Owning a home is an incredible feeling but a huge responsibility. You have property insurance, a mortgage, basic upkeep and maintenance and all those unforeseen expenses like hot water tanks that mysteriously stop working and busted pipes. If you take a little bit of time before the winter season rolls around to do some minor repairs and safeguarding you could end up saving a lot of money in the future.
First you have to establish a budget. You aren’t going to be able to do three years of work in a matter of a month or two so don’t try to accomplish everything at once or you will get overwhelmed. Even if you only have a hundred dollars for minor repairs, you can save yourself hundreds (if not more) of dollars over the winter months. Start with an outside inspection of doors, windows, walkways, garage doors and fences. Don’t worry about cosmetic things like paint or plants (but painting a fence now will protect the wood from being exposed to rain and snow).
Inspect your Home Inside and Out for Energy Savings
When you have the outside mapped out it’s time to look at the inside. When was the last time you vacuumed the vents on the refrigerator? Do you have double pane windows? If so, did you raise the screens and lower the glass? Check doors for gaps and insulate them with a wool padding that you can staple into place. For larger bay or picture windows consider a plastic insulation kit for the glass sections and investing in some heavy curtains to keep heat inside instead of escaping. You can check fabric stores for inexpensive material and make your own or look on sites like FreeCycle for people that may be getting rid of such items.
If you haven’t already done so this year, have a local HVAC company clean out the coils on your heat pump. This is the #1 thing most homeowners with a central heating unit can do to save money over the winter, so don’t neglect it!
Enjoy your DIY Home Improvement Projects in Good Weather
Doing repairs in the fall is less costly and aggravating than in the winter; no one wants to have to drag a new water heater or refrigerator inside when it’s snowing so checking out your major appliances and giving them some tender loving care can help extend their life, save you money on your electric bill and keep them functioning perfectly. Remove any window air conditioners, clean out the fireplace and chimney and it’s never a bad idea to have a look in the drains in your basement to make sure they are clean and clear. Doing simple things in groups is easier than running around like a chicken without a head, so plan out your attack. Even if you have to do one room or section of the house a week, I am sure you’ll find more than a few things that could use some attention before winter arrives.
Window replacement can be a great way to save money but if you can’t afford the task, consider buying relatively inexpensive window insulation kits. These can be put up in a matter of minutes and can save you money on your heating bills without obstructing your view or limited daytime light. Another thing you can do is check the seals on the window frames. Our house is old and there are a lot of gaps; a can of expanding foam did the trick to seal them up and eliminate those somewhat spooky howls from the wind in the middle of the night.
Preventing Wintertime Water Damage
Cleaning out the gutters is a task that no one likes but it’s better to do it in the middle of the fall than in the dead of winter. Even a small blockage can cause major problems if water gets trapped in the gutter or drain pipe. The water freezes and could cause the gutter to come loose and fall. Spend a few dollars on a drain trap for your gutter and clean it out regularly. A trap will keep leaves and debris out of the drain pipe while still allowing water to drain.
Freezing water can also be an issue for your pressurized water pipes, and you don’t want to find yourself repairing a copper pipe in 8 degree weather! Inspect your plumbing to see if there are any sections of pipe that need insulation. You can also buy a plug-in water pipe heater if you live in an area with extreme winters.
Tidying up the Exterior
Trimming back bushes and tree branches in the middle of fall will mean less work in the winter. No one wants to have to fight with bushes or overgrown trees when they are shoveling snow or trying to desalt a walkway. Trimming them back before the cold weather hits can mean a lot less aggravation when the snow and storms start.
If you have steps that lead to your front or back door, the early fall season is the time to check to make sure that they are safe. Railings can be repaired and a small concrete patch can be added if they are a little wobbly. For advanced cases of railing repair you may need to bold it into bricks or cement. If that is the case you may want to have a professional do the job so you don’t put any unnecessary cracks in your bricks or concrete. For wood steps check the tops and bottoms to make sure there is no sign of rotting from standing water, insects or salt.
Check with your local community leaders to see if there are low cost improvement companies that can help you. For the elderly and handicapped this can be a complete life saver; they can help find volunteers to do work and grants and aids to help finance larger repairs that may not be otherwise affordable. Of course you can do a few good deeds and volunteer your time and DIY knowledge and help those who are in need of it.
I learned the hard way that it’s never a good idea to put things off when it comes to preparing for the winter. Having to climb out onto the roof when it is a sheet of ice to try and clean out a gutter isn’t just dangerous, it is something that is completely avoidable.
The sun is still shining and we are enjoying the last bit of summer but I’ve already started making out my “to do” list of things that need to get done in September and October. There are always going to be things that pop up out of the blue and take you by surprise but for the things that you already know about, well, its best to get them taken care of and out of the way before it turns into a major project that requires more money, more time and creates more stress.