Check you gutters, have them aligned properly and clean them out before winter hits. (John T. Greilick / The Detroit News)
October is the time when most of us start the transition around the home from summer to winter. On the outside, that usually means storing hoses and outdoor furniture, winterizing the lawn mower and getting the sprinklers blown out. But you also need to set aside a day when you can walk around your home’s exterior three times to determine what might need maintenance before the winter weather arrives.
Before you start, make sure you have a pad of paper and a pen, and ask everyone in the house to leave you alone so you can concentrate on the task at hand. That includes putting the dog inside so you aren’t distracted. And remember, the purpose of these trips around your home is to write down anything that needs attention, not to fix it as you go. Later you can develop a plan to get things repaired.
On your first trip around the house, use a pair of binoculars to look at your roof and determine if there are any worn or curled shingles or cracks in valleys where the rooflines come together. Then check the flashing around the chimney and your roof vents to see if they need to be caulked or repaired. And don’t forget to look at the chimney cap to make sure it is secure, because birds and squirrels love to get inside your warm chimney when the weather turns cold. If anything looks damaged, schedule an inspection from a professional roofing company and get it fixed before the first snow falls. Some quality roofing companies include Kearns Brothers Roofing, (888) 355-6700, www.kearnsbrothers.com; and McGlinch & Sons Home Improvement, (313) 278-2777, www.mcglinchsons.com.
Next, look at your gutters to make sure they are aligned properly. Then stand underneath them and look up to see if they have pulled away from the drip edge, which allows water to seep behind them.
For your second walk around the house, you are looking for areas of wear around windows, siding and brick. Check to see if your walls have any cracks in the brick or mortar, or any loose or damaged sections of your siding. Next inspect your window frames for cracks or wood rot, and check the caulk around the window to see if it has hardened and needs to be removed and re-caulked. If you want to seal your windows with caulk around the frames to keep the winter air out, but will want to open those windows when the spring comes, you can use a special caulk like DAP Seal ’n Peel removable weatherstrip caulk, www.dap.com. This unique caulk provides a temporary seal and then peels away when you want to remove it in the spring. If you need your windows repaired, make a note to call Independent Window Repair, (866) 497-1919, www.iwrinc.com; or H&R Window Repair, (248) 544-8282, www.hrwindowrepair.com.
Make sure you also inspect all the entry doors into the home and garage to determine if you need to replace the weatherstripping or the bottom sweep to help keep the cold air out. On this trip, also make a note to drain your outside faucets by turning them on and shutting down the valve from the inside of the house. Next, check your outdoor lights. Remember you use your outdoor lights a lot in the winter because it gets dark early. Make sure you have bright enough lighting for all your entry doors.
For your third trip, focus on the concrete and the ground. The ground should slope away from your home at a rate of 1 inch per foot for every 5 feet. If it doesn’t, you will need to re-grade it. If you have sinking concrete that is angling toward the house, you need to get that leveled so the water from melting snow and ice isn’t running to your foundation. To fix it now, call professional concrete companies like Foundation Systems of Michigan (FSM), (877) DRY-MICH, www.drymich.com; or SAS Services, (800) CALL-SAS, www.1800CALLSAS.com.
Lastly, check your downspouts to make sure they are debris free so melting ice and snow runs away from your foundation, and add downspout extenders if you don’t have them.
Now, sit down and review your notes. Prioritize the tasks and determine which ones you can do yourself and those that will require a contractor. But remember, the key is not just to develop a “To Do” list, but to put together a plan to complete the list before the harsh winter weather arrives. Then you can sit back and relax, confident that your home’s exterior is ready for the winter weather assault.
If you would like to suggest a question for this column, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to talk to Glenn Haege personally, call his “Handyman Show” on WJR-AM (760) at (866) ASK GLENN, (866) 275-4536 between noon and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. “The Handyman Show” can be heard on more than 130 radio stations.