December is a month for celebrations, family gatherings and holidays. However, if you find yourself puttering around the house, feeling like you need to do something useful, here at Bjorklund Properties, we have a holiday wish-list for your home.
Take advantage of this month's first snowfall to learn things about your house that only snow can reveal. Is the snow melting from your roof rapidly? That means heat is escaping from your home through the roof and you might consider adding some attic insulation. The quick formation of icicles without a thaw is another sign that you're losing heat through the roof. You might wish to do some simple web searches, such as " winterizing external plumbing" for additional info.
Indeed, there are many chores to do after a snow fall; consider the tasks as your excuse to get outside and enjoy a winter in wonderland.
* Clear walkways and sprinkle sand, salt or even cat litter (strange but true!) for traction. Be careful if you're using salt as it can leach into flower beds and is hard on pet's little feet.
*Check your roof for ice dams and break them up to release water if needed. Frozen dams along the eaves cause melted snow to puddle above and could leak through the roof.
*Knock snow from tree branches to prevent them from breaking under the weight.
*Consider sweeping snow from roofs that have shallow angles, like sheds, garages, etc., if you can do it safely.
As a temporary means to get through a freezing winter with pipes intact, block north-facing crawl-space vents with a piece of plywood. I do this on all the properties I manage, works every time.
If an unusually cold snap is predicted, and you live in an older house, it's always a good idea to leave the sink and bath faucets on at a slow trickle to keep pipes from freezing. This is especially important if the heat is turned off in the house for a prolonged period.
If you have an oil heater, you can save fuel and repair costs by cleaning some parts of the burner yourself. Start by turning off the power, lift the blower cover and dust the blades of the blower. Lubricate the motor by pouring oil in the oil cups. If you're so inspired and courageous, you can even clean the oil strainer and replace the filter. Check the owner's manual for do-it-yourself maintenance of your oil burner.
If you have forced-air heating ducts, check ducts once a year for leaks and seal with (yes) duct tape. Routinely vacuum dust from duct grilles, and have the entire system professionally cleaned annually, or as recommended by your heating system's maintenance manual.
If mice or rats have invaded your home ( a friend found a raccoon in his room today!), don't be softhearted. They can do serious damage that ranges from leaving droppings to chewing your home's wires, which can burn your house down. First, discern whether you have rats or mice: Rats make a lot of noise and leave half-inch droppings. Next, buy a dozen appropriately sized traps, bait half of them (peanut butter works well and is cheap) and place them without setting them. After the rodents have taken the first bait, rebait and set all the traps in one fell swoop. Wear gloves to dispose of the rodents, trap and all. (Do not try to reuse traps or you'll have a harder time going through with the chore.) Mice and rats breed like ... well, rabbits, so keep repeating this cycle until you see no new evidence of these unwelcome, hazardous, naughty house-guests.
We always recommend assessing your home's emergency kit. Make sure you have a battry-powered radio, a first aid kit, blankets, several gallons of fresh water, tools for shutting off gas and water lines, candles and matches, flashlights, and batteries. If you also live in Connecticut, do you have a backup heat supply? A generator?