The Coming Cold

by Daniel Sean Kaye | Sep 28, 2014
The Coming Cold …From the pages of House & Home…

Why it's crucial to winterproof your home.

After last year’s winter, most of us are feeling a little gun-shy as the mercury drops. The thought of power outages, bitter cold and damage to our homes is the stuff of nightmares. But fear not—there are plenty of smart ways to stay in front of the approaching months, and we have several experts with great ideas to do just that.

Where to begin
Homeowners need a plan for each season, says Ed Burke of USA Insulation. “Use a thorough ‘inside and outside the home’ wintering checklist to make sure all items are inspected.” He adds that while some work—re-caulking, sealing, replacing filters and cleaning—should be done annually, others such as adding insulation, painting touch-ups and installing programmable thermostats should last for years.

Lew Merryfield, owner of Merryfield Construction Group of South Jersey, adds to that list: clean and store patio furniture; seal gaps or cracks in your foundation or walls; program your thermostat at 65 degrees; upgrade doors and windows; and add insulation. “Insulation reduces drafts and cuts down on heating costs,” he says. Other experts say winterizing is one of the most important things you can do for your home.

“Preparing your home for the winter months is one of the most important maintenance items of home ownership,” says Deven Robillard, owner of Bright Services, servicing Bucks, Montgomery and Chester counties, Pa. “Any exterior wood is extremely susceptible to the harsh winters. This includes wood decks, fences, gazebos and play systems. [But] when wood is routinely maintained by sealing and staining, it helps both the health of the wood and its beauty.”

“Weatherstripping is probably the most important preventive measure from an energy-savings standpoint,” says Keith Orr, CEO, Handyman Matters of Northern Delaware, servicing Northern New Castle County, Del. In order to properly apply it, the door must be taken off of its hinges to get to work on the bottom sweep. He also recommends removing fall leaves from drains and gutters, shutting off outside faucets to avoid freezing, and protecting trim around doors and garages from sitting snow, which creates rot.

But don’t forget to look up. Pay special attention to your roof, advises Scott Devenny, president/owner of All American Roofing. “Check the roof for missing or damaged shingles and have them replaced; and check flashing around chimneys and other roof projections which are often the source of leaks.” Also, remove low-hanging tree branches, vegetation, fallen leaves, and other debris as they can trap moisture on the roof. “Check for pests. Let’s face it—they want to stay warm also,” he says.

Areas of concern
An important area to think about is your pipes, since those that go unprotected can freeze and burst. “Broken pipes can cost thousands of dollars to replace,” says Burke. Empty hoses of water and put them away, and protect outside faucets and piping with heat tape.

“Turn off the water to the outside using the shut-off valve,” advises Barry Fisher, co-owner of Ace Home Improvements, which serves all of New Jersey. “Open up the outside faucet to make sure the water is out. Sprinkler systems can crack and pipes freeze outside,” he says.

Doug Chapman, of Chapman Windows & Doors, which serves Chester County, Pa., and the Greater Philadelphia region, says homeowners should insulate any duct work and “look for gaps around the house that will allow cold air to get in.” As for areas prone to feeling the elements of winter, Chapman says pipes in unheated areas, such as garages or crawl spaces, are very susceptible.

These gaps can cause major problems. “For gaps between brick walls or steps and houses, water freezes and expands, forcing them apart, and just ruins them by springtime. Also, salt shouldn’t be used on masonry walks and steps as it can degrade the integrity of the mortar,” Orr says. Also, he says that window and seam caulking should be checked for cracking and refreshed if needed, and screen or storm doors should be secured against high winds with a chain kit.

Also, be sure to check any windows and doors older than 20 years old, says Doug Conner, president of Universal Windows Direct of New Jersey, especially if it has single-pane glass. “Inside double- and triple-pane glass is a gas which acts as an insulator, keeping homes warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.” New windows have low-E metallic coating, which filters out harmful UV rays. In addition, because they wrap the exterior wood framing in aluminum cladding, windows are essentially maintenance-free, Conner says.

