Ignore this, and there can be costly damage – inside and outside – caused by water and ice backing up from the gutters.
Gutters must be cleaned and flushed, with water running away from the home. Use a splash pan, patio block or small stones at the exit point to help disperse the water.
Fasten leaders, elbows and leader straps with hex-head screws (at least 3/4-inch length; No. 8 thickness). Use caution with ladders, and if not comfortable, hire a pro.
Inspect for missing/damaged shingles and areas that don’t look right, says Stan Reczkowski of SR Roofing in Paramus, N.J. Also look for brownish stains at the soffit and fascia areas below gutters.
To avoid accidents, he says, “Any repairs on the roof or above the gutter line should be done by a pro.”
Reczkowski says roofing should be done by a contractor who does nothing else but that, and adds that roofers do work through the winter (weather permitting).
Chimney sweep Keith Donaldson says to look for loose/missing bricks and mortar (the gray material between the bricks). Also check the chimney top (crown).
“You have to keep after the crown – that’s the most important part of the chimney,” warns Donaldson. “If you don’t take care of the crown, water can penetrate.”
This is not for the weekend warrior; hire a sweep or mason. Add a cap ($125 and up) to keep debris, animals and precipitation out.
Homeowners who have a high-efficiency furnace that is vented out of the side of the house should make sure it is positioned so that snow does not clog those pipes, says Palmer.
Place a cover on central A/C units, and install insulated covers on water spigots. Trim should be secured with finishing nails.
Nothing, including wood piles, should come in contact with the home. Soil should slope away from the home to facilitate drainage. If needed, add top soil to near the foundation, then taper with a rake to create slope. Top off with landscape rock to prevent erosion.
Loose paint on wood should be scraped/sanded. Apply primer, then top coat.
Look for damaged, weak and diseased trees, which can damage power lines, homes and cars.
“Branches shouldn’t be by the chimney, period,” says Donaldson, who adds that overhanging branches give warmth-seeking animals access to winter quarters.
This is no job for amateurs. Call a reputable tree surgeon, get proof of insurance from his agent and stay indoors during the work.
To prevent the weather from causing a major headache at a vacation home, keep a few things in mind besides locking the doors.
“Turn off all water and blow out (water lines) with an air compressor if you are turning off heat in a climate that freezes,” says plumber Tim Walker of River Edge. “Put (non-toxic) antifreeze in all sink, tub/shower and washing-machine traps, and remove water from toilet tanks and bowls and add (that same) antifreeze.”
Or, “just lower the heat to 45 degrees and install a special thermostat in the house that will call your (main) home or cell phone if the temperature goes below 45,” says plumber Rob Wickersheim of Hackensack.
“This way you have some time to get there and fix the problem before any real damage occurs.”