Home improvement for winter pays off | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Home improvement for winter pays off

Christina Stanley

Snow has finally arrived, and for homeowners who have yet to winterize their houses, now is the time.

Whether living in your home part-time or full-time, when the temperature drops you’ll be glad to be prepared. The tasks can be easy if taken one step at a time, and in the end will serve to better protect your property and your pocketbook.

To avoid chimney fires and harmful smoke damage, fireplaces and chimneys should be swept at least once a year, according to Alpine Stove and Chimney Service owner Craig Morris. And if poor-quality wood has been burned, multiple cleanings might be necessary, Morris said.

Big problems can arise when residue builds up within chimneys or when spark arresters are removed.

“Ash handling is critical too,” said Mountain Home Center owner Tom Just. “Ashes are probably the biggest cause of fire starts, even more than chimney fires. Keep them in a metal bucket for five to seven days before transferring them to a Dumpster or garbage bag.”

And it’s not just chimneys that should be routinely maintained. The roofs need regular check-ups, too.

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Metal roofs, which need screws tightened and replaced biennially, can usually hold more snow. But when they shed snow, it falls fast and hard, said Rose Weskamp, a partner at Avante Roofing.

“If you hear thundering, you better run like heck,” Weskamp said.

To prevent unwanted shedding, she suggests installing snow cleats to add roof-top traction.

For homeowners with composition or shake roofs, icicles can create problems. Thick ice dams formed at the base of large icicles can actually pry eaves right off a roof, so carefully breaking away ice or installing electric heating systems is advisable, Weskamp said.

Aside from preparing roofs and chimneys, residents should be preparing themselves, said Gene Welch, spokesman for the Truckee Fire Protection District.

“People who have health issues especially need to be prepared with emergency quantities of medications, so should they get stuck at home, they can survive until the roads can be cleared,” Welch said.

Homes should also be adequately stocked with enough water and food to last all residents for at least three days, as well as extra blankets, candles, and a battery-operated radio.

“It’s more of the same thing every year,” said Truckee Fire District chief Mike Terwilliger. “There is a certain part of the population that just doesn’t get it, but I guess it keeps us employed.”

Winter checklist

— Seal leaks around doors, windows, and elsewhere.

— Check for proper insulation and possible damage from leaks or pests.

— Check vents and heating systems.

— Check the fireplace and chimneys.

— Check the roof for loose or missing shingles, holes or other damage.

— Winterize plumbing.

— Winterize outdoor items such as decks and furniture.

— Collect emergency supplies.