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Mike Holmes: Fight Winter Damage

It’s Labour Day weekend, that means back to school.
Now that the kids are out of the house, and you don’t have to worry about planning family vacations and summer fun to keep them busy, it’s a good time to start focusing on your house again, and taking a look at what needs to get done before winter starts to close in.

During the summer months, most people tend to focus on outdoor projects, like decks, pools and landscaping. But as summer draws to an end, not only do we have to take care of the obvious, like closing the pool, we also have to start thinking about moving the home projects inside.
And at the top of the list is the house’s building envelope. Make sure it can stand up to another Canadian winter.
Landscaping projects should now focus more on maintaining the proper grading around the house. (Water management around the home is key to protecting it over winter. You want water to be draining or flowing away from the home and foundation, not toward it.)
You should also take a look at your roof. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Your roof is your home’s first line of defence. Assess if it needs to be repaired or needs reshingling.
This is the time to start scheduling any work your building envelope might need. That includes your roof; adding more insulation in the attic; exterior repairs like tuck-pointing and/or brick repairs, including any work on your chimney. In fact, now’s a great time to book a chimney inspection and cleaning.
Every working chimney’s flue must be inspected and cleaned every year, no exception. Creosote (or soot) is extremely combustible, and it can build up on the inside of your chimney flue. If it isn’t properly cleaned, all that is needed is a single spark and you can have total ignition.
What about your eavestroughs and downspouts? Are they in good working condition? Are they draining water coming off the roof away from the foundation? This is very important when it comes to proper water drainage around your home and protecting your basement from leaks.
And if you do have a leaky basement, get it fixed now. This is also very important. The next freeze-and-thaw cycle can make it worse. At this point in the year you can still find a pro to hire, but like any good contractor — including those who specialize in basement repairs — there’s a good chance they might be booked. If that’s the case, they might try to squeeze you in at the end of the season, like late November, but I wouldn’t recommend starting any work beyond that. The ground might freeze and then all work would have to stop.
If your windows need replacing you want to do that now, too. It will help save money over winter, so you’re not cranking up the furnace. A good professional will also replace the framing and close in any gaps to eliminate air leaks. But making sure it gets done in time depends on the window manufacturer. Typically, it can take four to six weeks to get the right windows in.
This is also the best time to schedule an HVAC maintenance check. If your furnace needs repairs or needs to be replaced, book a good HVAC professional. Not too many people are ahead of the game, already thinking about their heating. An HVAC pro can also take a look at your air conditioner before you shut it off for the season, and your ducts in case they need to be cleaned.
Your HVAC is your home’s lungs. It literally filters the air you and your family breathe. You want to make sure it’s clean and clear, and you maintain your home’s indoor air quality throughout winter, when everyone spends most of their time indoors.
It might just be early September, but fall is on the horizon. Start contacting the right pros you’ll need to properly winterize your home. That might mean starting with a maintenance inspection to help prioritize repairs — and the sooner, the better.

Mike Holmes, Special to National Post