Common Winter Home Maintenance Problems

It’s winter! This can mean building snowmen, going for brisk walks and hikes, cozy dinners with friends and family, snuggling with hot cocoa… or it can mean scrambling to address issues around the house, shivering because it’s drafty, and paying too much on your utility bills. Which will you experience this year? It’s up to you! Here are some common winter home maintenance problems - and ways to avoid or fix them with minimal fuss and hassle. 

 

Some big winter home maintenance issues:

  1. Broken and Malfunctioning Heating Systems. There are few certainties in life: one of them is that your heating system will conk out on the coldest night of the year. Or at least it seems that way! A broken furnace or boiler impacts your comfort but it can cause bigger problems as well. It can be hard on elderly folks or those with various health conditions and it can lead to frozen pipes. 

To avoid complications, make sure you have your heating system serviced in the fall. The technician will clean it and make sure it’s in good running condition. If you haven’t done this yet, make an appointment now. 

If you have a furnace, also be sure to change your filters monthly; this helps your system run more efficiently and effectively. 

  1. Risk of Fire and Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Unfortunately, winter is also “fire season.” There is an increased risk of fire due to the use of holiday decorations and woodstoves. Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is also more prevalent in the winter. CO leaks occur when any appliance or heating system - whether wood, natural gas, propane, or vehicle - does not completely burn the fuel. Because the gas is colorless and odorless it is known as the “silent killer.”

Steps you can take:

  • Have your chimney cleaned by a professional. A build-up of creosote (a byproduct of burning wood) can ignite a fire in your chimney, and it will likely burn slowly and quietly. This is a clear danger, especially when your family is asleep. 
  • Make sure your wood stove and/or fireplace is clean.
  • Install fire and carbon monoxide alarms on every level of your home, outside every sleeping area, and in every bedroom. If it seems excessive, think about who is sleeping in those rooms. Be sure to test the alarms monthly and that they have fresh batteries (do this twice a year… if you make it a habit at the beginning and end of daylight savings, it’s easier to remember).
  • Inspect all indoor and outdoor lights for fraying wires. 
  • Keep all vents clear and unobstructed.
  • Complete routine maintenance on all fuel-burning appliances (e.g. furnace, gas stove).
  1. Ice Dams and Leaking Roofs 

There are a few reasons your roof may be leaking in the winter. One of the culprits: ice dams. These occur when ice forms a ridge at the edge of the roof, which prevents melting snow from draining properly. The water is trapped behind the dam, and it can leak into your home. This can lead to damage to insulation, walls, ceilings, and other areas.

Loose and missing shingles and breaks in the flashing seals around vent stacks and chimneys can also cause leaks. To avoid costly problems:

  • Make sure you have adequate insulation in your attic to prevent ice dams.
  • Repair any loose or missing shingles.
  • Rake off your roof after a snowfall. 
  • Clean your gutters. 
  1. Drafty Rooms

Brrr… if your home doesn’t feel much more comfortable than the great outdoors or if you feel a cold breeze while you’re cooking dinner or watching TV, it’s time to take action. A few easy, inexpensive home improvement projects can help:

  • Reverse your ceiling fan. There should be a reverse switch. Flip it! It’ll send the fan blades in a clockwise direction, pushing hot air down into the room. You’ll be more comfortable without having to turn the thermostat up (you may even be able to turn it down a degree or two).
  • Inspect the caulking and weatherstripping around your doors and windows. If there are any cracks or gaps, head to a home improvement store, spend a few bucks, and replace them. (Silicone caulk is best.) 
  • Try thermal curtains to preserve indoor temperature.
  • Buy a few simple window insulation kits. These are easy to use, and all you really need is a hairdryer!
  1. Lack of Supplies

Another common home maintenance problem we see is simply the lack of the right supplies. And you know what happens when there’s a storm… everyone is at the store, trying to buy shovels, salt, sand, and other essentials

Stock up before bad weather hits. The items mentioned are easy enough to store in your garage, mudroom, or a closet. You will also want to make sure you have some shelf-stable foods, flashlights, batteries, crank radio, and other items in case the power goes out.

If you don’t have the time to do winter maintenance on your rental properties, give us a call. Asheville Phoenix Properties is happy to take on the tasks and ensure your units are good to go in cold weather.