Suzanne Powers' Top 7 Hot Home Tips for Wisconsin Winter Readiness
Winter in Wisconsin. We love our seasons, but it can be hard on our homes and yards. Being prepared helps (cue the Boy Scouts). Whether or not you are selling your home, there are several things you can do now to prepare your home for the long winter ahead. Some of my top tips will help ensure you have a smooth and safe winter season ahead and reduce your concerns and worries about your home during the cold winter months.
1. GARAGE: Clean out your garage. Perhaps one of the most overlooked and essential cleaning tasks for fall. Store bikes and toys, wash out all the garbage cans, properly dispose of any gasoline or oil, and consider getting a garage-organizing system like Garage Tec or epoxying your garage floor. Outdoor mats in and outside the garage will help prevent slipping and water intrusion into your home. Go one step further and not only clean your garage, but get your car ready as well with Weather Tec floor and trunk mats to protect the inside of your car from all the ice, snow, and salt. Remember to stash a snow scraper and brush in your car…yes, even now.
2. LIGHTING: Make sure all your outdoor lighting is working properly. The North Shore Police Department has issued recommendations to homeowners on how they can reduce their risk of home invasions, and outdoor lighting tops their list. It is so much easier to check and fix your lighting when the temperature is 60o as opposed to -6o. Go out into your yard this weekend and make sure all the lightbulbs have been recently changed, replace any burned out bulbs and adjust your lighting settings for daylight savings. If you don’t have lighting on all sides of your home, add it. Also consider adding a home surveillance system. Ring and Nest are popular ones today and by simply being visible can reduce your risk of a home invasion.
3. GUTTERS: Clean the gutters! Wow. Just do this. Most water intrusion in the fall months is due to the gutters being filled with leaves and debris. In home inspections, clogged gutters are the most commonly cited problem for water intrusion into the home. Once those gutters freeze with debris, it is too late, and clogged gutters can lead to BIG winter issues for your home. Clogged gutters spill water down the front of the gutter next to the foundation of your home and can lead to repeated water intrusion through the winter. This promotes mold growth, split gutters, and bigger issues that could have been resolved with a simple cleaning. And if you shy away from ladders, hire someone for this task. It’s well worth it. Clean your gutters!
4. PAINT CANS: Dispose of all old paint cans from the basement. This is another very overlooked task that absolutely has to be done if you are selling your home. No one wants old paints cans or wants to see them cluttering the floor or shelves. They are difficult to dispose of and if you are selling, the offer to purchase explicitly says that you must get rid of all personal items prior to closing on your home, so do it now. This is a task we frequently work with Sellers to address before closing. This is such a big deal that the buyer can actually refuse to close on your home if the paint cans are not removed. Has this happened? Oh yes. So, make sure you dispose of all the paint cans and do it early in your selling process. If you need to keep some touch-up paint around to use for patching nail holes or addressing mover scrapes, transfer the paint to clean, smaller containers (I use canning jars), label it clearly, and ask a neighbor or family to hang onto it for you.
5. PATIO FURNITURE: Clean your patio furniture. Wipe down (use mild soap or whatever your manufacturer recommends to really clean it; don’t use only water) the furniture, wash the umbrellas and cushions, and store them in a climate-controlled setting. If you cannot store the patio furniture, invest in my favorite patio covers for your furniture. Covermates (from Coverstore) can be custom ordered for every piece of furniture you have and look great. They are durable and survive harsh Wisconsin winters with ease.
6. PLANTERS AND POTS: Empty your planters and pots. This is more important than it seems. Pots and planters that are not emptied of their dirt will crack and chip in the winter. The unsightliest outdoor look is summer plantings frozen on the front porch in December. Take the time to properly care for and dispose of summer planters. It will be very difficult to save your favorite front porch planters if you do not properly care for them. Empty the dirt, wash out the inside, and consider getting seasonal plantings for the holidays from one of the local garden shops or Sendik’s Food Market. My favorite seasonal plantings are from Sendik’s. Their ready-to-go winter plantings are fresh and last the entire season with no planting required. Their sturdy planters fit inside most decorative planters without the risk of damaging your favorite front door pots.
7. CHIMNEYS and FIREWOOD: This one is for all the natural-wood fireplace owners and enthusiasts. Have your firebox evaluated every wood-burning season to make sure it is safe to burn a fire in your fireplace. And get it done in October before the chimney-cleaning services get super busy. Once the firebox checks out, gather your wood now and take inventory of what you have. Consider investing in a firewood rack instead of stacking the wood against the house. Firewood stacked along the garage or side of the house without the benefit of a carrier damages siding and can lead to moisture problems, can stain brick exteriors (as well as siding), and stimulate mold growth. Moisture is not great for burning fires and especially not helpful to the side of your home.
Harsh Wisconsin winters are no fun if you are not prepared. Protect your home investment by keeping it safe from water, fire, and home intrusions, which are on the rise. Just a note about surveillance, which I will be addressing in next month’s blog post, this is the time to make that investment. Invest in Ring or Nest or, my favorite, Alexa’s new home surveillance system. These items make great gifts for the holidays and are generally very easy to set up. Everyone in the North Shore and Wauwatosa should have a home-surveillance system based on what we’ve seen in the latest police reports. Want to keep you and your home safe? We do, too! Do not miss next month’s blog post on home surveillance.
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