Getting your house ready for winter.

Despite the 19 degree Celsius temperature we had on Tuesday, it looks like there may be snow on the way. And that brings to mind the need to get things ready for winter. Here are some simple, but often, overlooked steps to avoid any nasty surprises.

1). Disconnect outside hoses. When we have a late fall, like this one was, it’s easy to forget to do this. Hoses should be detached from exterior taps and drained. Whether you choose to leave them outside all year (I usually do, and I haven’t seen any damage as a result of it) or store them in the garage, do NOT leave them attached to your outside taps.

2) Turn off the inside taps that connect those same hoses. Why? Because the pipes that run to those exterior taps  can freeze and we don’t want that, do we?

3) Change your furnace filter regularly! Your furnace is going to be running now virtually non-stop. Don’t wait for your annual furnace maintenance check-up (I’m assuming you have one: if you don’t, you should) to get a new filter. You’ll pay through the nose for a replacement if the furnace guy has to sell you one. Get one that actually traps dander and dust, not one of those cheap ones (the filter, I mean, not the tradesman). Believe me, it’s worth it.

4) If you have fabric items or straw ones (like a broom) in your garage, bring them inside. This is the season for mice to look for homes for the winter too. I couldn’t figure out why every corn broom I owned was chewed to bits until I realized that mice needed materials to get through the winter too.

5) Going away for the winter? Make sure that whoever is picking up your mail checks to make sure that the furnace is on and that the water heater isn’t leaking. A small leak that’s unattended for weeks can be a major problem; so can frozen pipes.

6) When things get really cold, run a tap somewhere overnight. A trickle is enough to stop your pipes from freezing.

7) If your pipes do freeze (mine do almost every year), try holding a blow dryer to them for about ten minutes. I found out the hard way that that was all that the plumber was going to do to thaw them out. Could have saved myself a few hundred bucks with that little trick alone.

8) Keep a supply of salt, sand or kitty litter on hand.  You are responsible if someone slips on your front steps and is injured. And you don’t want to fall either (I’ve done that too; it’s no fun). Get supplies now and keep them by the front door. There are non-salt alternatives that are easier on your concrete, stone, and plants than salt is — one I often use is kitty litter. Why get them before we need them? Because when we do get hit with freezing rain (and we will), it’s can be a problem trying to get out of the house and out of the driveway to get supplies.

7) I keep two snow shovels handy, one by the back door and one by the front. I am not going to use a snow service this year. Last year, they came twice and at $ 450 for the winter, I was paying lawyer’s fees for something I could have done myself. This year, I’ll go it alone (which means we’ll probably have the worst winter ever). But by keeping a shovel in both spots where I need it, I don’t have to traipse through the house carrying a shovel. Easy to forget that when the snow comes, it’s not always possible to open the gates to the backyard.  

8) And finally, keep a snow scraper for the car inside the house, too. When the snow hits and the car doors are frozen, it’s not really helpful to have your scraper inside the car.

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