Mike Holmes: It’s time for your home’s head-to-toe pre-winter checkup!

Mike Holmes, Special to National Post | October 29, 2014 9:54 AM ET
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Have your furnace serviced now — waiting for a freezing cold day will be late (and the repair people will be booked up).

Holmes Group: Have your furnace serviced now — waiting for a freezing cold day will be to late (and the repair people will be booked up).

There’s the usual stuff homeowners do to get their homes ready for winter: clean the gutters, rake the yard, wrap the trees. They’re all smart moves, but there are bigger projects with big payoffs.

1. Check the roof

Your roof protects your home from the top down, shielding it from rain, snow, hail, ice, wind — you name it. If there’s a problem on the roof, there’ll be a problem inside your home — maybe not right away, but give it a couple of seasons. You’ll start to see the signs: leaks, animals in the roof, ice damming and heat loss like you wouldn’t believe.

Check to see if any shingles are missing or look worn out. Are they buckling, curling, or missing sections of granules? If you find large amounts of asphalt granules when cleaning the eavestroughs, that’s a red flag for re-shingling.

Don’t wait for spring to do roofing work; do it now, if you can. Most good roofers will be booked, but a couple might be able to squeeze you in by early December, which isn’t too bad if Mother Nature’s on our side.

2. Add extra insulation

Your attic is a cold zone. It must be the same temperature as outside. If your attic doesn’t have enough insulation, that outdoor temperature will make its way inside, which is a huge waste of energy and money. And who wants to live in a cold house?

Your attic should be sealed from the rest of your home with vapour barrier and have a minimum of 30.5 to 38 centimetres of blown-in insulation, which shouldn’t block any vents or soffits. Your attic needs to breathe so moisture can escape so we don’t get things like mould.

3. Clean the chimney

If you have a wood-burning chimney, get the flue cleaned by a pro. You should do this at least once a year, no exception. Creosote (soot) can build up on the inside of the chimney, which is a huge fire hazard. It’s very flammable. All it takes is just one spark from a burning log and you can have a chimney fire.

Cleaning the flue can also reveal if there’s a crack or anything blocking it on the inside. If there is, toxic fumes like carbon monoxide (CO) can enter your home. Gas fireplaces should also be checked out once a year by a technician, to make sure they’re working properly. Do not risk a CO leak.

4. Get the furnace serviced
This is something all homeowners should have done by a licensed technician as soon as possible. Don’t wait for a freezing cold day to find out your furnace doesn’t work.

5. Inspect windows and doors

Old or worn windows should be upgraded to at least double or triple-pane, low E and argon-gas-filled models. Check out the framing around your windows and doors, too. Are there gaps? Are they rotting? If they are, I guarantee you are losing heat and letting moisture in. A good window installer will automatically repair the framing. It will cost more but it’s absolutely necessary.

6. Check caulking

If any caulking is brittle, shrunken or cracked, replace it. Bad caulking also lets moisture and drafts intrude. Moisture leads to rot and mould; drafts lead to heat loss.

Your home could lose up to 30% of its heat this winter because of drafts. Caulking and replacing the seal or weatherstripping on doors and windows can help stop that.

7. Wrap pipes that go through cold zones

Check them in areas such as the crawl space, garage or along a basement wall that isn’t insulated. Insulating pipes helps prevent them from freezing and bursting.

Doing what you can now to protect your home saves money by preventing repairs and reducing energy use. Do the work now so you can relax over winter — and be a few steps ahead next spring.

Watch Mike Holmes on Holmes Makes It Right on HGTV. For more information visit makeitright.ca.

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