How to Protect Your Home Before Winter

Preparing a home for winter and cold conditions requires proactive repairs 

“After” photos by Miao Jiaxin for Sweeten

Much of the U.S. is experiences unseasonably freezing fall as winter barrels towards us. It’s a chilly reminder to shore up homes for the winter. During the coldest season, homes are under intense pressure to keep inhabitants warm and dry. The good news: it’s not too late to tackle winter-prepping projects by adding them to bigger home renovations already in the planning stages. Here, Sweeten recommends key practices for preparing a home for winter. A cozy abode in freezing temperatures is often worth the work!

Patch your roof

It might be a little late in the season for a full roof replacement, but patching up holes to hold you over until the warmer months is recommended. “If ice builds up on your roof, when it thaws, that leak is going to be nasty and you won’t be able to patch it properly until after the rainy season [spring],” said Sweeten general contractor Chance. “You could have months of rain coming into your home.”

As Chance points out, it’s not just the cost of the project that you need to worry about. It’s the internal damage water can have in your home.

Patching a pitched roof could be a simple one day job and cost less than $600, Chance estimated. If you’re in need of slate shingles, that cost could go up. For someone with a flat roof, say a New York City townhouse or brownstone, patching a small leak could be patched with caulking. Larger holes might require some asphalt cement. The cost of patching a flat roof should cost less than a pitched roof, since the access is much easier, Chance said.

A roof replacement typically needs to happen every ten or so years. And for a good chunk of the US, it needs to happen in the Spring, Summer or Fall. The national average for a roof replacement with fiberglass asphalt shingles in 2018 was $20,000, according to Remodeling’s Cost Vs Value report. Much of that can be recouped with the average $14,000 that is added to your home’s value. As for a timeline, a roof replacement can be done in under a week.

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Maintain or repair the boiler

Putting your boiler through a maintenance check each year could save you from a mid-winter disaster, advised Sweeten general contractor Richard. “If your boiler shuts down, that likely means no hot water and a cold house,” he said. Maintenance should only take a day and cost under $300. That cost starts increasing if repairs are needed, such as replacing a filter or an igniter.

Insulate the attic and pipes

Pipes that are exposed to freezing temperatures can explode and a drafty attic without insulation can add to your heating bill and carbon footprint. Both have a quick and relatively cheap remedy. Attic insulation involves patching areas where drafts enter as well as adding insulation, such as fiberglass. A pipe can be insulated with a foam pipe sleeve or electrical tape.

Sweeten contractor Richard estimates that insulation of both attic and pipes costs between $1,000 and $4,000. It can be completed in one to four days.  The great news is, the project typically adds more to the value of your home than it costs to perform, according to the Cost Vs Value report. In 2017, the average cost of an attic insulation project in the US was $1,343 and added $1,446 in value.

Waterproof your home’s masonry

Is your home is a masonry structure, such as stone, brick or concrete block? It’s worth investigating if any water is infiltrating your walls. “Water is the most powerful thing on earth and it can cause a lot of damage over time,” said Sebastian, who works with Sweeten contractor Richard.

Sometimes the fix can be as simple as spraying a wall with waterproofing, according to Richard. Like all price estimates, the only way for a truly accurate figure is to get a quote from a general contractor. However, Richard estimates that waterproofing will start at around $2,000. “The overall height and size of the property and area that is going to be treated as well as the waterproofing material used will all impact the price,” he said.

If a more substantial amount of water is seeping through, than the offending area of the wall might need to be redone or water-proofing added behind the wall, according to Sebastian. Minor repairs, such as replacing a few bricks could be a few hundred dollars. The cost of replacing much or all of a wall will likely send your budget into the thousands.

Seal up a draft

Fall is the perfect time for a draft stocktake, according to Sweeten contractor Chance. He advised homeowners to dip their hands in some water, walk around the house, and dangle them near windows and doors. Any drafts coming in will be extra chilly on the wet hand. This could also be done with a match. “If you see the flame really dancing then you have a draft,” he said. “If it blows out, then you definitely have issues.”

There are a few cheap and easy remedies to this issue that can save you money on your heating bill. Adding weather stripping, a strip of foamy plastic, around windows will stop a draft, said Chance. Rope caulk is another material that can do this job and be removed at the end of winter. Either can be purchased for a few dollars from any hardware store and installed in minutes.

Preparing a home for winter? Don’t delay.

Getting your home ready for winter doesn’t have to be a strenuous affair. However, it’s important to stay up to date with maintenance for your house or apartment to avoid major disasters during the peak of winter. Thinking of a fuller renovation plan after the thaw? Check out our posts on what to expect from a general contractor; renovating for resale; and the dos and don’ts of DIY.

Sweeten outlines what you should know before renovating an old house. Click here.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation on Sweeten.

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