We’re all enjoying these final, beautiful days of summer, and the last thing we want to think about is getting the house ready for fall’s cooler weather. But, before you know it, summer’s warm sun turns into a bitter gale from the North. Don’t put off a bit of pro-active maintenance any longer; do it while it’s easily done. Don’t know where to start? We’ve made a “Lucky 7” list!
Number 1 & 2: Weatherproof your windows and doors.
Inspect all of your windows and doorways. You are looking for any seals and gaps where cold air can pass. Seal anything that measures larger than 1/8 inch around windows and doors. It’s worth the effort; this minor fix can cut your winter heating bill by close to 15%. Press adhesive-backed closed-cell foam onto the bottom of the window sash. Secure the sash by applying a strip of plastic V-channel weatherstripping in the groove the sash slides in, and secure it with finish nails. For doors, use foam strips on the sides and tops of doors, and consider installing a door sweep on the bottom. Worth it.
Number 3: Gutters. Get the ladder.
Check for any obstructions or damage. Hopefully, you are in the habit of keeping your gutters clean, so this job should not take up too much of your Saturday afternoon. While you’re at it, check the pitch; when gutters aren’t pitched at the right angle, they overflow, and a flooded basement can be the result. Properly pitched gutters slope between 1/16 inch and 1/8 inch per foot, directing water to the leader and out the downspout. The easiest way to check the pitch is by holding a level even with the gutter. Or, pour in water from a hose and check the flow’s direction. We have all sorts of sound tips for keeping your gutters clean and in good condition. Check our archives.
This should not be hard to find. Chicago’s a-little-bit-of-everything weather reaps havoc on our sidewalks and driveways. Besides being hazardous to your health, they tend to get worse in freezing conditions. Pick a dry, sunny day, and grab your putty knife. In cracks that are less than half an inch wide, squeeze a small amount of acrylic latex concrete repair compound deep into the crack, smoothing excess with your putty knife. If you have larger cracks, use a vinyl concrete patching compound – and smooth with a trowel. Give it a day to cure before walking on it, and three days before driving over it.
Number 5: Clean cooling devices
Take the time to care for the equipment that kept you comfortable this summer! It’s good karma. When you start to feel that you and your window air conditioning units should part company, remove them from the window. Vacuum the coils and filters, and store them in a cool, dry place. It’s a good idea to cover them to keep dust and bugs out. And here’s something that might not have occurred to you: clean your ceiling fans. I promise you, they are filthy. Wipe down the blades with a microfiber cloth that will trap the dust and not send in raining down into your eyes. And, once you have started heating your home, change the fan blades rotation to clockwise to push warm air down. You can usually do this by flipping a switch on the base of the fan.
Number 6: Inspect your attic
Any unresolved breach in the attic can lead to disastrous results. Don’t wait until it’s 30 degrees before you discover a family of raccoons living above you. On a bright, sunny day, or, alternatively, a day with steady rainfall, tour the attic looking for streams of light or water through the roof or sheathing. If you discover black stains on your insulation, this is a leak. You can fill any sheathing gaps with closed-cell polyurethane foam. Fix small roof leaks by caulking with tripolymer elastomeric sealant, which is compatible with asphalt shingles and resists UV rays. Don’t go this route with larger leaks – you might discover something more serious around a chimney, or vent stack – call for back-up. HandiCo is great at with this kind of mess. Call before the first winter storm hits.
While we’re in the attic, think about your insulation. Can you see the tops of the joists? This is a problem. If the existing insulation is roughly even with the tops of the joists, add a new layer of un-faced batt insulation perpendicular to the old one, pushing the pieces together so they fit snugly side by side.That’s it. Bring on fall! Go ahead and give yourself a day off when it’s time to rake the leaves.