Winter Proofing Your Home for Maintenance and Safety (Part 2 of 2)

Family relaxing at home. Feet in Christmas socks near fireplace. Winter holiday concept

Solutions for Inside the Home

Keep the house warm. Set the thermostat for at least 65 degrees, since the temperature inside the walls, where the pipes are located, is substantially colder – a lower temperature will not keep the pipes from freezing.

Fireplaces: What you need to know

1. Only burn dry, cured wood — logs that have been split, stacked, and dried for eight to 12 months. Cover your log pile on top, but leave the sides open for air flow. Hardwoods such as hickory, white oak, beech, sugar maple, and white ash burn longest, though dry firewood is more important than the species.

2. Burn firewood and only firewood! Crates, lumber, construction scraps, painted wood, or other treated wood releases chemicals into your home, compromising air quality. Log starters are fine for getting your wood fireplace going, but they burn very hot; generally only use one at a time.

3. Close the damper when not using your wood fireplace to prevent warm indoor air — and the dollars you’re spending to heat it — from rushing up the chimney.

4. Keep bifold glass doors open when burning a fire to allow heat to get into the room. On a factory-built, prefab wood fireplace with a circulating fan, keep doors closed to prevent unnecessary heat loss.

5. Have a chimney cap installed to prevent objects, rain, and snow from falling into your chimney, and to reduce downdrafts. Caps have side vents so smoke escapes. A chimney sweep usually provides and can install a stainless steel cap, which is better than a galvanized metal one because it won’t rust. Caps cost $50 to $200.

6. Replace a poorly sealing damper to prevent heat loss. A top-mounted damper that also functions as a rain cap provides a tighter closure than a traditional damper for your wood fireplace.

7. Install carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors in your house — near your wood fireplace as well as in bedroom areas.

8. Get your chimney cleaned twice a year if you burn more than three cords of wood annually. A cord is 4 feet high by 4 feet wide by 8 feet long, or the amount that would fill two full-size pickup trucks.

9. To burn a fire safely, build it slowly, adding more wood as it heats. Keep the damper of your wood fireplace completely open to increase draw in the early stages. Burn the fire hot, at least occasionally—with the damper all the way open to help prevent smoke from lingering in the fireplace and creosote from developing.

Add extra insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. Tons of heat can escape through the attic. Ideally, the attic should be five to ten degrees warmer than the outside air. Make sure to also insulate basements and crawl spaces.

Consider an emergency pressure release valve in your plumbing system. This will protect against increased pressures caused by freezing pipes and can help prevent your pipes from bursting.

3d rendering smoke detector on ceilingMake sure that smoke and fire alarms are working properly. This is a perfect time of year to change batteries in your system and do test on existing units.

Residential fires increase in the winter. Consider installing a carbon dioxide detector, for extra wintertime protection.

Learn how to shut the water off and know where your pipes are located. If your pipes freeze, time is of the essence. The quicker you can shut off the water or direct your plumber to the problem, the better chance you have to prevent pipes from bursting.

Many people travel for extended periods of time during the winter, so taking special care is critical. In addition to the steps above you may want to have the water turned off and/or have the water system drained by a professional to keep pipes from freezing or bursting.” Also, hire a trusted neighbor or friend to swing by and check on thing at your home to make sure there are no problems, which can worsen if left alone.

Sarah and Lisa have many trusted resources to help you with winterizing and protecting your home for the season. You can see their complete list of professionals, under their Concierge Services here