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Winter Home Maintenance Checklist

February Home Maintenance Checklist
Although spring may feel like it is a long time away with snow on the ground and temperatures still well below freezing, now is the perfect time to start thinking about spring maintenance. The transition between winter and spring is the time to get a jump on moisture damage and heat loss, and make quick work of organizing storage areas. Don't let winter slip away without using the cold, wet weather to help you detect where your home is leaking water and heat, giving you a chance to seal it up tight and develop a wish list for energy-saving improvements.

Your first order of business inside your home is to make sure no water is getting in. Carefully check every spot where condensation or water could enter your living areas and storage spaces. Take along a pad of paper and a pencil and take detailed notes as you scrutinize ceilings, under the roof, under the eaves and along window and door frames and ventilation seals. Be particularly careful to check under toilets, sinks, tubs and showers. Use a flashlight to check the crawl space or basement walls and floors and the underside of the first-story floor. You're looking for visible moisture and for stains caused by moisture. When you find something, the remedy will depend on the source of the leak. You may just need to recaulk around a tub or window, or you may need to call a plumber to replace a leaking fixture.

Find and seal energy leaks. Grab a pad and pencil to note any spots that you can't address right away. Arm yourself with a tube of caulk to fill small cracks and a spray can of insulating foam sealer for larger gaps. Tour your home feeling for cold air entering through cracks in chimneys and window and door frames, and cracks around appliance vents, electrical and plumbing fixtures and furnace ducts. Remedies might include adding weather stripping to a door frame or applying fresh caulk to window frames.

Conduct a home energy audit. If you've sealed the obvious leaks and your home is still inefficient, you'll get more detailed information from a professional energy audit. The auditor can recommend energy-saving improvements and point out those that will most improve efficiency. Learn more about energy audits and how to find a professional auditor at the Energy Department's Energy Savers site. Auditors use a blower door test, a thermographic scan and, occasionally, a perfluorocarbon tracer gas air-infiltration measurement technique to learn how weather-tight your home is.

Clean out storage areas. Get a head start on spring cleaning by attacking a cluttered storage space. Whether you go after the garage, attic, laundry room or garden shed, your home benefits when you get rid of rusting tools, leaking fluids and household chemicals. Start by taking everything out of the space and piling it up outside. Clean the empty space, then go through the items, trying to let go of everything you haven't used in the last year. Open paint cans to dry the paint completely before disposing. Recycle batteries so the lead they contain doesn't contaminate ground water. Rules for disposal vary by locale. Call your waste-disposal company or the county landfill to learn where and how to dispose of hazardous waste.

Get a fire extinguisher. Better yet, get several. Buy fire extinguishers for each type of fire you might encounter at home and place them where you'll need them. Inspect extinguishers regularly to ensure the gauges read 100%.

Outside cleanup. Although February is a transitional month in much of the U.S. in northern New England areas we still have a few weeks to wait before worrying about outside cleanup. More on this in April!


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