BRRRACING FOR WINTER Get your home ready

Modern, smart homeowners are using the Internet to help them with winterization.
Shorter days and cool nights remind us that winter is heading our way. Now is the ideal time to take preventive measures to protect your home against the colder weather.
In today's fast-paced world, many homeowners don't have the time to take on additional home projects or search the phone book for a qualified service professional.
But creative business people and new technologies have made it possible for Internet-savvy consumers to turn to the Web for guidance and information on home maintenance, repair and improvement.
One such Web site,, effectively matches consumers with prescreened and customer-rated contractors, handymen and maids.
From a leaky faucet to a large remodeling project, ServiceMagic can quickly connect homeowners with a professional to address their home-related needs.
The site also features project tips and articles to help consumers learn more about their projects before contacting a service professional. "Addressing some low-cost maintenance items now could prevent many high-cost problems later," reminds David Hollies, consumer adviser for
Whether you hire a professional to winterize your home or plan to do it yourself, keep the following checklist in mind.
Gutters and downspouts should be cleaned in midfall and double-checked before winter.
The next time it rains heavily, put on your coat and boots and step out into the yard to observe how well the gutters are working. If they aren't flowing properly, they may need cleaning, realignment or replacement.
Check your roof. If you see evidence of loose, curled or missing shingles, contact a roofing contractor to make repairs before winter arrives.
To reduce the chance of furnace failure during a winter cold snap, consider hiring a heating contractor to give your furnace a "tune-up." At the very least, on one of the first cool evenings, turn on your furnace to make sure it works well.
Replace the filter, and keep extra filters on hand to replace at least once during the winter.
If you have a humidifier, clean it thoroughly to avoid health problems from airborne bacteria.
Staying warm and keeping heating bills down are major winter priorities.
Check the attic, walls and basement for adequate insulation. Feel around electrical outlets and switch-plates for cold air. Try to remember if there were any cold walls or rooms during the previous winter, and if so, contact an insulation contractor for suggestions on the best way to add more insulation.
Did you know that in the average home, 38 percent of all heat loss is through windows and doors? Look for gaps and potential places where heated air can escape. Caulk or apply weather-stripping around these areas.
If your home has storm windows, check for a proper fit. If you have an older home with single-pane windows, consider having them replaced with low-maintenance thermal windows. This will cut both your energy and maintenance bills.
The coziness of a warm, glowing fire in your woodstove or fireplace can continue to be a source of enjoyment if you follow a simple maintenance schedule.
Have chimneys and woodstoves cleaned early in the season and inspected by a trained chimney sweep. This will help avoid serious health hazards such as carbon monoxide poisoning and fires.
If your home has a crawl space with vents that are open during warmer weather, make sure they are closed during the winter.
Frozen pipes are expensive to repair, but easy to prevent.
Disconnect hoses from outside faucets if your area normally experiences freezing temperatures. Make sure you turn off the water supply to your outdoor faucets before the temperature drops below freezing.
Water and ice collecting on steps and walkways may create hazards. To avoid this, consider installing an overhang above the entrance to your home.
If your walkway has poor drainage, consider replacing it with a properly graded walkway.
Buy a snow shovel before you need it, and stock up on an ice-melter and sand for your walkway and driveway. Batteries and portable propane stoves can be invaluable in the event of a power outage. Keep extra canned food and water in storage just in case.
Lastly, make a list of the projects you can do yourself and those that should be tackled by a professional. Instead of playing telephone tag, consider going online to expedite the process.

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