3 Easy Tips for Prepping Your Home for Winter

Trim the bushes…then fix the grade!

Winter is closer than you think, and it’s time to begin winterizing your house. Obviously I’m not talking about cleaning gutters at this stage! That will wait until after the leaves have fallen.

Prune shrubs and bushes first. This will let you see if adjustments to grade are necessary and it will make it possible for you to inspect all of the wall surfaces. Plants and bushes damage the house. If bad enough, you could even hear a scratching or rubbing noise inside. Second, check that the grade slopes away from the house, so that snow, turning to ice doesn’t just lay up against the walls for months. Remember with grade, you need it to be falling away from the house at an angle of 6 inches in the first 10 feet. Landscape rocks and wood chips are not the grade, they are decorative. It must be the earth below that slopes properly.

Have you purchased your tube of silicone caulk yet?

Well, I hope that caught your attention! Step 3, this is a great time to seal up any air leaks in the walls of your home. Finding and sealing wall penetrations is the most important part of your winterizing program! Your house is most likely under slight negative pressure. That means that air will be sucked from the outside atmosphere into your home when the furnace or other fans are operating. You don’t want that to be happening in the cold of winter!

Check any existing caulking carefully, particularly around doors and windows. Caulking deteriorates over time, and it will shrink or crack letting cold air into your home. Check for small holes and be certain that air is not leaking around such things as water faucets, TV and cable wires. Small holes can make a big difference. Can you hear the whisper of the wind blowing through the cracks in your house?

How do I know I filled all the cracks and holes?

There is a simple way to check for leaking around door and window frames. Turn on the furnace and any exhaust fans that you have in the kitchen and bathrooms and approach each frame with a burning candle. If the flame remains vertical, even when you are very close to the frames, you do not have a leak. Confirm this by keeping the candle very close to the frame and taking it all around the edges. If the flame bends into the room you have a frame leak that must be sealed. If the flame bends towards the window or door frame, your house is under positive pressure and this requires examination by an expert home inspector.

Listen for the soft sound of a breeze inside your home…Find and caulk all wall leaks and you will…be warm andsave a lot of money!

Doug Hastings
Certified Home Inspector, Minneapolis & St. Paul
ASHI certified inspector
Kaplan University, Home Inspection Lead Instructor

Rob ‘Pops’ Leslie
Kaplan Professionals, Retired

More About Swales: With Great Benefit Comes Great Responsibility

Are swales and culverts used often for drainage? 

Yes they are! Swales are often dug along property lines to direct water to street drains. Most people aren’t aware that there is even a drain there. They don’t take any particular notice of the depression in the soil and think nothing of it, when all of the water between the houses is directed to the storm drain instead of leaving pools on their property.

Take a look at this illustration of a swale and then the photograph of 10 properties that are swaled to a single culvert! What a wonderful solution to getting water off the properties… Maybe!

What if some of the 10 property owners leave trash in their swale depression, which is washed down to the culvert anytime it rains? Is anyone in the community going to be responsible for seeing that there is no trash building up on the grid during rainfall? Trash or debris building up on the culvert grid can become a very effective plug. A pond can be formed very quickly, behind the culvert opening, in heavy rainfall, which can in turn raise the water table on the surrounding land. Hopefully the drainage designer has allowed for such a possibility and has designed the residential lots, so that a rising water table will not flood the basements of the surrounding homes or cause the sump pumps to be operating continuously.

Swales are marvelous, but they do require maintenance and supervision. You can’t allow a swale on your property to build up with debris to a point where it causes water to flow onto the neighbor’s property or perhaps in the direction of your own basement. It is simply illegal to allow water to flow off your property on to your neighbors land and I’m sure you don’t want to wake up one morning with a wet basement yourself!

We would appreciate hearing from you, if you have an opinion or a question on swales. In fact, we would like to hear from you anytime you have a comment or an idea to share on any of these blogs. Communication is a two-way street, so let us hear what is going through your mind.

Doug Hastings
MN Home Inspector, Minneapolis & St. Paul
Kaplan University, Home Inspection Lead Instructor

Rob ‘Pops’ Leslie
Kaplan Professionals, Retired