Welcome again, folks! Daniel Westbrook here writing to you from the deep throws of our northwest wet, cold winter! Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are over, family is gone, and frankly that third and forth cup of Northwest Roasted coffee is sounding pretty good right about now. I don't know about you, but this time of year I just want to eat comfort food, watch movies, and kind of just snuggle down by any heater I can find! I guess that comes from a guy that has spent years working in this wet weather, and, at the end of the day there is nothing like a good heater and a bowl of soup to warm the soul!

It reminds me of our homes and what they provide. Protection for us from the cold, a place to hibernate, to sleep and be safe in comfort, isn't that the soul of our homes? They take care of us, so what winter maintenance can we do to take care of them in winter? Well, here is some advice in case you want to break the monotony and get something done! There is hope, spring is on the way!

Smoke Detectors

Winter is a great time to do a smoke detector check as it's an indoor thing to do and it's also a safety thing. You will feel great knowing things are working well. There is a test button that can be pushed to test. If the batteries need to be replaced is pretty simple. There are detectors that are just battery operated only. Detectors that are electrically wired typically have a battery backup in case the power goes out. Detectors that are connected to sprinkler systems and also security monitored. Whatever system you have, read the manual and know your system and how to maintain over time.

Furnace Filters

Change you furnace filters or clean as needed. I cannot harp on this enough because I think this is the most overlooked maintenance item that can have the most affect for your home's healthy air. I've mentioned this before in past posts, because it's a reminder to myself as well, as I have a tendency to overlook this as other maintenance and life stuff seem to get in the way!

Light Bulbs

As winter is dark much of the time, I notice lighting more as we rely on its use for lighting paths, reading, etc. Light bulbs have gone through a change, and there are many energy saving types to choose from. No matter what you use it's a great time to ensure you are using the best for your eyes. Working in a shop for years I've noticed the quality and type of light effects my eyes. Over a day and so, I've taken the time to brighten the shop with non-pulsating bright lighting. In any case, I believe, it can make a difference over the course of a long winter. I recommend using the brightest lamps that the fixture is qualified for.

Draft Check

Exterior doors are many times overlooked for drafts as pressure fit vinyl weather stripping can become old and non-conforming over time. Door weather stripping is relatively easy to replace on newer doors. Just pull it off and you'll see a groove in the door jamb where the back side of the weather stripping has a wedge shape that fits into it. Weather stripping can be purchased just about anywhere, but heck, might as well go to Dunn Lumber Company as they also have just about anything else you'll need for home maintenance and DYI!

Also, check for drafts under your exterior doors. For most newer doors the threshold is adjustable. If you see a gap between the door sweep and threshold then the threshold will need to be adjusted up using a screwdriver. The adjustment screws are located on the top of the threshold. Sometimes you may need to remove a little thin plastic cap to expose the screw. Simply adjust the screws a little at a time and check the door operation. You do not want it too tight! Just adjust enough where the sweep contacts the threshold and it's done. Replace the protector caps and you're good to go!

Windows are pretty good now a days with insulated glass and thermal breaks. If you have historic windows you already know you have drafts and likely have storm windows of some sort, or a spring bronze metal weather stripping.

Mold Check

Any mold is bad for the home environment as far as I'm concerned, and it seems to thrive in the Northwest with all our moisture around here! It's a really good idea in winter to do a check and do some cleaning as needed. Look around bathrooms, windows, and even walls that have furniture that keep air from circulating.

Check around walls that don't have to much air circulation. I've seen mold build up usually at a back wall corner in the coolest part of the home, say, a bedroom, where a bed might be up against a wall. It's well worth the check and even if there isn't mold, it's a good time to vacuum and clean any built up dust. I'm kinda hyper vigilant with dust as well because my kids have had allergies since they were babies.

Windows that have interior moisture at the transition from glass to sash can grow mold, so I like to clean these with a heavy bleach solution in a spray bottle. It's that black mold in my place that I sometimes see and just getting rid of it not only gives me a sense of satisfaction, but I'm sure its healthier for the air in the house!

There are a lot of home cleaners that come in a spray bottle that I've used over the years that seem to work well on glass and other surfaces as well. I use a spray bottle cleaner in my bathroom constantly in the nooks and crannies and sometimes let the solution sit there. A word of caution with cleaning solutions as they are chemicals. Keep them safe from kids, and limit your exposure on skin and breathing in. There are all natural products that work well, so it's up to you to use what your comfortable with using around your family.

Moisture Leak Check

Winter is also a great time to check for what the moisture is doing in and around your home. Check the basement for anything from discolored concrete stem walls or slabs, to full on moisture penetration. Moisture saturation in the soil around the northwest can reach full absorption and create pressure against your basement walls and floor. If there isn't any way for water to drain away from your home then the pressure can reach a point where it gets pushed through the porosity of the concrete or through hairline cracks. That's why it's important to have proper drainage like perimeter drain tile, so the water can follow the path of least resistance.

The main thing here is to do a check and record what you see because to devise the best course action might take some time, and you want to know you're spending your dollars and time appropriately.

Sump Pump Check

Also if you have a sump pump in the basement, winter is a great time to check the system. It's just simply a matter of pulling the lid, checking all components, and maybe even listening while the pump is working through a cycle. If anything seems off keep checking it. By the way, it's a good idea to have a portable sump pump you can plug into a receptacle and attach a garden hose, as a back up near by, just in case. One time I had three inches of water in my basement because my old sump pump quit during one of the wettest winters we've had. Luckily I had a portable sump pump someone gave me in the shop! Looking back now I'm thankful it worked! I've never been without one since.

Well! There are many more things we can go over here like interior painting and remodeling, etc. Really many people think that summer is the best time to remodel, but really there is no reason why most remodeling can't be done any time of year. It just seems we think that remodeling is cost effective in the summer. Well, that's not really true. I had a client ask why I was installing a tarp over the worksite in 80 degree weather. The client wanted to know if we really needed to spend dollars on the tarp One week later it rained a deluge like I've never seen before! He came to me later and apologized for questioning my judgment, as his home could have been ruined, but was safe with our weather protection! Anyone who leaves their home remodel wide open to weather in summer is taking a big risk. So what difference does it make summer or winter? Remodel anytime!

Until next time, feel free to pop me an email with any questions or problems your experiencing on your home, and I'll do what I can to help!

Hot soup anyone?

Daniel Westbrook