Its Almost Winter

It’s fall and winter is fast approaching.  As a building consultant there are a few things I do around my own house that are commonly needed as winter approaches.  While I am sure that I could come up with a much longer list and then my wife could add to that, here are a few things that you should consider improving as we move into the wet cool time of year.

Have your furnace serviced

In the Houston area furnaces are only run a few months of the year so they are an often forgotten appliance.  It is recommended that you have your HVAC system serviced twice a year.  You should have it inspected once in the spring and once in the fall.  Furnaces have become more complex as requirements to improve energy efficiency have become more stringent, and there is more to go wrong.  A good inspection by a licensed HVAC contractor can uncover items that are in immediate need of repair as well as those that may fail over the course of the cooler months of winter.  While you may be able to observe simple problems like the flue being too close to combustibles more complex problems like a failing induction fan, bad pressure sensor, or damaged heat exchanger may not be readily apparent and requires special testing to detect.

Check your Smoke Detectors

We are almost at the time change.  Replace the batteries in your smoke detectors and test them.  If they are over 10 years old (there is a data tag on the back) then consider replacing them.  In newer homes they should all sound at once.  You should have one inside each sleeping room and one outside each sleeping room. You should also have a carbon monoxide detector outside each sleeping room and at each floor if you have gas fired appliances in the building, or use gas heat.  Some carbon monoxide detectors also detect smoke.

Clean your roof

Leaves will be falling on the roof this time of year and the winter months are wet in Houston.  Don’t let debris build up on your roof.  Allowing leaves to build up on the roof will hold moisture on the roofing materials.  Many roofing materials will deteriorate and corrode prematurely with prolonged exposure to moisture, and the fact that some leaves are acidic does not help matters.  A build up of debris on the roof or at valleys can also create dams that hold water during heavy rains creating a greater potential for water entry on the roof.  Be careful cleaning your roof as it is a skilled job and can be dangerous if you are not experienced at walking roofs or working on a debris covered roof.  While this job should be done it is best left to a professional roofer or contractor familiar with the work.

Clean your gutters

During our rainy months cleaning the gutters is a must.  Gutters should be cleaned every spring and every fall and sometimes a few times in between.  No time is more important than in the fall when trees are losing their leaves and covering the roof.  Leaves wash down the roof and clogs most residential gutters quickly.   Gutters are intended to collect water running off your roof and carry it away from your foundation preventing water from splashing moisture and soil debris on the building and preventing erosion at the foundation along the drip line.  This is most important on homes that have little or no eaves.  Gutters help to prevent water entry, damage to siding or trim, and erosion of soil at the foundation, which can result in foundation problems over time.  If your gutters are old and worn, consider moving up a size.  Larger gutters, 6” or more, are easier to clean and self-flush more readily.  Keep in mind this job typically requires access from a ladder or from the roof.  It can be dangerous, and you should consider having the same contractor who cleans your roof do the gutters at the same time.

Improve Drainage around your home

Fall in Houston is often rainy and wet.  This is a good time to observe the drainage around your home or building and see what areas need attention.  As a general rule you should never allow water to stand or run along side the foundation.  Have a landscaper fill in low spots and lower high spots.  While you don’t want water standing along the foundation which can damage your foundation you also don’t want soil in contact with your siding as that can result in a higher potential for water entry and termites.

Hire a Chimney Sweep

It is recommended that you have your fireplace checked seasonally by a chimney sweep.  While you can probably see inside the box and the smoke chamber you often cannot see along the length of the flue and at the flue chase cap on the roof.  A trained and certified chimney sweep can use special tools to closely examine the entire fireplace system and make recommendations for repairs that will keep your fireplace running safely for another year.

Check your pipes

Fall is a great time to check the water distribution pipes and hose bibs in your home.  Make sure that the pipes are well insulated where they will be exposed to the weather so they do not freeze if we have a hard freeze this winter.  Purchase hose bib covers from your box store to be sure that you can find them when you need them. If you don’t feel up to the task ask your plumber. These supplies sell out quick at the first hint of a freeze.  You may also want to stock up on plant covers while they are in low demand if you need them.

If you have questions or if we can help you with a general maintenance inspection of your home please give us a call.