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Winter is Coming, Get Your Home Ready

Most of us live in Montana for a reason. We love the wide open spaces, the abundant outdoor activities, the extraordinary winters and the alluring summers that the Treasure State has to offer. As the leaves fall from the trees and the seasons begin to change, most of us have our minds in the mountains, and not on the maintenance and upkeep of our homes.

Winter in Big Sky Country is no joke, and neither is preparing your home for the challenges that the season brings. Here are 13 tips to get your home ready for the colder weather.

  1. Clean Your Gutters – Clearing out your gutters of leaves, sticks, and other debris that may have accumulated will make sure that the melting snow is properly draining. Direct your downspouts away from the foundations to protect your foundations from flooding, and make sure the runoff is directed away from your home
  2. Drain & Flush The Hot Water Tank – One of the most common issues with water heaters not working properly is an excess of sediment in the bottom of the tank. This can cause the heating element to fail, as well as creating hot spots, shortening the lifespan of a water heater. Most plummers suggest draining the hot water tank at least once a year. No one wants to come back from the mountain to a cold shower!
  3. Prevent Leaking Pipes – When temperatures drop below freezing, the water in your home’s plumbing can freeze, causing the pipes to expand and burst. Keep your home heated at least 55 degrees fahrenheit, and make sure the pipes in unheated areas of your home are properly insulated.
  4. Clear Overhanging Branches – As snow accumulates on older and dead tree branches, the resulting weight can cause these to break off, potentially damaging your home, your car, or worse, your family. Simply trimming overhanging limbs can save you a massive headache.
  5. Test Your Sump Pump – Keeping your basement or crawl space dry is crucial in preventing mold and foundation damage. The sump pump will remove any excess water, and needs to be replaced every decade. Make sure your pump is functioning properly by slowly pouring a couple of gallons and see if it turns on.
  6. Keep Your Doorways Sealed – The weatherstripping on your homes entryways and garage doors can deteriorate quickly in the summer heat, and cracked caulking can happen with time. Leaking treatments can cause drafts, create cold spots, and increase your heating bill. Check the tops and bottoms of your doors and your windows to make sure the stripping is in good working condition, and replace as needed.
  7. Check the Shingles – Loose or missing roofing shingles can lead to water leaks, as well as broken seals surrounding vents and chimneys. Check your roof once in the fall and once in late spring to make sure your roof is in good condition.
  8. Inspect Your Insulation – Proper insulation is key to keeping your home warm during the winter and cool during the summer. While mold is uncommon in insulation, it is good to check the top for potential growth.
  9. Cover Your Air Conditioner – Most condensers are made to withstand harsh weather conditions, but can still be damaged by falling icicles and debris. Simply covering your AC unit with a piece of plywood with a few bricks or sandbags on top can prevent any damage.
  10. Get Your Heating System Ready – Before the temperature really dips, it is important to make sure your heating system is up to date. Gas systems should be cleaned and serviced every three months, boiler systems should be maintained yearly, and high efficiency systems should be cleaned and cleared frequently.
  11. Check The Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Detectors – Over 27% of fires are started by faulty heating systems during the winter months. Making sure there are new batteries and your systems are working is one of the most important steps in any homeowner checklist.
  12. Prevent Ice Dams – The constant temperature variations that Montana sees means homes are more likely to have issues with ice dams. Proper venting and insulation can prevent ice dams, as well as regularly remove the snow off of the roof and install heating cables in gutters.
  13. Be Ready for the Worst! – Winter can be tough on homes, but there can be other fallout as well. Road closures and hazardous conditions can quickly lead to supply shortages, so be prepared to bundle up and hunker down. You should have at least a 5 day supply of shelf stable food and 2 gallons of water per person stored, as well as extra batteries, a few spare gallons of gasoline, and wax candles. These items are inexpensive and easy to store, but could potentially save your life, especially if you live in a secluded area. Consider getting your home wired for a backup generator, or purchasing a stand alone unit in the event of power outages.
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