Last month we provided a winter preparedness checklist that focused on the exterior of your home. Given the current forecast for Greater Vancouver and BC as a whole, we’re following up with some advice on how to prepare the interior so that your household keeps safe from the impending freeze. Before Jack Frost comes knocking at your door take care of the following duties and leave him outside where he belongs.
4 Tips to Protecting Your Home’s Interior Through the Winter Season
1. Seal Yourself in
The interior trim and moulding that wraps the windows, baseboards, and door frames of your home can be a gateway to freezing temperatures and moisture. Not only does this create an uncomfortable environment for occupants, it puts your home at risk for damage. Ice and frost can accumulate along the interior edges, injecting moisture into the seams, and end up causing mold and mildew damage when it thaws. Inspect the entire interior envelope of your property to look for damage. Catch less obvious cracks in seams by running a lit candle along more exposed zones (along the windows) and take note if the flame flickers. If it does, you will need to attend to it. Most air leaks can be a addressed with caulking or winter weatherstrips for windows and doors. Anything major (you’ll know it when you see it) may need the careful attention of a home repair specialist. And don’t worry, any small expenditure that you take on in repairing air leaks will save you in monthly utility expenditure alone.
2. Keep the Pipes from Freezing
Frozen pipes can fracture and lead to significant water damage. Some pipes are at a higher risk of freezing due to their location. These include exposed pipes in unheated portions of your home such as the garage or crawl space, and pipes located in exterior walls. Keep one of the most significant winter season household antagonists at bay with some helpful tips to preventing the freeze:
- Open cabinet doors under sinks to allow warm air to reach them (you may close them when guests come over).
- Drip hot and cold faucets in the kitchen and bathroom to keep the water flowing (again, not necessary when you have guests).
- Insulate accessible pipes. You can find pre-slit pipe foam at your local hardware store. Cut it to the appropriate size and duct tape it into place. You will want to find insulation with a high R-value (measure of thermal resistance), so look for one with a rating of at least R-3 and up to R-7 for spaces where there is a greater potential for freezing.
- Inspect accessible pipes on a weekly basis through the winter. If you discover frozen pipes, keep the water running and thaw them immediately with a hair dryer, heat lamp, electric heat tape, or a portable space heater until you can have a plumber inspect and repair them.
3. Inspect Your Furnace for Damage
Your furnace will work overtime in especially cold weather. At the very least you should change/clean your furnace filter once per month in the winter, but if the furnace exhibits any sort of disrepair, you could be in for trouble. When household furnaces are not properly maintained, the heat exchanger can crack. When this happens, it can catch fire and the flames can spread to other components, resulting in an explosive situation, literally. A poorly installed/maintained furnace or hot water tank can also lead to major water damage, so be sure to have your household furnace and HVAC installation inspected (and repaired) at the onset of winter, and every six months from here on in.
4. Watch Those Heaters
Your household may be running portable heaters through the winter to keep occupants warm. This puts your home at risk of a fire. If using portable heaters, keep them far removed (at least three feet) from curtains, sofas, blankets, plants, and any flammable festive/decorative items that may be occupying the same relative floor space. Never allow your children to use a portable heater in their room as they may plug them in without you knowing, and will not be as diligent in the placement of the heater. Also be sure to keep your curtains, furnishings, and interior accents away from installed room heaters and vents, as the intense and persistent heat may cause some of the combustible items to catch flame.
We can’t conclude this winter preparedness checklist without an addendum to make sure that you secure the appropriate homeowners insurance coverage to carry you safely through the season. Contact an independent insurance broker for an assessment of your current policy before winter takes its toll on your cherished abode.