roof collapse snow

Preparing and maintaining your house during winter

The following are five key home maintenance categories to focus on for winter.

1. Your heating system

  • Have your boiler checked and serviced by a licensed contractor at least once a year, preferably before the
    heating season begins.
  • Have your chimney checked and serviced by a licensed contractor at least once a year.
  • Have your fuel tanks filled, if you are on oil, and keep an eye on levels throughout the winter.
  • Set your heat no lower than 13 Celsius / 55 Fahrenheit – the temperature inside the walls where water piping is located is colder than the living spaces; open doors to unoccupied rooms to keep an even temperature throughout the house.
  • Maintain your wood-burning or pellet stoves according to the manufacturer’s instructions.


2.  Your insulation

  • Check the roof – have any broken or missing tiles or slates replaced and other damage repaired. It is especially important to check flat roofs, which generally need re-covering every five to ten years. Keeping the rain out is one of the most important things you can do.
  • Add extra insulation in the attic to guard against ice dams – If too much heat escapes into the attic, it can warm any ice and snow on the roof. When it refreezes, it can cause an “ice dam”, which can lead to water damage inside your home or possibly even a roof collapse.
  • Add weather stripping around doors and caulk windows to guard against drafts and heat loss.


3.  Your utilities

  • Check for water leaks and fix problems immediately – wrap water piping with heat tape and insulate if it is exposed in unheated areas such as garages, crawl spaces or attics. Use only thermostatically controlled heat tape if your water piping is plastic and follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions.
  • Learn how to shut off your water and know where your pipes are located in case they do freeze; you may be able to prevent water damage.


4.  Your winter safety measures

  • Trim trees and remove dead branches so they do not damage your home or injure someone if they fall because of ice, snow or wind.
  • Keep gutters clear of leaves, sticks and other debris to ensure melting snow can drain properly. Make sure downspouts direct water away from the foundation.
  • Repair steps and handrails to make them safer in the ice and snow.
  • Check smoke detectors, fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors and replace batteries to ensure they are operating properly.
  • Monitor the amount of snow on roofs and clear them before accumulations reach unsafe levels.


5.  Be prepared

  • Ensure that you know the layout and routes of all water, gas and electricity services within the premises and that this information is recorded and available.
  • Know the location of all main and subsidiary stop-taps and ensure they are fully operational.
  • Research the details of reliable local plumbing contractors and keep their contact details available.