Start with a top down approach by taking a good look at your roof. Inspect it for cracked or missing shingles, worn patches on shingles, missing or damaged flashing, and any other conditions that might permit water to leak through. If your shingles look haggard, try bending the corner of one - if it breaks, it is time for a new roof.
Your gutters are another part of your anti-leak prevention system so they should also be carefully inspected. Remove all leaves and other debris to allow water to flow freely. If the gutters remain clogged, they will fill with rainwater or melting snow and can easily overflow, which can cause basement flooding and water damage to siding, windows, and doors. The added weight may also pull the gutters down from the eaves.
Next, check the siding for cracks, damage, and separations between the individual siding boards. Seal any empty spots with a clear caulking compound, or buy caulking that can be painted if you want to make sure repairs match the original siding.
With looming escalating home heating costs, the condition of your weather stripping is another consideration. Good weather stripping prevents cold air from coming inside. If it's damaged, it needs to be replaced.
Your furnace can be your best friend or your biggest enemy, depending on whether or not you have it serviced before the winter season. Servicing usually involves having your heating contractor clean or replace the filter, brush and vacuum the blower blades, repair any leaks around the air ducts and vacuum the chimney.
To keep storm doors working properly, oil hinges and latches. Be sure the door closer is working properly and the closing speed of a pneumatic closer is correct. If you have a storm door with interchangeable glass and screen panels, don't forget to remove the screens and put in the glass panels.
As important as your pre-season check is, it is not enough to keep your house protected during the winter months. Heavy rain and snow can wreak havoc on your home if you don't exercise some caution when it comes to maintaining proper drainage.
The Institute for Business & Home Safety suggests the following guidelines:
- Watch for snow accumulation on the downwind side of a higher-level roof where blowing snow can collect. This could cause the roof to collapse. Remove snow from window wells and all walls.
- Clear debris from basement drains.
- Make sure gutters are clean and stable. In addition to ensuring proper drainage, it lessens the chance they will become flying debris in high wind.
- Ensure downspouts are sloping away from the house and carrying water at least five feet away from foundation walls.
- Examine window and door flashing, seals or weather stripping. If sealants around those openings are no longer pliable and continuous, reseal and caulk them.
Keep your attic well ventilated this winter in order to maintain a temperature close to that of the outdoors. This minimizes the risk of ice dams. A warm attic melts snow on the roof, causing water to run down and refreeze at the roof's edge where it's cooler. If ice builds up and blocks water from draining, water is forced under the roof and into your attic or down the inside walls of your house.