Capital Region homeowners got lucky last winter: The unseasonably warm temperatures and lack of significant snowfall resulted in few worries about things like ice build-up forming under roof shingles and snow-laden tree limbs taking down cable lines.
It would be nice to assume that Mother Nature will grace the Northeast with a repeat performance, but don’t count on it, home care experts suggest. Now is the time to start preparing for the worst winter can dish out.
Preventing ice backup
Duane Phillips, assistant manager of Noble Ace Hardware in Johnstown, recommends installing heated roof cables in the fall. The special wires, which are situated above the eaves, prevent ice from forming on the roof’s edge.
Don’t try to install them in the dead of winter “when it’s snowing out and it’s freezing and you have an ice build-up and it’s dripping inside your house,” he recommended. “Usually everybody procrastinates and they hold off before they start doing these sorts of things until there’s a problem.”
Clean the gutters
To further prevent ice back-ups, clean gutters and downspouts so they’ll drain properly, suggested T.R. Pennell, co-manager of Allerdice Ace Hardware in Saratoga Springs.
He also recommended heading off leaks by inspecting the flashing around chimneys and replacing missing roof shingles.
Households that heat with wood in winter should have the chimneys cleaned to ward off the danger of chimney fires.
Before the temperature starts to dip below 50 degrees, it’s a good idea to seal driveways, cement walks and wooden decks and disconnect hoses, Pennell said.
It’s wise to seal patio blocks as well, noted Ron Davis, owner of AllSeasons Landscaping in Schenectady.
“Certain blocks aren’t salt-friendly,” he pointed out. “Salt can eat away or discolor [them], so stay away from salting expensive patios.”
If you use any sort of ice-melting product to help keep walkways safe during winter, stock up on it before it’s needed; make sure shovels are handy and the snowblower’s tuned up, too, Pennell suggested.
Keep out the varmints
Once it starts to get chilly outside, rodents hunt for warmer homes, so seal up foundation cracks before any unwelcome animals move indoors, he recommended.
While outside working, don’t forget to ready the yard for winter. Davis suggested trimming shrubs, cutting back perennials and applying winterizer to the lawn in October.
It’s also important to inspect trees and trim limbs that could pose a hazard if they were to sag or snap under the weight of snow and ice.
Delicate shrubs can be shielded from heavy snow with wooden shrub covers. Slatted ones allow some snow to pass through, so the load won’t get too burdensome, noted Pennell.
Interior projects, too
Winterizing projects aren’t limited to a home’s exterior. Inside, furnaces should be cleaned and their filters replaced. Pennell also suggested sealing gaps around windows and doors with weather-stripping or caulk to keep out drafts. Clear plastic, stretched over windows, can also help keep out the cold.
Pipes positioned on exterior walls are prone to freeze when temperatures plummet if they aren’t insulated or fitted with heat tape in advance of the cold weather.
Before it freezes
“Every time there’s a deep freeze and it’s down to zero, [homeowners are] coming in to buy the heat tape to unthaw their pipes, which, if they had it on there previously, they wouldn’t have this issue,” Phillips said.
Heat tape is sold in lengths ranging from 3 to 30 feet at Noble Ace Hardware.
“It looks almost like an extension cord,” Phillips explained. “You tape it to the bottom side of the pipe and there’s a thermostat attached to the cord that senses the temperature. When the temperature is down below 40 degrees, it turns on.”