The chill in the air tells you it’s time to pull out the heavy clothes and brave the falling temperatures. That chill should also tell you it’s time to perform a check of your home to ensure it can withstand the rigors of the upcoming winter.

Start with a top down approach by taking a good look at your roof. Inspect it for cracked or missing shingles, worn patches on shingles, missing or damaged flashing, and any other conditions that might permit water to leak through. If your shingles look haggard, try bending the corner of one – if it breaks, it is time for a new roof.

Your gutters are another part of your anti-leak prevention system so they should also be carefully inspected. Remove all leaves and other debris to allow water to flow freely. If the gutters remain clogged, they will fill with rainwater (which could freeze) and can easily overflow, which can cause basement flooding and water damage to siding, windows, and doors. The added weight may also pull the gutters down from the eaves.

Next, check the siding for cracks, damage, and separations between the individual siding boards. Seal any empty spots with a clear caulking compound, or buy caulking that can be painted if you want to make sure repairs match the original siding.

With looming escalating home heating costs, the condition of your weather stripping is another consideration. Good weather stripping prevents cold air from coming inside. If it’s damaged, it needs to be replaced.  Also a good time to re-evaluate your home’s insulation.

Your furnace can be your best friend or your biggest enemy, depending on whether or not you have it serviced before the winter season. Servicing usually involves having your heating contractor clean or replace the filter, brush and vacuum the blower blades, repair any leaks around the air ducts and vacuum the chimney.

As important as your pre-season check is, it is not enough to keep your house protected during the winter months. Heavy rain and snow can wreak havoc on your home if you don’t exercise some caution when it comes to maintaining proper drainage.

The Institute for Business & Home Safety suggests the following guidelines:

  • Make sure gutters are clean and stable.
  • Clear debris from basement drains.
  • Ensure downspouts are sloping away from the house and carrying water at least five feet away from foundation walls.
  • Examine window and door flashing, seals or weather stripping. If sealants around those openings are no longer pliable and continuous, reseal and caulk them.
  • If temps are dipping below freezing, make sure to check and prepare exterior faucets to prevent freezing pipes.

A few simple steps can make a big difference in having your home prepared for winter.