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Winterize Your Home

Fall's cool breezes eventually give way to winter's unforgiving squalls, cold temperature and snow measured by the foot. Is your home ready?
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No regrets
Anyone who has ever shivered while waiting for the furnace repairman to arrive or slogged through a flooded basement can describe all too well what regret feels like: If only you had prepared your home for winter, you could have saved yourself a host of hassle and discomfort—not to mention a wallet full of expense.

Time to Winterize
Before temperatures drop, prepare your home for winter.

Now is the time to make sure you're not the one shaking your head and handing over your credit card for costly home repairs. These tips will help protect your home from the ravages of rain, snow and ice.

Wage war against water
Water is the most destructive force in the home, says Sid Davis, author of The First-Time Homeowner's Survival Guide. If you take some of these precautions, he says, "you've solved about 90 percent of the problem of water infiltrating the basement and foundation," he says. To protect yourself, he suggests you:
  • Clean out your gutters. Clogged gutters cause ice buildup, which can create ice dams that can damage your shingles and lead to costly roof repairs. If you're in extreme climates, such as the upper Midwest, consider installing heat tape in the gutters. It's pricey, but it's less expensive than replacing your roof. "You can have a perfectly operating gutter system, but it's not going to work if water fills up quickly and freezes," Davis says.

  • Inspect your downspouts. Make sure they are in good condition and positioned so that they direct water away from the house.

  • Examine your landscaping. On a rainy day, walk around the perimeter of your home and watch how the water flows, Davis suggests. Correct any spots where water is heading toward the foundation, instead of away, by using dirt to redirect water.

  • Fine-tune your flashing. Metal or rubber shielding is found around the chimneys, pipes and other objects that protrude from the roof. You'll know just by looking at it if it needs to be replaced: Metal will rust or corrode; rubber will look old and cracked. "When you get water infiltrating into your decking, underneath your shingles, you're looking at a tear-off to repair that decking," Davis says. "That's big bucks."

    Time to Winterize
    Clean out gutters to prevent ice buildup.
  • Scrutinize your siding. If you have aluminum or vinyl siding, Davis suggests replacing any missing or loose sections. Make sure wood siding is caulked and watertight. Stucco is especially problematic because water that seeps behind it can be very damaging and hard to repair. Davis recommends having a contractor inspect your stucco every five years.

  • Don't forget your faucets. "Turn off the water supply to outdoor faucets," says Mark Frazier, owner of Frazier's Construction in Norton, Mass. "Otherwise, you risk the pipes freezing and bursting."

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