Winer Maintenance/Storm Prep for Old House

edlincolnFebruary 13, 2014

My elderly parents live in a big old house.

Is there anything in particular that should be done to prepare it for winter snowstorms?

It's not a newly renovated house or anything...I'm just wondering if there may be minor upkeep/maintenance issues that might be difficult for my parents to keep up with.

I'm not handy and not a home owner, so these issues aren't necessarily obvious to me.

To give an example of the sort of thing I mean, I noticed my parents missed a few storm windows when they closed them for the winter, and one storm window was cracked.

I'd ask my parents, but I find they don't always have the best sense of what I can and can't do on a day off I spend down there.

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Make sure the gutters are clear and carrying the water far enough away from the house to do any good.

1 Like    Bookmark   February 13, 2014 at 12:56PM
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Gutters are a good one!!!

Unfortunately, this house doesn't have any. Supposedly it doesn't need them because of the steep slope of the roof and the long eaves...although I have thought they should at least add a partial gutter to divert water away from the basement bulkhead doors.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2014 at 1:09PM
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For an older house I think the first item I would check is to make sure they have good smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. I assume they have to run a fuel-fired heating system (gas or oil), so there is always some risk of fire or a malfunction that could leak CO2. Even ifs its all electric you still have a fire risk.

Checking the storm windows is good, but there are other areas that may have more impact. Any situation that allows water damage (bad drainage, hose bibs freezing, pipes freezing, etc.), allows plumbing vents on the roof to be blocked with snow/ice, makes a working fireplace unsafe, or causes any other risky situations should be the first priority.


    Bookmark   February 13, 2014 at 6:54PM
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Shut off the valves for the water spigots outside the house, or at least remove the hoses. Make sure there is rock salt (in an enclosed container with large cup) outside the entrance. If the house gets icicles, a broom near the entrance is handy to knock them down.

As mentioned fall prep includes cleaning gutters and placing storm windows. In the spring or summer you can repair the cracked storm windows.

Fire extinguishers and flashlights close at hand is another good idea for anytime of the year. Also phone numbers for pluming/furnace repair. Check and replace furnace filters and provide some spares.

1 Like    Bookmark   February 14, 2014 at 9:48AM
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Check the trees close to the house to make sure they are healthy and properly pruned. Make sure there are no branches overhanging power lines (ice storm problem).

Make sure all exposed pipes are wrapped and insulated.

Drain the irrigation system and hoses. Shut of water to outside faucets and drain those pipes.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2014 at 1:43PM
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What kind of heat do they have? If it's oil, and the tank is outdoors, make sure their oil company puts the additive into the oil that keeps it from sludging up in frigid temps. Make sure any fireplace flues are closed so the heat doesn't escape up the chimney(s).

    Bookmark   February 14, 2014 at 7:06PM
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Some great ideas! I've already done a bunch of those things. (Did the storm widows, they already had salt, etc.) Did a slapdash job of wrapping the easier to reach exposed water pipes. The flues were closed, but I stuffed some bags of fiberglass up the chimneys for good measure.

Where would I find the shut off valves for outdoor spigots? The hoses were removed and I put those sleeves on the faucets, but I don't know how to shut off water, other then turning off the faucet itself of course.

The furnace is a weird gravity hot air furnace and doesn't appear to have a place for filters. (Which has been a problem.)

bcarlson78248, how would I check the hose bibs, etc?
The only places I've detected bad drainage are the place where the porch meets the house, one of the basement bulkhead doors, and in front of the garage door. Not sure what to do about those during the winter.

Tibbrix, they have oil heat. The oil tank is in the basement.

This post was edited by edlincoln on Sat, Feb 15, 14 at 11:39

    Bookmark   February 15, 2014 at 12:29AM
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For shutting off hose bibs - do the pipes go into a basement or anywhere else they are exposed? In most cold weather areas they will have added a shutoff on the pipe inside the house. You shut that valve off inside and open the valve on the outside of the house so there is no water trapped in the exposed pipe or valve. Then also remove any hose that is connected outside.

Some hose bibs have been upgraded to a freeze-proof type that has the valve inside the insulated wall. When you turn the knob outside you are actually turning a long bolt that is connected to the valve inside. For that type of hose bib, just remove any hoses connected outside.


1 Like    Bookmark   February 15, 2014 at 7:41AM
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Do you have a roof rake? How sloped are their roofs? Ours are very well pitched for snow run off, but on the wrap around porch not so much. We rake and shovel snow off. With snow and a sleet storm we had recently, the added weight is cause for concern. NancyLouise

    Bookmark   February 16, 2014 at 11:30AM
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What a good son you are!
I just wanted to put in my 2 cents about gutters. They are a pain and I'm glad we don't have them My neighbors are always fussing with theirs. If your parents cellar doesn't have leaks don't worry about it.
If they have icicles (which can mean ice dams and damage) you might consider more insulation in the attic. Just make sure the attic is vented above the insulation.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2014 at 4:03PM
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Circus Peanut

Make sure that the chimney flues you stuffed tight are NOT the same ones used by the oil furnace. :)

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 11:39AM
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