By Mitch Kuffa
Guess What? It’s time to dust off the old snowshoes, grease up the dog sled and say good-bye to the summer of “19”. And, in order to help you be organized, here is a list of home maintenance items that need to be addressed (before the ski patrol has to come and dig you and your caulking gun out of a snowbank).
1. Crank up the old heat plant. Your furnace has been sitting dormant all summer. See if it properly ignites, runs quietly, has a clean filter (shows no leaks if it’s a boiler), etc.. If required, put a few drops of the recommended oil on the blower motor or water pump. Is the chimney clean (hopefully nothing is nesting inside)? Vacuum out the heat ducts. If you have radiators, the system overall may need to be flushed out.
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2. Once the majority of leaves have fallen, clean out your gutters (this can prevent ice damming and water infiltration into the house). As the seasons change, we’re going to have more rain and snow and less light (which dries the ground out). Make sure all downspouts are connected, have extensions at the bottom and preferably have splash blocks. This will help keep your crawl space or basement drier.
3. If you have a sump pump make sure it works. The water should be discharged distant from the house, the outside line should be protected from freezing and the end of the discharge line opened (so that the water can run out freely).
4. Go down into your basement (or crawl space), leave the lights off and walk the perimeter while looking up. You should not see any “pinholes” of light coming from the outside. If you do, plug them (you can use caulking, spray foam, putty, etc. – all available from any hardware store).
5. If you’re going to add insulation, now is the time (before the rush starts). Remember, approx. 70% of all heat loss goes up. You should have at least 6-12” of insulation in your attic (and don’t forget the more attic insulation you have, the more ventilation you need).
6. Check your attic area. All of the vents present (ridge or roof vents, overhangs, roof gable ends, etc.) should be kept open. None of the roof penetrations (chimneys, plumbing stacks, skylights, etc.) should show no evidence of leaking. Vent fans coming from kitchen range hoods and bath fans should be extended to the outside or towards a roof vent (so as to discharge the moist air away from the attic). Any metal vents should be insulation wrapped (so as to hold heat or not condensate into the house).
7. If you have a crawl space, winterize it. Close the vents tight. Protect the plumbing from freezing. The crawl space floor should have a plastic visqueen “vapor barrier” (to hold moisture in the ground). If you have ductwork running through the crawl, it is recommended to Styrofoam insulate the perimeter walls. This is relatively easy to do and economical (for the amount of heat that it saves).
8. Check your fireplace. The damper should easily close when not in use.
9. Check all smoke detectors for proper function.
10 Wash the outside of windows now. Check for cracked glass and make sure all storms are functional. Putty and caulk as necessary. Don’t forget about weather-stripping your doors.
11. Cut back all shrubs, bushes, and trees that touch your house. The winds of November will scratch the siding and roof.
12. Anything on the outside that needs a coat of protective paint should be done now while the materials are workable.
Inspections By MJK
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Mitchell J. Kuffa Jr. has been in the construction industry since 1967. In that time, he has worked as a construction superintendent, general superintendent, and construction manager for several large developers in the state of Michigan.
He has been a licensed Michigan residential builder since 1977, was an incorporated general contractor for 11 years and has built and/or run the construction of approx. 3,500 residential houses, apartments, commercial structures and/or light industrial buildings.
In 1981 he started the first private home inspection agency in Michigan and to date has personally performed approx. 16,000 inspections for a fee.
Since 1981, Mr. Kuffa inspects properties and acts as a construction consultant for the Michigan Department of Mental Health (group homes), UAW Legal Services, numerous lenders, several non-profit organizations and for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Mr. Kuffa is a federal housing fee inspector and FHA 203K mortgage loan consultant, works with several attorney’s as an “expert witness”, has been appointed by the Michigan circuit court system to act as a Receiver in several cases concerning construction litigation and teaches a series of construction classes (for misc. school districts, community colleges, Michigan State Housing Authority, etc.).
Mr. Kuffa has been a member of the National Association of Home Inspectors, in good standing, since 1983.