With freezing temperatures and so much snow and rain, Canadian winters can be hard on your home. Doing a thorough fall cleaning and checking to make sure your house is ready for winter will prevent damage that could cause leaks. Plus, you’ll save money on your heat bill by maximizing your home’s insulation.
Here’s what you need to do.
1. Inspect your foundation, roof and walls and make sure they’re watertight
Take a few minutes before the first snowfall to inspect the outside of your home or building. Pay special attention to the roof, the walls and any visible parts of the foundation to make sure they’re watertight. Any cracks, no matter how small, can cause leaks when the snow melts. They need to be sealed properly.
If you notice your shingles are starting to look worn, don’t hesitate to contact a professional roofer for a full assessment. Roof damage can also cause leaks.
During the winter, keep an eye out for icicles and ice dams at the edge of your roof. Their weight could damage it. Remove built-up snow and ice along the edges of your roof regularly to prevent ice dams from forming in the first place.
2. Empty and put away your watering system
Remember to drain any garden hoses and put them away before the first frost. That way, you’ll prevent frost from damaging your plumbing and causing potentially catastrophic water damage.
Pipes that lead outdoors often aren’t as well insulated as indoor ones. That’s why it’s so important to disconnect and put away your watering system and shut off the water to any pipes and drain them properly. Leaving too much water in a pipe over the winter can cause it to burst.
3. Clean your vents
Exterior vents should also be checked in the fall, including ones for your dryer, range hood and bathroom. Remove any lint or dust that may have accumulated over the year and consider installing screens to prevent rodents from crawling inside to warm up.
4. Clean your gutters
It’s gutter time! Prevent gutters from clogging by removing leaves and other debris that may have accumulated over the fall. Clogged gutters can cause water to pool, which can mean leaks and damage to your roof, siding and trim.
Make sure there are no blockages and that water flows in the right direction. You can also install screens to prevent debris from getting inside. But even with screens, you’ll still need to give your gutters a good cleaning each year.
Pro tip: Make sure they’re solidly attached. The heavy snow can dislodge your gutters if they aren’t properly secured.
5. Check your secondary heat source
Have a fireplace? Fall is the perfect time to get your chimney inspected and swept. That will make it safer and more efficient by lowering the risk of fire. Check out our article on wood heating for more best practices for wood stoves and fireplaces.
Before you light your first fire, make sure the top of your chimney is clear of debris and your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working.
If you have a fireplace or wood stove, find out how to dispose of hot ashes safely. Our article on preventing fires caused by hot ashes has more information on the topic.
6. Safely store your BBQ and propane tank
Propane tanks should be stored outdoors, regardless of the season. Close the valve and make sure tanks are upright. If you’re planning to use your BBQ during the winter, remember to keep it a reasonable distance away from your house. If you plan to store your BBQ, take a look at our article on preparing and storing your barbecue for the winter.
7. Prune your trees and shrubs
Have a look around your property to check the general condition of your trees and shrubs. If any trees or branches look like they’ve seen better days, make sure they’re not at risk of falling. When in doubt, call on a professional to safely care for your trees and shrubs.
8. Set up your car shelter structure
Fall is a good time to set up your car shelter structure because the ground isn’t frozen yet. Make sure it’s anchored properly so it will withstand the winter weather. It’s best to wait until after the first snow to install the covering.
Clear the snow off your shelter during the winter to prevent it from collapsing under the weight. Regularly check the tension of the covering, anchors and bolts.
9. Check your exterior lighting
Make sure all your exterior lights are working. Install new bulbs as needed. Better to do it now than at -40˚C! Your walkways will be much safer if they’re well lit at night, especially as they start to get slippery. Accidents happen fast and can be costly if you don’t have personal accident insurance.
10. Close up your pool and other water features
Closing up your pool and other water features is crucial if you want to keep them in good shape for years to come. Freezing temperatures and inclement weather can cause damage, cracks and leaks.
Here’s how to close up your pool, fountain or other water feature for winter:
- Drain the water to between 30 cm and 40 cm below the skimmer.
- Disconnect and drain the pipes, pumps and hoses.
- Drain and clean the motor.
- Install a winter cover.
- Store all accessories where they won’t freeze.
For more information on how to close up your pool for winter, take a look at our article on the topic and contact a pool specialist to find out the what to do for your specific model.
Get a personalized checklist!
Make sure you cover all the bases with our Fall home inspection and maintenance checklist.
If you spot any work that needs doing during your fall cleanup, don’t hesitate to contact your insurer. Improvements to your roof, plumbing or heating system can lower your home insurance premium!