Throughout the year, severe weather can wreak havoc and destruction but winter in Toronto has a particularly strong impact. With winter storms causing millions in damage, it's vital that we all take steps to prepare.
While winter storms and plummeting temperatures can cause significant damage to your home, taking simple steps to prepare for winter can lessen the risk. No one wants to deal with a catastrophe during the winter months when issues are harder to resolve.
Taking a proactive approach to winterize Toronto home systems means you'll be more prepared when the weather turns challenging. Keeping your home in top condition over the colder months means you'll always have somewhere warm and cozy to come back to after a day at work.
Winterizing your home doesn't have to be difficult either. You can deal with one task at a time. But when fully prepared, you can rest easy that your home is as prepared as possible.
Keeping reading to discover how to keep your home warm and safe this winter.
Winterizing Your Home in Toronto
It's easy to put off winterizing your home each year. After all, does anyone want to be out in chilly weather, clearing dead leaves, and fiddling with pipes? But winterizing is both easier and cheaper than repairing winter-damage.
Some tasks may well need a professional and getting an expert inspection is often the best idea. A winter storm emergency call-out may be more expensive and harder to arrange if there's a high number of calls.
As each year brings unpredictable conditions, the most sensible thing to do is take these steps to winterize your home. By using a checklist and completing each job thoroughly, it'll be even easier to complete next year.
1. Clear Your Gutters
So simple and easy to forget, gutters are responsible for many issues throughout winter. During the fall, it's common for gutters to become clogged with dead leaves and mess left by animals. You may even find discarded birds' nests in them!
When the gutters clog during the winter, water can't drain through it from the roof. Instead, it sits in the gutter and freezes. When the snow starts building up, the pressure on your guttering becomes dangerous.
Ice dams also commonly form as snow melts on the roof and re-freezes on top of your blocked gutters. This creates a huge amount of weight that builds and builds.
As the water starts overflowing, icicles can form from your roof and gutters as well. Icicles look pretty, but you don't want your family or pets to be underneath them when they fall.
The simplest way to keep your gutters working is to clear them. Remove any debris and leaf litter from gutters to allow water to run cleanly through. Check the guttering and bolts for signs of wear and tear as well. Gutters don't last forever and weak spots may cause breakage or collapse.
2. Check Attic Insulation
Poor attic insulation causes heat to escape through your roof. This, in turn, makes any snow on your roof melt, run-down, and re-freeze into ice dams or icicles. Insufficient attic insulation also wastes the heat in your home, pushing up your heating bills.
Your attic should be around the same temperature as the outside so it's important to insulate it against the warmth below. Check for gaps in your existing insulation and the thickness. Consider re-insulating it if you find gaps, you'll save yourself money and effort in the long run.
3. Winterize Your Pipes
Pipes run throughout our homes and we hardly think about them. But when winter arrives, plumbing problems come with it.
When water freezes, it expands. This puts enormous pressure on your pipes and can cause them to burst. Frozen pipe repair or replacement needs to be done quickly and is tough in harsh winter conditions.
It's much better to proactively protect your pipes against the cold.
External pipes are particularly prone to bursting. Hose pipes and spigots outside should be drained, switched off, and insulated. Pipes indoors should be protected from the cold as well. Keeping your home heated works well but you should also seal up any draughts to prevent interior pipes from freezing.
As pipes can be difficult to locate and insulate, a plumbing professional may well be your safest option. Professionals will track pipes and ensure they're safe from freezing conditions.
4. Check for Holes
Everyone loves to be warm and cozy in winter and the same goes for wildlife. Attic spaces, in particular, are havens for small animals who may squeeze in through small holes and set up camp.
Check your walls, eaves, and attic space for holes. Mice can get through holes between 0.23 and 0.27 inches and rats can squeeze through holes measuring just 0.78 inches in diameter. That means you'll need to be on the lookout.
You may be able to run your hand along walls or the attic ceiling to feel draughts coming through. This is a sure sign of a crack or hole. Sealing all holes will help to not just keep animals out, but stop warm air escaping.
5. Cut Back Trees
Having trees around your house is a wonderful thing. Throughout the majority of the year, trees offer shade, beautiful greenery, and even blossom. In winter though, trees can pose a threat.
Tree branches that stray too close to your home can cause serious structural damage in winter storms. Many homes are damaged by tree limbs each year caused by branches breaking into walls and onto rooftops.
If you have branches within six feet of your home, it's best to get them cut back. You can hire a professional to get this done for you without damaging the health of the tree.
Branches close to the house are also used by animals to get to your roof. Cutting them back helps prevent unwanted houseguests during the winter.
