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How to protect your home from winter’s worst storms

Easy steps you can take to minimize damage, from Heritage Home Hardware

While none of us is particularly keen to think about any winter storms that might lie ahead, we’d be better off channelling that energy into preparing and protecting our homes.

To get some guidance, we spoke to Jack from Heritage Home Hardware in Sault Ste. Marie. He gave us some great tips that any homeowner can get started on right away.

Before you know it, your home will be winter-ready.

Turns out this is the perfect time to get serious about preparing your home for winter storms, he says. It’s also pretty important. Winterizing your home can help prevent damage and costly repairs, so a little investment of time and effort now can save you lots down the road.

Inspect your home’s exterior

Your first task is to figure out just what needs to be done. Where do you start? Jack recommends taking a walk around your home’s exterior; jot down any issues you see. Here are some of the things you can look for: loose boards or siding, any openings where water could enter, doors, windows, and any damage to your roof and gutters.

Pipes and faucets

If your home has any vulnerable pipes, wrap and protect them—it’s one of the most important parts of snowstorm preparation. Pipes can freeze as the temperature drops, which can lead to flooding and other extensive damage.

Pipe wrap insulation can protect any pipes that aren’t covered by your home’s existing insulation. You might also consider adding extensions to your downspouts, which is another step you should take for proper winterization. Downspout extensions keep water away from the foundation of your home and will minimize, if not avert, any potential damage.

Ice damming

Ice dams occur when heat rises into the attic and warms the roof; it causes snow to melt and run down the roof, where it then freezes in the gutter. Once an ice dam has formed, it traps more water on the roof, where it can get beneath your shingles and cause damage or leaks.

If you want to stop ice dams from forming in the first place, you need proper attic insulation. You’ll also want to make sure that your soffit vents are clear so that outside air can help keep your attic at an even temperature.

It’s also wise to invest in a roof rake. When there is a heavy snowfall, use it to remove as much snow as you can from your roof; it takes just a few minutes but can spare you from a major hassle later.

Trees, bushes and shrubs

If there are any tree limbs hanging down over your roof, cut these down before the onset of winter. Ice can easily cause them to break and fall, which can result in substantial roof damage. You’ll also want to trim any decorative trees or overgrown shrubs.

Protect them from the elements with burlapshrub covers and other shrub protector wraps. They give your greenery a much better chance of surviving the worst of winter’s high winds and ice storms.

Snow fences

Did you know that there is a way you can protect your trees and hedges from bearing the brunt of a bad storm? Install a snow fence as a windbreak, which can help protect trees and hedges from extensive damage that typically results from heavy snow and freezing rain.

Jack suggests making sure that your snow fence is 30 to 40 feet away from the area you want to protect. For optimal drift control, it should also be built perpendicular to the prevailing winds in your area.

De-icers and melters

You’ll definitely want to prevent slips and falls on your driveway and walkways in and around your home this winter. Use de-icers and melters to melt snow and ice and help keep these pathways safe for all.

Furnace maintenance

Arrange to have your furnace inspected by a professional technician. Part of that may include cleaning or replacing your filters.

This is the ideal time to get this done as we are spending more and more time indoors now—and that amount will only increase the colder it gets outside. Prioritize indoor air quality so you and your family can feel your best throughout the winter months.

You also, of course, want to be sure that your furnace is working effectively before sub-zero temps are a daily occurrence.

Doors and windows

If you haven’t already, replace the weather stripping around your windows and doors, if necessary.

Use caulking to seal any cracks or openings around the frames. You can even protect your window glass by installing storm shutters or covering it with plywood. In the event a window breaks, plastic sheeting or window film can help stop water from entering your home.

Back-up power source

It’s easy to forget how harsh some winter storms can be. Be ready for anything, even temporary power outages, by ensuring you have a back-up power source for your home. Alternative ways to power and heat your home include using a wood burning stove as an extra heating source or an emergency generator to heat (as well as provide lighting and let you charge your phones).

If you’re someone who uses oil, gas or wood regularly to heat your home, make sure you have enough wood, propane, oil or alternate fuel source for a least a week. That should be enough to last in case an outage occurs.

Check and clean your chimney

Never take for granted that your chimney is safe to use—have it checked before winter sets in. Don’t use it until it has been inspected, because creosote and soot can accumulate over time and make lighting a fire a risky move.

Many homeowners don’t realize that a dirty chimney can also lead to air quality issues inside your home. For DIY maintenance, you can purchase chimney cleaners and other supplies. You might prefer to also have a professional chimney sweep come by to inspect, clean and even repair your chimney if needed.

Check your smoke and CO alarms

Keeping indoor air quality top of mind means thinking about your emergency heating and lighting solutions too, as these can sometimes pose either a fire hazard or compromise your air quality.

This is the time to check all of the batteries in your smoke alarms and CO alarms. You’ll also want to test them to ensure they’re working properly.

Food supplies

You’ll never regret being prepared.

Jack recommends keeping some non-perishable food items on hand, just in case a power outage occurs. Not sure what to buy? He suggests stocking up on items that don’t need to be cooked or heated before consumption: things like peanut butter and crackers, cereals with powdered milk, canned goods and canned meats.

Insurance documents

It’s also a great idea to review your home insurance policy. Make sure you fully understand what you’re covered for—and what you’re not—in case of emergency. Look over the types of damage that are covered versus what you will be responsible for should damage occur.

Of course, if you have any doubts, you should contact your insurance provider. It’s probably worth asking how to update your policy to include coverage for any damage that isn’t already included.

Winter storm checklist

Have some emergency supplies on hand just in case there’s a big snowstorm. You’ll be so glad you did if you ever find yourself stuck without power or having to face an extended period without running power. Use this list of essential items as your shopping list:

For more suggestions on how to safeguard your home from winter storm damage, visit Heritage Home Hardware or call 705-759-5101.