(Illustration by Ryan Huddle)
The Farmers’ Almanac is predicting an “ice cold & snow-filled winter” in the Northeast, so let’s button down, bundle up, and brace ourselves and our homes before the flakes fly. Winter storms in the United States caused an estimated $3.5 billion in insured losses in 2015, up from $2.6 billion in 2014, the Insurance Information Institute has reported, so we’ve compiled a to-do list to help you prepare and persevere.
■ Check for loose shingles, damage from branches, and leaks around vents, skylights, and chimneys. Clean off leaves and debris.
■ Carefully inspect flashing at dormers, plumbing stacks, and valleys.
■ Have a flat roof? Look for blisters and bubbles.
■ Trim bushes (to at least 1 foot away from the house) and trees back from roof edges.
■ Examine your eaves, checking the soffit and fascia boards for loose and rotten spots as well as squirrel damage. Paint failure is a sign of early trouble.
■ Replace the batteries in your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. Test them. Vacuum out the dust, and replace your devices if they are old.
■ Have a heating, air conditioning, and ventilation company give your furnace an annual checkup and replace filters.
■ Check wooden deck or porch elements for rot and insect infestation. Paint or stain as needed.
■ Replace door weather seals as needed.
■ Repair locks so windows and doors seal tightly. If you have storm windows, lower them.
■ Check the landscape grading adjacent to your home to ensure it has a slope of 1 inch per foot for the first 6 feet away from the house.
■ Clean drain basins of debris.
■ Look for cracks, holes, and chips in your siding or paint. Replace caulk if necessary.
■ Check window and door flashing.
■ Shut off outside water, disconnect hoses, and have your irrigation system serviced for winter.
■ Plant spring-blooming bulbs.
■ Plant deciduous trees and shrubs through November but wait until spring to plant evergreens.
■ Don’t bag fallen leaves. Rake them into 3-foot piles. In 15 months they will have broken down into nutritious weed-free mulch for your trees or garden.
■ Disguised weeds are easier to spot as their leaves change color. Focus on pulling out Asian invasives that have been hiding in plain sight such as multiflora rose, burning bush, buckthorn, barberry, and any honeysuckle bush that is more than 5 feet tall. If they are too big to pull, cut the trunk and immediately paint the fresh slash or stump with Round-Up.
■ Don’t weed invasive vines such as bittersweet and porcelainberry. Instead, clip off the end and dip the new tip still anchored to the roots in a bottle of Round-Up.
■ Move fish and aquatic plants into an indoor tank unless your garden pond is 18 inches or more deep.
■ After the foliage blackens, dig up tender bulbs such as gladiola, dahlia, and canna with a garden fork to spend the winter in the basement.
■ Water evergreens regularly as long as your hoses are out to forestall dehydration over the winter. Or spray with Wilt Pruf antidesicant. (Obey your
community’s water restrictions.)
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