement.
If your roof is in obvious need of replacement, you can avoid potential damage to the rest of your home’s structure by getting it done before snow starts piling up. Skilled roofers can work in almost any weather, but the sooner trumps later, as cold materials can be more brittle and a responsible professional will take extra time to do the job right. A trustworthy professional will also assess your situation and tell you straight if you can wait for warmer weather.
SIDING AND INSULATION
Not just cold air, but damaging moisture can work its way behind loose siding. Find loose boards and put them back or replace them. Replace broken siding shingles. If siding shingles are loose, inspect carefully – they are probably warped and need replacing rather than repositioning. To remove a shingle, split it in several narrow bits, pulling them down and out. Then pull any nails that you can feel under the shingles, or drive them flush. To remove several rows of shingles that have rotted out, pull off the several rows and start at the bottom.
To install new shingles, use a ledger board (a 1-by-4 straight board) nailed level to allow the proper exposure, and serve as a guide. For wood clapboards, you can use a spirit (bubble) level.
With the siding battened down, don’t neglect that familiar barrier against cold: insulation. Signs that you have insufficient or ineffective insulation include difficulty keeping temperatures in your upper floors regulated, and formation of ice dams along the roof-line.
Check your attic. If you see joists, you will need to add more insulation. Ideally, you’ll have about twelve inches or more of insulation inside your attic.
Now, check the basement. The thinking used to be that rising heat made basement insulation unnecessary. Energy efficiency standards have improved, and recommend that basement ceilings have insulation of 6-inch fiberglass with the upward-facing paper vapor barrier.
The easiest insulation check might surprise you. Take the plates off your switch and outlet boxes: there should be foam covers. If not, just pop some in (available at hardware stores, pre-cut to accommodate the switch and outlet openings). This little fix really will affect energy savings. Just remember, open spaces in those switch and outlet boxes are intended as such should not be filled with insulation.
Other areas of the home can be difficult to assess, such as insulation tucked inside walls. If you suspect your wall insulation is insufficient or deteriorated, consider hiring a professional energy auditor, who can use infrared technology to find gaps in insulation.
While homeowners may consider repairing minor damages themselves, they should check first to see that any products installed in the home are covered under the manufacturers’ warranty. Many manufacturers will not honor warranties if amateur repairs have been attempted. For repairs that are beyond the homeowner’s skill level, a professional home improvement contractor should be consulted.
If you discover any of the above situations and feel that it would be best to have a professional perform the work, we will be happy to come out, assess the situation, give you your options and a free estimate.
Chuckle of the Week
Q: What do you get from sitting on the ice too long?