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Winterizing Your Castle

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our houses maintained themselves? But alas, we must be the ones to do the maintenance. It truly is amazing how much maintenance is needed and how much can go wrong quickly if we don’t take care of things.


  • Disconnect your garden hoses. If you leave them attached, even to a frost-free faucet, you have the potential for a burst pipe.

  • Drain the water out of your faucets.

  • Remove any pond pumps and store the pump in your basement in a 5-gallon bucket filled with water. This will help to prevent the seals from drying out.

  • If you have a utility sink in your garage, drain the water out of the pipes and dump some RV anti-freeze into the drain.

  • If you have a lawn sprinkler system (aka “irrigation system”) it needs to be drained and blown out with compressed air. Hire a pro to do this.


  • Clean the combustion air or makeup air intake vents.

  • If you have an air exchange system, such as a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) or energy-recovery ventilator (ERV), clean it. Regular maintenance items for an HRV/ERV include cleaning the exterior intake, the filters, and the core.

  • Clean the clothes dryer duct. The damper at the exterior should move freely and close properly.

  • Check the bathroom and kitchen exhaust dampers for wasp nests. Nests in these terminals will prevent the dampers from opening.

Air Conditioner

  • Do not operate your air conditioning unit when the temperature is under 60 degrees. This can damage the unit.

General Exterior

  • Seal any gaps around the home ‘envelope’; check for loose or dried-out caulking around pipes, ducts, faucets, air conditioner refrigerant lines, etc. While this is the most generic piece of fall maintenance advice, it’s still smart to do this before winter.

  • Replace any damaged or worn weatherstripping around windows and doors.

Smoke and CO Alarms

  • Smoke alarms should be located inside every bedroom and in a common area on every level.

  • If you don’t have photoelectric alarms in your home, add them. This is a big deal. If you don’t know what type you have, you probably don’t have photoelectric smoke alarms.

  • Carbon monoxide (CO) alarms should be located within ten feet of every sleeping room but not in furnace rooms, kitchens, or garages.

  • Replace the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms and test them using the built-in test buttons.

  • Check the age of your smoke and CO alarms; smoke alarms are good for up to ten years; CO alarms are good for between five and ten years. If they’re any older, replace them.

Furnace or Boiler

  • Have a professional furnace or boiler tune-up performed annually.

  • Replace the batteries in your thermostat. If your thermostat fails while you’re on vacation, you might come home to a winter wonderland.

  • Clean or replace the furnace filter. This should usually be done every one to three months, depending on the type of filter. The arrow on the filter should point toward the furnace.


  • Have the flues professionally cleaned on any wood-burning fireplaces if they get used regularly; every 30 – 50 fires are a good rule of thumb.

  • Clean the dust out of the bottoms of any gas fireplace inserts.

  • If you have a gas log installed in a wood-burning fireplace with an adjustable damper, make sure there is a damper stop installed to prevent the damper from getting closed all the way.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. We encourage you to research the large amount of available publications available, and always contact licensed professionals for your home maintenance. This may be more expensive but will save you time and costly mistakes in the future.

- Joe Gardino, Senior Professional Home Inspector

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