Winterization season for your home |

Winterization season for your home

Susan Wood

As the temperatures drop outside, some common sense tends to freeze up.

Misfortunes and mishaps become evident to the contractors and firefighters who must respond to them.

General contractor Steve Yonker recalled going on a call to a home where a teen-ager hired to. shovel snow off the roof dropped it on the second floor deck. Like a domino effect, this deck collapsed onto the first-story deck which then fell on the gas line. It ruptured in the fall.

“This isn’t terribly unusual,” he said.

Yonker did recommend a homeowner have the roof checked before it was late in the season. “Snow loading can be a real danger,” he said.

“But people don’t think of doing these things until snow falls on their heads,” he said.

To keep the heat in and the window sills dry, Yonker suggested homeowners without the double-pane windows to at least upgrade to adding storm windows.

If not, the drastic variance between inside and outside temperatures may produce unwanted condensation.

The standard air flow is why he reminded homeowners to vent their attics and get their chimneys sweeped. Alpine Stove and Chimney Service recommends requesting the latter for every three cords of wood, and fire units suggest the practice every year.

“We have a rash of chimney fires every year,” Yonker said.

Even professionals fail to foresee the mishaps. Along with novices, there have been cases in which a handyman started a fire at a home where a torch was used to thaw frozen pipes, he said.

Candles left burning unattended also can start fires, as the South Lake Tahoe Fire Department sees every year. Division Chief Mike Chandler also warns against drying clothes by draping them on space heaters.

“I’ll have people say, ‘Well, the thermostat was only set for 50 degrees,’ when it’s 20 outside,” he said.

Chimney fires are another common problem, as creosote tends to build up when the wood is green.

“If people burn good dry wood, then there’s not going to be a problem,” Chandler said. He also suggested residents clean their roofs and gutters, where pine needles tend to settle.

The chill fall air also indicates it’s time to turn off the water to outdoor sprinkler systems.

“(The temperatures are) already down to the 30s. And your grass isn’t really growing right now anyway,” said Richard Boudreau, Apollo heating and ventilation contractor.

Heating specialists advise heaters more than three years old be checked for cracked heat exchanges and other problems including blown blower motors, dirty burner assemblies and faulty ventilation caps.

“The big issue now is contamination,” Boudreau said, referring to carbon monoxide poisoning. “It’s a killer.”

One call involved a 9-year-old furnace with four of its chambers breached.

“I don’t know how this person lived,” he said.

Boudreau, who’s worked in South Lake Tahoe for over two decades, has already booked 400 furnace checks through December.

The longtime Tahoe resident also recommended residents close the foundation vents on the exterior of their homes because it may lead to water pipes freezing if not adequately insulated.

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