6. Inspect Your Roof
Ever heard the phrase, "keeping a roof over your head"? Well, in winter, that's exactly what you need to do. We take the roofs of our homes for granted but they suffer wear and tear just like everything else.
In winter, rooftops can suffer from freezing conditions, high winds, damp, and immense weight from the snow.
A visual inspection should be your first step to winterizing your roof. If you aren't comfortable on a ladder, it's always better to get a roof inspection done by a professional. Working at height can be very dangerous and a professional will know exactly what to do to stay safe.
Roof shingles should be thoroughly checked for missing sections. Weather-proofing also needs to be checked, especially around flashing, antennas, and chimney tops. The sealant used on rooftops wears and cracks over time so it's a good idea to re-seal any worn areas.
Having a roof inspection will give you the peace of mind you need when the snow starts falling and the wind starts howling.
7. Check Alarms
Have you checked your house alarms recently? We're not talking about intruder alarms, we're talking fire and carbon monoxide. The leading cause of house fires during Canadian winters is heating equipment and it's important to take precautions.
Alarm systems are designed to keep you safe and it takes a second to check. Ensure you have the correct number of working fire and carbon monoxide alarms on every floor of your home. Many alarms have a test button but check your manual if you're unsure how to test the alarms.
Some designs will require changing the batteries but don't wait for the low battery beep to check the alarm. Regular tests help keep you and your family safe.
8. Change Your Air Filters
Keeping your HVAC system in top condition helps to keep costs down and your home efficiently ventilated and heated. Air filters can get clogged up with dust over time, sapping the efficiently.
Find the air filter and change it out for a new one. Air filters often need regularly changing and doing this task as part of your winterizing preparations ticks it off your list.
You can always call an HVAC professional if you're unsure of how to change your air filter or think the system might need maintenance.
9. Get a Fireplace Inspection
A roaring fireplace, a cup of hot chocolate, and your dog snoozing by your feet. It sounds a lot like the winter dream. Fireplaces, woodburning stoves, and even gas fires are great ways to warm your home but their maintenance is a priority.
Book your fireplace in for a safety check to ensure the chimney is clear of debris. Blockages or even small amounts of dirt can cause fires and stop your fireplace from functioning correctly.
Birds have a habit of leaving old nests in chimneys too, so hiring a professional to take a look will keep your fireplace and chimney in tip-top condition. Then you can get back to your hot chocolate.
10. Have a Boiler Check-Up
Imagine getting up on a wintery morning, getting in the shower, and discovering you've got nothing but cold water. Over winter, if you have a boiler, it's the last thing you want to break.
Book your boiler a professional inspection to ensure it's working correctly. This simple step will pick up any issues and makes sure they'll be fixed before it's too late.
11. Prepare Supplies and Equipment
Winter can be unpredictable but that's no excuse you be underprepared. When you ensure you have everything you might need, you'll be in a much better position to deal with issues that arise from severe weather.
Do you have a snow shovel with a wobbly handle? Have you checked your torch batteries recently? Did you use up some of your emergency first aid kit last year? It's easy to forget what you might need in a winter emergency but when problems come knocking, you'll soon realize you're underprepared.
Winter storms can knock out power for hours, even days at a time. Ice and snow can cause anything from sprained ankles to head injuries, and you never know when a neighbour will need your help.
Write up a list of essential winter supplies you might need. Include everything from a new shovel and scraper to medical supplies and spare batteries. Large water jugs can also be useful in case of burst pipes or other problems with your mains water supply.
12. Know Who to Call
If a major problem crops up over winter, you'll need to act quickly. Writing up a list of trusted professionals in your area is a good idea so that you're always prepared.
From plumbing professionals to roof experts and HVAC technicians, these are the people you can call when something goes wrong. Having this list in an accessible place it a good call. We all rely on the internet these days, but what happens if the internet goes down in your area? Or if the power goes out?
Sometimes a good old fashioned paper list is the safest way to store important numbers you hope you never have to use. Don't forget to add your insurance company's number too, they can be a source of invaluable information in difficult situations.
Prepare for Winter to Stay Cozy and Safe
From burst pipes to broken boilers and branches, winter is a season of hazards. When you prepare for winter, you'll be proactively maintaining your home and keeping it warm and safe for your family.
You don't have to deal with all the preparation yourself either. Choosing a professional who can winterize Toronto home systems like HVAC and plumbing takes a weight off your shoulders.
When you check off everything on this list, you can be safe in the knowledge that you've looked after your home. Then it's time for your home to look after you no matter what the weather brings.
If you're looking for a professional Toronto plumber to help you winterize your pipes, give us a call at (416) 699-8623. We're experts in helping Toronto residents just like you prepare their homes for the coldest months. We also run a 24/7 emergency plumbing service, because plumbing problems don't take the night off.