Getting ready for winter

April 15 2018

It is time to put the hoses away and turn off the water to the outdoor spigots. They will freeze if the temperature stays below freezing for a day or two.

Last weekend I put some plastic on a couple of the windows. They need to be repaired or replaced but for now, a little plastic will go a long way. There are window kits at your local hardware store. The plastic can be put on the inside or the outside and it can make a big difference.

This year it snowed before I got the shovels out and the snow brush for the car was in the trunk. Now is the time to gas up the snow blower and test it to see if it works. Gas-powered snow blowers do a great job if they start. If I were to replace mine it would be with a battery-powered unit.

I like those stuffed snakes for stopping drafts under doors or windows.

Boot parks are handy, especially in houses like mine with hardwood floors. I got the boots out and on the boot park by the back door.


The scariest noise in your house

water faucetIt is Halloween once more. Any house can be scary even if it isn’t haunted. For homeowners, one of the scariest noises is dripping water, especially if it isn’t coming from a faucet. A small water leak can cause a lot of damage.

Most water meters can detect a plumbing leak. If you shine a flashlight on your water meter and see a faucet icon you may have a leak. Some water meters have stars that turn red if there is a plumbing leak.

Some leaks won’t show up on the water meter. I had a leak in the water supply line for a toilet. The water dripped through the floor and into the basement and ruined a few items on a shelf. The water line has been replaced and I keep the shelf empty.

Plumbers can be expensive but not as expensive as repairing the damage from a small water leak.

Check your smoke alarms

When the smoke alarm batteries die it usually happens at around 2:30 AM. They chirp and the smoke alarms are conveniently located right by the bedrooms and a ladder is required to reach them.

If you change the battery or in some cases the backup battery once a year it probably won’t give out in the middle of the night. I like to do that in October right after I call and schedule my furnace tune-up.

According to the Minnesota Department of Safety, 41% of fire-related deaths occur in December and January. There are more housefires in the winter than during the warmer months.

If you do not have working smoke alarms you still have time to get them before the peak house fire season. If you live in St. Paul:

For Saint Paul Residents

Did you know, that as a Saint Paul resident, you may be eligible for FREE smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, StoveTop Fire Stops, and training from the Saint Paul Fire Department?

Call 651-228-6273 for more information

House Fire in St. paul
House Fire

Did you know that smoke detectors do not last forever? Well, they don’t. If yours are ten years old consider replacing them.


Vacant house? Winterize and call your insurance company

Water can destroy a house. A small plumbing leak can cause extensive damage. I have seen the aftermath when pipes burst.

If your home is going to be vacant over the winter now is the time to have it winterized. We have not had a hard freeze here in the Twin Cities and we still have some time before water will freeze inside of an unheated home.

If you own a vacant home consider having it winterized. Furnaces can fail and frozen pipes can burst when they thaw and that leaves a really big mess.

The process involves turning off the water and draining anything that has water in it like pipes, the water heater, and the heating system if it is a hot water type boiler. You can winterize your own home it isn’t all that difficult especially if you have a forced air furnace but most people prefer to use a contractor. If you don’t know who to call try your local heating and plumbing company.

Let your homeowner’s insurance company know that your property will be vacant. Check for vacant home coverage. 

Maple Leaf
Maple leaf

We will need heat soon

It won’t be long now before we will need to fire up the furnace or boiler. Most years we end up turning on the heat before the middle of October.  The house seems to stay warm during the day but the days are shorter and the nights are colder.

If you have a forced air furnace now is a great time to buy furnace filters. I usually buy enough to last through the winter.

Now is a good time to schedule a furnace or boiler inspection and tune-up. If the dang thing stops working on Christmas Eve or during a major cold spell getting it repaired is going to be expensive.

Usually, a tuneup isn’t expensive.

furnace collage
furnaces and boilers

To rake or not to rake

Maple leaf
Maple leaf

September is almost over and the leaves are falling. I usually clear the leaves from the sidewalk and boulevard and compost them. I use an old-school rake rather than a leaf blower because the rake is quiet and easy to use.

You don’t need to rake all of those pretty leaves. There are a few reasons not to.  The leaves provide shelter and even food for animals like chipmunks, box turtles, and earthworms. Butterfly pupae use the layers for protection as they grow over the chilly months.

As the leaves decompose (no, they won’t litter your lawn forever), they form a natural mulch and help fertilize the soil. They can be mulched with the lawnmower next spring.

Leaves do not belong in the trash. If you must rake take them to one of them to a compost site. Personally, I like to photograph them. Have you ever photographed a leaf using a macro lens?