winterizing your homeOn October 28, 2011, a Nor’Easter dumped 3-8” of snow on the east coast. Don’t let winter catch you off guard this year. Taking a few simple steps at this time of year can save you thousands on unnecessary repair bills or even your life. Here’s a list of our top 5:

1. Clean Out Your Gutters All those fall leaves can clog up gutters and drains, causing ice dams to form. As the ice builds up, it can allow water to seep into your house. Additionally, make sure your downspouts are carrying water at least 10’ away from your house. Water can be a slow, silent killer. You may not know water is even getting into your house until your wood is rotted beyond repair.

2. Protect Those Pipes Frost lines, the depth to which the ground freezes, vary depending upon where you live and they average 1- 6 feet. Here in Pennsylvania, pipes are generally buried about 3’ underground to avoid freezing. If you have any plumbing that is above that line, you may want to call a professional. For the average home, make sure you turn off and drain any exterior faucets and insulate any pipes located on exterior walls.

3. Holy Smoke! Chimney’s should be inspected at least once a year, wood stoves even more often. Soot and creosote can build up on the walls of your chimney and they will eventually ignite. In many areas, chimney fires are the #1 cause of house fires in the winter time. A simple cleaning should cost between $65-200.

4. Trim the Trees As you may remember from the October 2011 storm, when we get an early snow it can be a disaster for trees. Take a quick look around your property and look for dead branches, branches that hang over vehicles, roof’s sidewalks…anything you value. A quick survey and a saw can save you time, money and maybe even a life. 5. A Safe Space for Heaters Space heaters are a great supplement to any heating system but they need to be carefully monitored. Space heaters should be kept 3’ away from any flammable cloth, like a curtain or a bed sheet, and should also be kept off of carpet. They’re capable of causing contact burns, electrical fires and the silent but deadly, carbon monoxide poising (a good reason to always have quality, functioning smoke detectors).