Window ledge with large icicles.

Keeping your home safe and warm in our Canadian winters

Albertans are thawing out from a week-long cold snap, Newfoundland declared a state of emergency in response to a massive winter storm, and the lower mainland of British Columbia and Vancouver Island have seen huge snowfall, causing some residents to declare a Snowpocalypse. But we’re Canadians, so we put on our toques, boots, mittens, and parkas and continue to live our lives, with the added benefit of having something to complain about on Facebook. 

Common issues when the deep freeze ends

Now that the cold snap is over and everything is thawing, there are a few things to keep your eye on around your home.

  1. Attic rain: Prolonged cold weather and improper ventilation can cause a phenomenon called attic rain. When excess moisture builds up in your attic, it can freeze to your beams and ceiling. Once the temperatures start to rise again, the frost melts and can leak through your ceiling. This issue is actually more common in newer homes, which are built to allow less air to escape through shingles and moisture barriers, causing humid air to be trapped in your attic. There are a few simple ways to prevent attic rain, including running your bathroom and kitchen ventilation fans, and to only use a humidifier if your indoor humidity is less than 30%. Adding more vents or turbines on your roof can also help prevent the issue, but be sure to hire a professional to do this work for you. 
  2. Frozen eaves and gutters: Icicles hanging from your gutters are a good sign there is a blockage somewhere. Cleaning your gutters before the winter, and making sure your downspouts are able to drain easily (and away from your home) are simple ways to prevent issues in the colder months and from water getting into your home when it melts.  If there is a blockage, ice can form under your first row of shingles, so keep an eye as the melt starts.
  3. Melting snow around your foundation: When you’re shoveling snow, try to keep snow piles away from your foundation. Once the weather warms up and the snow starts to melt, excess water could find its way into your home through cracks in your foundation, causing damage to walls and floors. And be sure to shovel your snow in a timely manner to avoid fines from your municipality or even legal action if someone slips on your sidewalk.

 

Tips for maintaining your home in winter

Unfortunately, the cold will return so how can you prepare for the next deep freeze? Here are a few winter home maintenance tips to keep your home safe, secure, and warm when the frigid temperatures return.

  1. Start Now: Smart winter home maintenance usually starts in the fall. But, now that it’s warmer you should have your furnace tuned-up and don’t forget to replace your filter every three months after. Disconnect and drain your garden hose, and having a good shovel (or two) and sand or de-icer for your sidewalks. 
  2. Clean the chimney: If you have a fireplace, it was probably burning all last week. It’s probably a good time to have it cleaned. A clean chimney will be clear of dangerous creosote buildup and any animal nests that may have been built during the summer, both potential fire hazards once you light that first log. 
  3. Check the pipes: Insulate exposed pipes in your home with foam pipe insulation to minimize the risk of them freezing. If you’re in an older home, or your pipes have a history of freezing, plumbers recommend keeping a trickle of water running at all times during a deep freeze.
  4. Keep the thermostat on: If you’re one of the lucky ones escaping from winter, don’t turn down your thermostat too much while you’re away. Make sure your windows are closed and have someone check on your place to make sure your walks are shoveled, your place is warm, and your pipes aren’t frozen.

Checklist of the six steps for preparing your home for winter.

Planning is key

With simple planning and proactive home maintenance, keeping your home safe and warm in the winter is easy. Before the temperatures drop and the snow starts to fall, tune-up your furnace, insulate your pipes, and clean your chimney. Don’t forget to stock up on sand or de-icer for your sidewalks, as well as hot chocolate and a good selection of movies for those days you just can’t stand to go outside.

 

 

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