I simply love living in northern New Hampshire and there’s nothing quite like the seasonal transitions to keep us entertained and amazed by nature’s beauty and strength. One of the more exciting and visually stunning changes is our migration towards Fall. I know, if you are reading this and are under the age of 18, you are cursing those words and are bemoaning the inevitable end to the carefree days of summer and YOUR shift towards homework and study hall. If you are a homeowner, I hope you are asking yourself the question: “Is my home ready for the colder temps?”
As we are forced to reach for that extra blanket at night and even move the slider in the car from blue to red, our thoughts should also be directed towards readying our homes for the coming white stuff!
Getting and Staying warm inside the home is clearly top priority. For those with a fireplace or woodstove, this is the perfect time to get that whole system ready. If you start now, you will be a little early and will have plenty of time to get parts ordered and re-schedule the workers to come out and do what they need to do. Making sure there are no critters living in the flu or cap is important and if you haven’t had the chimney cleaned in a while now is the time. Buying and preparing your “fuel” is also vital. Get the wood split and stacked in a dry spot that’s easy to get to, but not too close to the house. That keeps the little critters away from the house, but keeps you close enough so you can grab a few pieces of wood in your slippers!
If you have any exposed piping, this is a great time to crawl under the house and inspect your heat tape. (You have heat tape, right?) Make sure all the garden hoses are drained and/or stored indoors. If this is your first winter in this home, make sure you know where the water main shut off is. Depending on the age of the home, it is also a good idea to inspect the outdoor spigot or silcock. Most of the newer ones have a drain valve that allows you to remove all the water from the section that would be exposed to the outside air. This one is commonly overlooked so don’t get caught.
Although they are always a good idea and are certainly becoming more prevalent, it is a great idea to install (or inspect) Carbon Monoxide Detectors in your home. There are different rules for placement of these items vs. smoke detectors so be sure and read the instructions. Since our homes are typically closed up for weeks at a time through the colder months, the CO detectors are very important. Of course, the “rule” of changing your batteries in all detectors when the clocks change still holds true. And I always test my detectors every couple of months anyway. It gives me a chance to make sure my cat, Remy, is on his toes!
On the outside of the house, there are a couple areas that commonly cause problems through the winter. Gutters can get clogged with leaves and debris so take a hose and make sure those are cleared out. Keeping branches and shrubs away from the house is always a good idea. If you’ve got some “trouble” branches near the house or power lines, now is a great time to tackle them. Cover shrubs and flowers that you don’t want covered by snow and even consider moving some indoors. Now is also the best time to plant spring flower bulbs and lift those that can’t survive the winter such as Dahlias.
Sealing the driveway is a good way to protect from the damage caused by plows and the constant freezing and thawing cycles. Check the foundation for cracks and rot on the sill plate. Sealing up any cracks and closing up any small entry points will help keep small critters from entering into or under the house. You would be amazed at the small amount of space mice can fit through. Once you have mowed the lawn or “mowed” the leaves for the last time, drain the gas or at least add some stabilizer to keep it fresh for spring. Getting the snow blower running and/or tuned up now will likely save you a few hours of frustration after the first snowfall. If you are fortunate enough to have your own plow, making sure you have all the bolts and belts necessary and consider getting the frame mounted before there is snow on the ground.
Last but not least, it is a good idea to prepare for emergencies. Even “little” emergencies like power outages can be more tolerable if you have candles, matches and a flashlight handy. Keep some extra bottled water and non-perishable food items around and don’t forget the pets! They need to eat too. Make sure the utility company’s phone numbers are handy and prepare an evacuation plan in case you need to get out of the house. If your heat source is reliant on electricity (like most propane heaters) I strongly recommend getting a generator, if only to power that one item.
One of my favorite images throughout the whole year is when the mountaintops are dusted with snow and the lower parts are still covered in brilliantly colored leaves. The smell of woodstoves burning and the crisp winter air puts a little skip in my step and a smile on my face. For the record, I’m not QUITE ready for winter yet. I still have a few miles to go on my bicycle and a few more “snow-free” hikes I want to check off. But I am looking forward to hitting the slopes and snowshoeing the trails when the time arrives. Until then, let’s enjoy the cool nights and make sure our homes are ready to warm us back up when we return from our winter adventures!