To help with heat and coldness control, use tempered or frosted glass and have the glass tinted to block out summer heat, says Matt Miller of Renewal by Andersen of Greater Philadelphia, which covers all of the Delaware Valley. He also says to not forget the patio door. “It is one of the biggest openings in the home. If it doesn’t slide right or if it lets water or air in under it, it’s not good.” Knowing this will make the difference.

“[Make sure you] understand what you’re getting and make sure you do it right the first time,” he says.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, only a fifth of homes built before 1980 are properly insulated. Many homes have no insulation at all, due to the fact that building codes didn’t require insulation prior to the mid-1970s. “Therefore, both attic and wall insulation is critical,” Burke explains.

Conner mentions insulated siding, which has full-back insulation with an increased R-value contoured to the panel. Replace drafty entry doors with fiberglass or steel models with polyurethane foam injected. Most also use composite framing, so there is no wood to rot. Homeowners should also install storm doors to keep out drafts.

Devenny suggests insulating recessed lighting to stop warm air from leaking into the attic and cool attic air from leaking into your living space. Insulated attic stair covers reduce the amount of heat and moisture getting into the space and attic vents make sure the insulation is adequate. “If your roof is getting up in years, you may want to consider replacing your shingles,” he adds. “Asphalt shingles are still the most economical and popular roofing material, covering nearly 85 percent of U.S. homes,” he says. Premium asphalt shingles, however, usually have longer warranties and that could save money in the future.

Ice damming
Ice damming is another major issue, says Adam Parnes, vice president of marketing for Global Home Improvement. “This is when hot air from inside your home melts the snow along your roof and gutter line and then it refreezes, causing ice and condensation issues,” he says. “Ice damming can not only ruin your roof but can cause major leaks inside your home.”

Robillard says that ice dams can lead to an incredible amount of damage to both the exterior of a roof and the interior of homes. “We have seen ice dams cause homeowners to re-roof sections of their home, re-drywall, paint and replace carpet on the interior due to water seeping into the house.”

In addition to ice damming, there are other signs that you might be having problems, says Burke, such as “icicles hanging from eaves, snow melting off the roof while other roofs in the neighborhood still have plenty of snow, and snow melting around the perimeter of the home.”

If you already have roof damage, Parnes says to get an estimate to repair or replace it before the winter. “If you say to yourself, ‘I hope it lasts another winter,’ you are playing a game of chance that could cost you a lot more money than replacing it before roof failure,” he says Fisher suggests adding an attic fan with a humidistat.

“Sometimes you’ll see frost on the nails in your attic. That’s bad. You need to keep the moisture moving. The humidistat sends the hot air out.”

When it comes to winterizing your home, make sure all your bases are covered.

“Treat all areas of your home as equals,” says Merryfield. “From roofing, siding, windows, doors and gutters—they play a huge part in protecting what is under your roof. Take care of it now or it will cost you more in the long run. They all play a huge role in protecting your investment.”


Ace Home Improvements
North Manalapan, N.J.
(732) 617-4070

All American Roofing Company
(877) ROOF-PRO

Bright Services
Huntingdon Valley, Pa.
(610) 522-7494

Chapman Windows & Doors
West Chester, Pa.
(610) 431-8980

Global Home Improvement
Feasterville, Pa.; Morristown, NJ.
(877) 711-9850

Handyman Matters
Wilmington, Del.
(302) 540-8263

Merryfield Construction Group, LLC
Runnemede, N.J.
(888) 612-5450

Renewal by Andersen
Central New Jersey
(877) 779-1393

Universal Windows Direct - NJ
Woodbridge, N.J.
(732) 738-1500

USA Insulation
Conshohocken, Pa.
(800) USA-FOAM

Published (and copyrighted) in House & Home, Volume 15, Issue 3 (September, 2014).
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Author: Daniel Sean Kaye



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