WINTER IS COMING!!! I know, I know… it makes you think of a certain four-letter word: COLD! Haha- what did you think we meant?! How do YOU prepare for the cold? Some new sweaters, coats, gloves and hats perhaps? That’s great for you, but what are you doing to prepare YOUR HOME for the cold Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky winter ahead? ‘Tis the season for all things jolly, but also for things that’ll get your tinsel in a tangle such as busted water pipes, floor damage, costly repairs, and fire damage from that “cozy” fireplace- all in time for the holidays.
It never seems to fail, that if you are away visiting family over the holidays, disaster strikes when you’re gone. Many people prepare themselves for a trip, but in their hustle and bustle, forget about prepping their home. If you are going out of town for any length of time and it’s cold, resist the urge to save energy costs by turning the thermostat down significantly. Leave cabinet doors open around plumbing so that they can get some heat from the house circulating around the pipes. Enlist someone you trust to pop in and make sure that nothing is amiss while in holiday bliss. There is something to be said about the magic of the season… the blanket of white… the winter wonderland. Love looking at icicles on the side of your house?
They sparkle and shine and remind us of how pretty winter can be, right? Well, the ugly truth about icicles is that if your house is prone to lots of them, or “ice dams”, that can mean that your house hoards water in certain areas. Once the ice starts to melt, it can cause a sudden influx of water that your house can’t keep up with and cause meltwater to backup into your house. The first thing that you should do to prevent this, before the weather gets too cold and icy, is to ensure that your gutters are cleaned out.
A good rule is to wait until all/majority of the leaves are down from the trees in your immediate area before you clean them out, otherwise you’ll just need to do it again once your trees are finished shedding; hopefully by the time they are down, the weather here in Cincinnati won’t be too cold yet, and you won’t risk freezing your fingers to the ladder haha. While you’re up there, take a look to see if you notice any missing or damaged shingles that could let water in. Then, just keep an eye out on your house.
If you notice that there are spots with heavy icicle formation, you may need to (safely) get back up on that ladder and investigate as to what is causing the buildup. In order to protect yourself, and your home, from cold-weather calamities, you need to dress your home the way that you dress yourself for the winter; by insulating and warming it, inside and out. Start by draining any water from outdoor faucets and taking the hoses inside for the winter.
If you have in- ground sprinkler systems, arrange for your local lawn care company to come and blow them out once you are done mowing for the season. Once the outer perimeter of your house is secure, focus on the pipes in/under your house. Make sure that your water pipes are properly insulated and ready to take on the cold by identifying areas/pipes that are prone to freezing- which areas are more shaded and therefore stay colder?
Which area has newer vs. older pipes? Etc. Insulate around the pipes as needed, or use heat tape to wrap them and keep them warm. If Cincinnati weather has cruel intentions and Old Man Winter does bite into your pipes, you’ll need to call in a professional so that you avoid other damage such as mold down the line.
You should first make sure that everyone in your family is aware of where the water shutoff is so that you can minimize the amount of water leaking after a pipe bursts. Next, call a plumber to get your pipes back in tip top shape. Then, call Thompson Restoration for all your water cleanup, hardwood floor drying, and mold testing needs! We service the Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky, and Indiana areas.
Furnaces, hot water heaters, and sump pumps should also be given some winter attention. Make sure that you change your furnace filter regularly during the cold months (more often if you have a working fireplace in your home), and vacuum the vents and other heating components inside of it. It’s also a good idea to drain your hot water heater once a year so that you flush out any calcium buildup that can contribute to cracks/leaks. If you have a gas water heater, not unlike your lint trap in your dryer, you want to make sure that the screen at the bottom of your hot water heater is clear of any lint or dust.
If your house has a sump pump, every few months (but especially after long, dry seasons and before wet ones) you should pour several gallons of water into the pit to ensure that the pump kicks on and that nothing is faulty. Sump pumps are the leading cause of water backup in basements. Be sure to implement a maintenance plan that works for your family- good rule of thumb is that as you are changing out your wardrobe, be sure to change filters, check on appliances, and reverse your fans.
Fans should go clockwise once you are using heat, and counter-clockwise when you are cooling, because remember, heat rises! Nothing’s better than sitting by a fire with a blanket and nice cup of cocoa on a cold day; just don’t get burnt with repair costs due to faulty, or dirty, fireplaces and chimneys. As always, never leave a burning fire unattended. Just like anything that doesn’t get used or moved in months (hello dust-bunnies!), before you try and enjoy your cold nights by a cozy fire, you will want to have your fireplace inspected and chimney cleaned by a professional. Ensure that all parts are working properly (gas valves, etc.) and that your chimney is thoroughly cleaned and free of dust (goodbye, bunnies). If a fire should occur from your fireplace, or even from burning a batch of Christmas cookies, get out safely and call your local fire department. Most people do not know the proper way to contain a fire, albeit from electrical, grease, gas, etc., so it’s best to leave that to the professionals.
Once the fire is put out, give Thompson Restoration a call so that we can properly clean and restore the house and its contents from the smoke and fire damage. We work with your insurance company so that we can get you back into your house safely, and quickly, after a disaster if you live in Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky, or Indiana.