March 4, 2010

What to Check around Your Home after a Cold Snap

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cold weather

cold weather

Maintaining a home in good conditions year round can be a real challenge, and as just about any home owner knows (or ought to know) there is no more complicated a season than winter in this regard.  Cold weather—especially really cold weather accompanied by snow, ice and rain—can do a degree of damage to your property with the greatest of ease, and from one week to another a cold spell can leave you with some pretty serious maintenance projects to tend to.  There are several different things to check on around the home after a cold spell has passed through your area, and here we’ll be shedding some light on what exactly they are, what can be done to resolve the issues, and what steps can be taken to make sure that when the next cold spell descends on your area your home is better prepared.

So read on and learn a little valuable information about how to keep your home in better conditions in the face of the ravages of cold weather; if you put the following ideas into practice, you’ll be saving yourself lots of money in the long run by fixing problems before they get out of hand and even preventing them before they have a chance to take effect.

After a cold spell:

There are countless negative effects which a cold spell may have on your home or surrounding property, and the results are guaranteed to be even worse if the cold spell was accompanied by a good bit of precipitation of any kind (sleet, snow, rain, etc.).  You’ll need to take a look around the property, both inside and out, to make sure that no damages are left unaddressed after the cold weather subsides—if that were to happen, you could end up with a pretty major headache before long!

  • One of the main problems generated by cold, damp weather is the profusion of potholes around your property, not only on the street and sidewalk out front but also in the yard and on one of the pathways on your property itself.  Due to the fact that frozen water expands (interesting fact: water is one of the only substances known to science that expands when frozen as opposed to shrinking), the places where puddles have formed will become problematic after the onset of a cold spell.  Fixing a pothole is not all that difficult, fortunately, though you will want to wait for fairly warm weather to return before attempting the fix yourself.  Here’s what you do: dig out whatever gravel and asphalt and other crud is still dwelling inside the pothole; you need to dig down all the way to the compacted gravel layer beneath your walkway/driveway.  After digging out the big stuff, take a broom and get all the dust out too, and then give the pothole a little sprinkle (not a soak) with the hose.  Then, with a bag of cold patch that you can buy at any hardware store or supplier you’ll want to fill the hole and begin packing the material down.  Don’t use your hands here, but rather use short wooden plank or other sturdy, flat object that you won’t be needing afterwards.  After compacting down the cold patch, repeat with a little more material if there is still a slight depression, waiting for the first layer to have dried a bit.  Finally, throw a little sand on top so that nobody gets a sticky surprise on the sole of their shoes when stepping there as it is drying up.
  • Another significant problem generated by cold weather is failing gas/water boilers—a real worry for people that may have yet another cold spell to look forward to in the coming days or weeks!  Pretty much all home boilers have a pipe for condensation and waste water that is particularly prone to ice accumulation (especially when not properly insulated, though even then extreme cold temperatures can create ice), and this is the principal reason for boilers failing during or after a cold spell.  De-icing this pipe is a job that should be left for a trained plumber to perform, as the average home owner or resident is liable to cause more damage rather than bring things back into normal working order.  However, to prevent this problem from occurring an ingenious solution is to program your boiler unit to keep operating throughout the night (at lower temps than you have programmed for the daytime) which is when the coldest temperatures are registered.  Even if you only have the boiler set to operate at 10 or 12 degrees Celsius throughout the night you will prevent ice from building up in this pipe and thereby keep your boiler in operating conditions.  Contrary to what you may be thinking, there is unlikely to be an increase in gas usage (and therefore monthly utilities bills) as a result of such a system, as your boiler will never be heating up from extremely cold temperatures, a process which burns more fuel than is the case with the system outlined above.  In short: it’s cheaper, more fuel-efficient and environmentally-friendly to keep the boiler operating at low temps during the night, and it will keep your boiler from kicking out on you!

General tips leading up to the cold:

You’ll want to be extra careful with all drains and pipes throughout your home in the lead up to the colder months of the year.  Make sure that all piping is properly insulated or has alternative solutions such as heat cables fixed to it, and that there are no cracks or openings in your walls that could be letting in a draught (such as around dryer vents or even in old window units; use caulk to take care of such problems).  Even the tiniest aperture in your walls, if close enough to a pipe, could cause it to freeze overnight—and cause serious problems in your home.

Maintaining your driveway during the warmer mpnths, like using block paving sealant will reduce the risk of damage when it gets colder.

Finally, make sure that your home insulation itself is in good condition so that you’re not wasting money and resources trying to keep the cold at bay.

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