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Ask the Architect

Preparing for the coming storm(s)


Q. This winter I want to be more prepared than I was two years ago. I was stranded in my house for days. Since I can’t do the work myself, I’ve been making a list of things to do. Can you suggest things I should do to winterize my home?

A. Other than getting canned goods, candles, extra batteries, a working flashlight, extra blankets and a portable radio, you should also do the following:

Have your chimney cleaned, whether you have only a furnace or a water heater, especially if you haven’t done it in a while. Check your thermostat and make sure the backup battery works. Learn how to change the battery, and keep an extra around.

Keep a freshly charged fire extinguisher in an accessible place. In a snow emergency, you have a better chance of putting out a stove fire with baking soda, and preventing it from spreading, before a hindered volunteer fire department can reach you.

Get rain gutters cleaned of fall leaves and down spouts flushed to prevent ice and snow backup. The pond that can form at the roof edge will develop leaks under the shingles and roll right in through nail openings and down your inside walls.

Turn off outside water spigots and have the sprinkler lines drained. If either of these freezes, the pipes can burst, causing a frozen pond to form before the plumber arrives.

Put a sealer on decks and patios, after a thorough cleaning. (This isn’t recommended in temperatures below 45 to 50 degrees.) The sealer will protect the decks and patios from exposure and moisture penetration into small spaces that can split the materials apart. That’s why you see so many potholes on our roads. All this roadwork we’ve seen lately is due to a lack of sealing and maintenance those roads could use every fall. An ounce of prevention could lower our tax burden.

Check your snow-removal equipment. Look at that old shovel and icebreaker. If they’re bent or chipped severely, replace them while you can make it to the store. Check the snow blower to make sure all the bolts that can vibrate loose have been tightened and that it starts properly, and make a visit to the lawn-mower repair store for an additive that will break down the shellac that forms in the gas lines from non-use. Also check and/or change the spark plugs and oil according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

And, if you insist, make sure to restock the supply of chemical or salt pellets necessary to melt the ice on your sidewalks. I’m not a fan of this method of de-icing, because it damages concrete and landscaping and ends up in the water-treatment plant through the drainage system. That debate will continue, but at least make sure that the container is well sealed to prevent moisture intrusion and accidental ingestion by small children. Enjoy the warmth in your winterized home. Good luck!

© 2019 Monte Leeper. Readers are encouraged to send questions to yourhousedr@aol.com, with “Herald question” in the subject line, or to Herald Homes, 2 Endo Blvd., Garden City, NY 11530, Attn: Monte Leeper, architect.