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Early November is the time to prepare your house or apartment for winter. Sub-zero temperatures, wetness and snow can attack the building fabric and cause costly damage. The house façade and roof are particularly at risk, but so are other elements such as windows, doors or water pipes. We explain step by step how to winterize your house.
If you want to know how to winterise your garden and your plants, read our article «Garden Calendar November for Balcony, Garden and Terrace: Things To Do».
When water freezes, it expands. That's why you should check the house façade for cracks or other damage before the onset of each winter. Otherwise, moisture will freeze in the façade and enlarge the cracks until the plaster crumbles over a large area and has to be replaced. You can temporarily seal minor damage with exterior putty. But in the spring you should hire a plasterer or painter who will professionally seal and plaster the cracks or damage.
Check the roof for loose tiles and leaks. The biggest weak point is the chimney, especially the transition to the roof. Set up a well-secured ladder and thoroughly inspect the entire roof. Alternatively, you can look out the skylights and look for leaks. If the attic is not developed, the easiest way to check the roof is from below. If you find any leaks and water is seeping in, call a roofer immediately. During the inspection, also make sure that antennas, solar panels and snow guards are securely mounted.
A roof renovation costs some 10,000 francs. You can get part of this back as a subsidy if you renovate the roof to make it more energy-efficient. You can find out more in «How Much Does a Roof Renovation Cost?».
If you are already on the ladder, you should check whether the gutters and downspouts are securely hung. If not, they could break off and hurt the roof connection. At the same time, clean all the gutters and downspouts and free them from autumn leaves. For example, use an old dish brush or a hand brush. Leaves can clog gutters or pipes and lead to water damage and, sooner or later, mold on the facade or insulation. If you discover a hole in a gutter or water damage, you should contact a roofer immediately.
If your house has a flat roof, you should check the flow at all drains.
Use a garden hose to check that the gutters and pipes are clear. If the water you spray into the gutter immediately drains into the sewer system via downspout, everything is fine.
Rubber seals and silicone gaskets are susceptible to wear. Therefore, you should maintain them with a care product for rubber seals and replace them before the material crumbles - otherwise moisture will penetrate. Windows and doors must close properly to prevent heat from escaping. Check that all doors and windows open and close easily and without force. If not, you should oil the fittings and hinges and adjust them properly if necessary. Leaky windows should be sealed temporarily and you should think about window renovation.
If you are unsure whether a door or window seal is leaking, hold a lit candle or bird feather close to the seal. This way you will immediately see if it is tight or not.
A window renovation has a potential energy savings of 5 to 10 percent. In the article «Replace Windows: Energy Efficiency, Costs and Subsidies» read why window renovation is worthwhile.
Once temperatures are around freezing, water pipes can freeze and burst because frozen water expands. That's why you should be sure to completely drain all outdoor pipes that could freeze before the first frost and shut off the water supply with the shutoff valve. If a water line still freezes, call a plumbing contractor immediately. Also remember to drain garden pumps, rain barrels or water hoses.
Clean all outdoor floor drains like rain gutters with a hand brush or old dish brush and remove leaves. Otherwise, they will overflow when it rains and rainwater will freeze in sub-zero temperatures. As a landowner, you are liable for damage caused by poor maintenance of the building or driveway. For example, if the mailman slips on ice caused by rainwater overflowing from a floor drain.
Because of liability - and for your own safety - you should winterize all walkways. Uneven or mossy paths are even more dangerous in winter, when it's usually dark and damp, than in summer. Remove all moss, level out uneven surfaces and tighten loose stones. Also, check that outdoor stairs and walkways are sufficiently lit and that all motion detectors, dimmer switches, lamps and light switches are working properly.
Prepare for the first snow or ice by getting snow shovels, granules, gravel, sand or grit ready early. Do not use salt, which can harm your plants.
Before the heating season starts, you should have your heating system checked and serviced and, if you still heat with heating oil, fill up your oil tank. You should also bleed all radiators. The more air there is in the radiator, the more energy it needs to reach the target temperature. If you regularly bleed your radiators, you will save energy and money.
In our article «Energy Prices: Can You Still Afford Your Gas or Oil Heating?» learn what you can do to reduce your heating costs even more next winter.
Adjust the temperature if your radiators or floor heating are controlled by traditional thermostats. Level 3 corresponds to 20 degrees, which is just right for living rooms. One level up increases the temperature by four degrees (level 4 = 24 degrees), one level down decreases the temperature by four degrees (level 2 = 16 degrees). Wait a few hours for the room temperature to settle, and adjust until you feel comfortable. But don't heat too much: heating one degree less saves plus/minus seven percent of the total heating consumption.
The heater will not heat faster if you turn the thermostat all the way up. You only overheat the room and waste valuable energy.
If your cold cellar is damp, you should ventilate it for a long time in winter. The dry outside air removes a lot of moisture from the masonry at temperatures below zero degrees and the cellar slowly dries out.