Fall Home Maintenance
Here in Grand County, Colorado we usually expect to start using our heaters and fireplaces in September. As the cold weather starts moving in, it’s an opportune time to run through the interior and exterior of your home to ensure your home stays nice and warm on the inside. Here’s a fall checklist that we recommend for Grand County homeowners from Winter Park to Grand Lake to Kremmling.
Drain and Turn Off Outside Water Features.
If you have any outdoor water features, they’ll need to be drained before freezing temperatures arrive. This includes blowing out sprinkler systems to keep the pipes from cracking or bursting, draining outdoor faucet heads, and draining and disconnecting water hoses. Store water hoses inside of a shed or garage. Most local landscaping companies can help with draining and turning off your outside water features, or you can do some online research and video viewing on YouTube.
Stop Cold Air from Coming Indoors.
This is an interior and exterior project. Start with inspecting the caulking and weather-stripping around doors, windows, pipes, and other areas that give access to the home. Old caulking and weather stripping should be removed and updated. Not only does updating old worn out caulking and weather-stripping help with cold drafts, but also with helping to keep bugs and critters out.
Clean Out the Gutters.
This is also a great time to clean out gutters to ensure they’re free from leaves and any other debris. Grand County averages 146 inches of snow per year and 205 sunny days – the combination of the two adds up to a lot of snow melt flowing through those gutters.
When doing roof inspections, it’s wise to look up how to securely do the inspection. Once you know how to safely inspect a roof, you’ll want to look for any damaged areas that need to be repaired, like missing or lose shingles or damaged flashing. Any shingles or flashing that is loose should be nailed back in place. Any missing shingles or flashing needs to be replaced. A roofing contractor can also help with annual roof inspections.
If you use your fireplace in the winter, it’s important to check it annually and may be required by your HOA or homeowner’s insurance. Hiring a chimney sweep is highly recommended as they’re able to work with gas and wood burning fireplaces and know what to look for to ensure it’s functioning correctly. However, if you are going to maintenance a fireplace yourself, for gas, ALWAYS make sure the GAS IS TURNED OFF before cleaning or maintenance. The igniter should be inspected, the fan cleaned, the glass of the door wiped clean, and the chimney vent checked for hidden obstacles, like bird nests.
For wood-burning fireplaces, with the door closed, the chimney stack needs to be scrubbed of creosote and the chimney cap needs to be inspected to ensure it’s properly in place. A locally certified chimney sweep can be a big help with cleaning out the chimney stack. Once the creosote is cleaned out, open the fireplace door and sweep out all the creosote and ash build-up; ideally, you wouldn’t have had a recent fire in the fireplace, so you don’t have to worry about hot ash. Clean the glass of the door with a good fireplace glass cleaner, and you’re good to go for the winter.
Check Fire Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Detectors.
Speaking of fireplaces, ensure your carbon monoxide detectors are functioning and operable for the coming cold season. At the same time, it’s easy enough to check the fire alarms too. Fire alarms should be in every room of the house, and carbon monoxide detectors should be in rooms where gas, oil, coal, or wood-burning appliances are being used – boilers, fireplaces, heating systems, water heaters, ovens/stoves, etc.
Inspect Your Heater.
At higher elevations, we don’t see many homes with air conditioners, but if your home does have an air conditioner, you’ll want to have it checked when your heater is checked. For a heater inspection, a local HVAC professional can do a thorough check of your furnace ensuring that it’s burning correctly and the fans are clean. You’ll want to have the filter cleaned or swapped out for a new one at this time too. If you have a reusable filter, make sure it’s dry before putting it back in place. As you get to know your heating system, we’d recommend checking the filter every 2 months to see if it needs to be replaced. If it’s clean after 2 months, extend the time period to 3 months.
Stock Up on Winter Supplies.
Depending on how you use your home in the winter, you may need to stock up on a few winter supplies. At this time, it’s good to consider hiring a local snow removal company to help with snow maintenance or save the money and do it yourself. Snow shovels, snow blowers, ice scrapers, and (pet-friendly) snow melt will help with doing snow maintenance yourself. If you have a wood-burning fireplace, you’ll also want to stock up on cords of wood. For second homeowners, a cord of wood would likely last through the winter, but for primary residences of Grand County whose main source of heat is a wood burning fireplace, 5-8 cords of wood may be a better way to go.
Drain and Turn off Indoor Sprinkler System.
If your home has an indoor sprinkler system that uses water only and you won’t be around during the winter, it’s best to drain the sprinkler system so the lines don’t crack or burst. We would recommend calling a licensed and insured fire sprinkler contractor before doing any indoor sprinkler system maintenance. Doing work on an indoor fire sprinkler system yourself can cause damage to the system and your home.
Store Outdoor Furniture.
In the low-country, most homeowners can get away with keeping their furniture out year-round, but in the high-country (Winter Park is at an elevation of 9,110’) with as much snow as we get, it’s best to store our outdoor furniture in the shed or garage. This helps extend the life of the outdoor furniture, but if you don’t have storage for the furniture, try to at least cover them up with a tarp and bungees. If you have awnings and patio lights stretched out, it would be best to take those down and store those through the winter as well.
Get Emergency Supplies.
We don’t see many power outages in Grand County, but we do see plenty of blizzards and snowstorms that make it hard to leave the house. When one of these storms moves through and shuts down Berthoud Pass, supplies start to run low at the local stores – including the grocery store. For those homeowners that have lived in the mountains long enough, you know this is a time to sit back, relax, and enjoy a hot cup of cocoa while the storm passes through, but for new homeowners, this could seem a bit scary. As long as you’ve stocked up on bottled water, shelf-stable foods, first-aid supplies, and a hand-cranked radio with a phone charger, you’re good to go.
For the most part, our winters rarely make it to where we are unable to leave our homes to get to work or get out to have fun, but there are occasional storms where it’s best to just stay in. During those times, make sure you’re stocked and ready to make it through the storm; don’t worry, it’s not like this snowiest place on the planet (but it would be nice to visit).
Prevent Ice Dams.
Ice dams form when the edge of the roof is cooler than the higher part of the roof. A big edging of ice forms that can lead to roof damage. To prevent ice dams from forming, make sure those gutters are cleaned out, the space between your home and your roof is well insulated, and snow is removed from the roof. If you have heat cables installed, turn them on before the snow starts flying so that the roof is ready to take on ice dams.
During heavy snowstorms, snow can build up on tree branches and cause them to break and crash down, because of this, it’s recommended that tree branches be at least 3 feet away from homes. Trim back branches that are too close to your home and branches that look dead.
Install a WaterCop.
Whether you’re a full-time resident or part-time residence, a WaterCop can be a home saver! WaterCop is an automatic water shut-off system that offers 24/7 leak detection. The WaterCop shuts the water off at the valve and you don’t need to be in the home to have it operate; in other words, whether you’re skiing at Winter Park Resort or vacationing out of state, you can have peace of mind knowing that frozen pipes aren’t going to burst and flood your home.
Whatever your fall home maintenance needs are, being prepared before winter comes is the best way to prevent future issues. If you need recommendations on local professionals that can help, give our team a call at (970) 726-9225 or email us at [email protected].