Getting ready for winter

Posted Wednesday, August 31, 2011 in Sustainable Maine

Getting ready for winter

Now that Irene is passed, homeowners may have a sense of things that must be done to help protect the house for the upcoming winter in Maine.  You may have lost some shingles, clapboards, or bricks, or may know that a tree may need to be removed.

Windows and doors may have also given you a clue that not all is well.  Now that things are calmer, it is time to address those issues, and you may find yourself with a pleasant surprise, too - some of your fixes may help to save you energy.

Roof

Check your roof for lost shingles, and water damage.  While you're working on it, replace any worn vapor barriers.  The vapor barrier should go on closest to the roof, under the shingles.

If you have a flat roof, or part of one, you may be able to pitch that part of your roof to protect it.  Bear in mind that you will need about twice the amount of material that your flat roof required.

If your gutters are in poor repair, replace them with new or remove them altogether.  Extending the roofline slightly will keep water away from your foundation, but still keep your ceilings dry.

Attend to any chimney problems you may encounter. Repoint and replace worn bricks, and don't forget to add chimney caps.  Check to make sure that any flashing is formed tightly around the chimneys so that water doesn't enter your house around the chimneys.  If you have a chimney that is no longer being used, look into sealing it completely.  This can be done inexpensively with fiberglass insulation, sealed into plastic bags.

Walls

After fixing any problems caused by the storm, be sure to spend a little time sealing any exterior holes in your walls.  Use a spray foam insulation around water pipes, and around other places where vents extend through the walls.  Buy a package or two of electric plug insulation (about $3 per 50) and install them at every exterior electric outlet.  Clean any vents, such as dryer vents, that may be stuck open by debris.

Windows

It is now time to replace leaky windows or build interior storm windows.  We will spend a little time next week discussing how to build these.  It takes a few weekends to do your entire house, but with care, the windows will last years.

When winter is closer, remove your screens and store them; you will get much better insolation (the amount of sunshine that enters your home) without screens.  Consider adding insulated blinds to windows known to be drafty.

Doors

Get ready to install felt or other door weatherstripping, before the cold breezes grow.  Make or buy draftstoppers for exterior doors and doors to unheated parts of the house. 

Foundation and insulation

Use spray foam to seal foundations at ground level and about four feet below.  Don't forget to insulate the ceiling of your basement to keep the living space warm.  Be sure that the vapor barrier is against the ceiling, which is the warmest side.

Pipes and water

With an insulated basement, you may not need heat tapes, but rather simple foam insulated covers for your below ground pipes.  However, if heat tape is required, remember it does not have to be on all winter; below ground, heat tapes are only necessary when the temperature dips below zero.  Watch the weather reports and only use the tape when absolutely necessary.

If your basement is relatively dry, insulate your hot water tank.  You'll be able to lower your water temperature and still have a comfortable shower.

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