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The Most Common Winter Maintenance Problems and How to Solve Them


Article by Rose Morrison: Rose is a home improvement and construction industry writer and the managing editor of Renovated. Follow her Twitter to read more of her content. CC-licensed photo by James Mann.

It’s cold and snowy outside, and you can’t wait to snuggle up with some tea and a book. But suddenly, your heater shuts off — and when you head to your basement to see what happened, you notice a leaky pipe and mold growth. These are just some winter maintenance problems homeowners face every year.

Here’s a look at several seasonal concerns, along with some actionable solutions.

1. Split Window Caulk

It’s 30 degrees during the day, but 15 degrees when you go to bed. This temperature change can cause caulk to separate from windows. As a result, your indoor heat leaves through the cracks and gaps — and chilly outdoor air finds a way inside.

This problem has a simple fix:

  1. Pick up the right caulk for the project. If you need to fix caulk on either side of the window, you’ll need both exterior and interior caulk. Research beforehand to make the best choice.
  2. Remove the old caulk with a putty knife.
  3. Use a leak-free caulk gun to run caulk down the border in segments. Drag the bead down halfway before you readjust your aim. This trick results in a straighter line.
  4. Wet your finger to smooth 6-inch sections at a time.

If you need other tips, you can check out specific guides to help you caulk correctly.

2. Backed-Up Drains and Gutters

Did you clear your home’s drains and gutters in the fall? If not, you should do so immediately. Conditions like rain, snow, and ice accumulate throughout the winter. These elements build up in drains and gutters — and eventually cause leaks and further damage.

Try a few steps to prevent backed-up drains and gutters:

  1. Purchase a small tool like a handheld shovel.
  2. Set tarps on the ground to collect debris.
  3. Use a sturdy ladder to climb up to the gutters.
  4. Remove the dirt and leaves.
  5. Spray the gutters and drains with a hose to flush out any remnants.

This afternoon project will prevent harmful ice dams that could cause roof leaks and deterioration.

3. Damaged Walkways and Driveways

From November to March, you probably head outside daily to clear your walkways and driveway. This process might not seem harmful, but you can damage concrete and asphalt surfaces with certain actions. It’s time to change your habits to prevent cracks and chips around your property.

First, you should always choose de-icing products that don’t include chemicals. These ingredients will deteriorate surfaces. Use a rubber guard on your shovel, too. Repair any damage come springtime to keep walkways and driveways intact for next winter.

4. Heating System Failures

No one wants to handle a broken furnace in the winter. This accident typically requires a professional fix, but you might be able to replace some parts depending on your skill and comfort level. Try to identify the specific issue before you call an expert. Be sure to service your system every year, too.

If you use proper care, you should be able to help your system last for several years.

5. Mold Growth

It’s damp outside, which means you can expect some mold growth in your house. That’s because condensation accumulates when cold and hot air meet — and snow and rain only add to it. If you don’t prioritize air circulation, you can end up with mold-related health issues.

This solution will require you to take several steps:

  1. Identify mold in places like your attic, basement, cabinets, and siding. It’s most common to find traces near water, so look near pipes and windows. Keep an eye — and a nose — out for various types, too.
  2. Wear gloves and goggles for the removal process.
  3. Use either diluted bleach or hydrogen peroxide to scrub the mold.
  4. Address whatever caused the mold. Do you need a dehumidifier? Buy one. This way, you can permanently eradicate the mold.

Maintain a dry home with a moderate temperature to discourage mold growth.

6. Roof Leaks

If your roof has missing shingles, you might have to deal with leaks. As snow and ice melt, you’ll see water accumulate in your attic and walls. It’s essential to tackle roof leaks as soon as possible so you can limit any damage.

Locate the leak before you do anything else. This issue might require a simple sealant application, but you may need to replace several roof shingles or tiles, too. It’s typically best to consult a professional so you don’t make any mistakes.

Remember to repair roof fixes that occur in other seasons so you don’t run into issues come wintertime.

7. Clogged Dryer Vents

There’s a big chance you’re using your dryer more often. Everyone loves warm laundry in the winter. However, you need to be aware that your additional usage could be detrimental. If your vents become too clogged, you could experience a dryer fire like 3,000 Americans do every year.

It only takes a few steps to prevent dryer fires:

  1. Locate the duct system behind your dryer.
  2. Disconnect your dryer from the wall.
  3. Clean everything in that space.
  4. Use a special vent kit to clear out the dust and debris.
  5. Reconnect your dryer.

Be sure to clean your dryer vent at least once a year.

8. Broken and Busted Pipes

Freezing weather means damage to pipes. If you want to avoid broken and busted pipes, you need to ensure water doesn’t freeze inside them. This catastrophe will be less likely to happen when you:

  • Insulate your pipes with foam pipe insulation.
  • Keep faucets at a slow drip while you’re away from home.
  • Keep doors and windows closed in rooms with pipes.
  • Leave your heat on even when you’re not home.

As a result, you should be able to avoid burst pipes throughout the winter.

Avoid These Typical Cold Weather Issues at Home

Don’t let the cold ruin your wallet. It’s sometimes inevitable for caulk to split and mold to grow, but you can use a few quick fixes to get everything back in working order. Be sure to prioritize preventive maintenance, too.