TIME TO WINTERIZE!

In many parts of the country, the brutality of winter has already hit.  But here in the south, we’re still enjoying some pretty spring-ish weather: chilly mornings & evenings, and warm sunny days. But don’t let it fool you.  You still need to prepare for the reality that winter, even if it hits after the New Year does, is coming. And you want your house to be ready!

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From cleaning out your gutters to checking for leaks and cracks in your windows and doors, check these items off your to-do list this month and get started on winterizing your home.

1. Check batteries. A Simple, but often overlooked, task is making sure to check all alarms in your home. You’ll want to check and test all smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors and any home protection devices when prepping your home for winter. Winter is a common time of the year for indoor smoke and fires to occur, and poorly ventilated space heaters and furnaces can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. For your safety, you’ll want to tune up all technology and stock up on extra batteries in case of power outages or other problems.

2. Clean out your gutters. Clogged gutters can lead to serious water and ice problems during winter, so to prevent costly repairs and long-term damage, clean and clear your gutters before winter hits. Remove leaves, pine needles and any other debris, or book a gutter-cleaning service to ensure your channels for water runoff are ready for winter. Giving your rain gutters a clean sweep will not only add curb appeal, but will also help melting snow, ice and excess rain flow freely and properly.

3. Check for cracks and leaks. Cold drafts can leak through any cracks in your home during the fall and winter months causing your furnace to turn on and ultimately increase your heating bill. Dodge cold drafts by sealing any cracks and crevices around the points that can let air in, particularly around your windows and doors. Add weatherstripping or caulking to remove unwanted air leaks and drafts. This can also drastically cut down on your energy costs.

[See: 12 Home Improvement Shortcuts That Are a Bad Idea .]

4. Trim back branches. Consider hiring a professional tree service to properly trim back branches and ensure your yard stays strong and healthy until spring. Winter storms can weigh down trees and branches with ice and snow – anything located close to the sides of your home that could cause damage should be removed. Prep your yard for cooler temperatures by covering outdoor furniture, shutting off water valves, and storing your garden hose.

5. Reverse your ceiling fan. Looking for a simple fix to keeping your home warm this winter? Reverse your ceiling fans to circulate heat downward in a room, for a little extra warmth. When looking up at your blades, your fan should be circulating clockwise. Ceiling fans properly circulating warm air will help to ease the burden on your furnace in heating each room, not to mention cutting down on your heating bill.

6. Hire a chimney sweep. During the fall and winter months you’ll be spending more time in front of the fireplace. Cleaning your chimney is crucial to maintaining a safe fireplace as highly flammable creosote can build up. Be sure to schedule a chimney sweep early on and check the exterior of your chimney for any loose materials or debris that may be hazardous.

7. Check your furnace. Don’t forget to schedule a routine maintenance check on your furnace before using it full-time in the winter. If you plan on preparing your furnace for winter on your own, you’ll want to complete multiple tasks such as changing the filter, cleaning out air ducts and vents, and checking the fan belt.

[See: 10 Ways to Save Energy and Reduce Utility Bills at Home .]

8. Add insulation. Keep heat in and cold air out by adding insulation to your basement and attic. Properly insulating your home for the season will help cut your home energy bill this winter. If you don’t plan on hiring a professional to complete your insulation, adding thick curtains or floor rugs are quick fixes to trapping heat in your home.

source: realestate.usnews.com

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Improve or Move??

Unless you built a custom home, you probably have a long list of things you’d like to improve in your current home. Browsing online listings might get you in the mood to upgrade to a new home, or you might be thinking about renovating your current home after binging on HGTV. The answer to renovation vs. relocation depends greatly on what you’re trying to fix.

Thinking about a new kitchen? If you’re dreaming of a chef’s kitchen with new appliances and beautiful cabinets, renovating your own kitchen gives you incredible ROI and is less costly than moving. You’ll increase the value of your own home if you ever decide to sell, and there’s a great sense of accomplishment that comes with completing a custom renovation.

Need more space? If you’re running low on bedrooms, there may not be a lot of options. Converting an existing room to a bedroom doesn’t create any new space. If you’re in a condo, an addition is probably impossible. And additions can be expensive even if it’s a possibility. Moving is usually the best option.

If the neighborhood isn’t ideal You may have seen some potential for your neighborhood when you first moved there, but perhaps it still isn’t welcoming the shops and restaurants you expected. If that’s the case, consider moving. There’s no sense in waiting years for the neighborhood to improve, especially if you can move to a house in the same price range in a more preferred part of the city.

source: breakthroughbroker.com