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The cost of winterizing your house

Created date

October 26th, 2010

No one forgets to factor mortgage payments or property taxes into their household budget. But homeowners sometimes fail to consider the cost of home maintenance, which is critical to keeping a house in good working order especially during winter. David Lupberger is a home improvement expert at ServiceMagic, a referral service for home repair professionals. He compares regular house maintenance to servicing your vehicle. You wouldn t expect your car to run if you never changed the oil, Lupberger says. But when it comes to houses, people sometimes fail to perform maintenance that prevents small problems from becoming major repairs.

Batten down the hatches

When temperatures start to dip below zero, you want to be certain your house can keep the cold air out. Your first line of defense, Lupberger says, is proper insulation. Many older homes were built without adequate insulation because energy was inexpensive. Today, Lupberger says, houses need at least 12 inches of insulation. Inspect your attic to check your insulation, and hire a professional to make necessary upgrades. You may be eligible for a tax credit if you add insulation before the end of 2010. Home Depot s Mid-Atlantic Regional Services Manager Paul Ginetti says servicing your furnace will extend its life, reduce your energy bills, and save you from a long, cold night in the event the furnace fails in the dead of winter. You could have a cold winter night and your furnace isn t firing up, and you could be out a few thousand dollars to have it repaired or replaced, Ginetti says. He also advises homeowners to install programmable thermostats and consider installing energy-efficient windows or at least sealing older windows with plastic shrink wrap.

Water: Your house s #1 enemy

From roof leaks to mold to foundation erosion, nothing can destroy a house quite like water. Colorado construction contractor Dean Bennett says clean gutters are one of the best ways to keep your roof and foundation dry. He advises individuals who can t safely climb ladders to hire a professional to clear leaves and other debris from gutters. He also reminds homeowners to drain hoses and blow out sprinkler systems, both of which can freeze and burst during winter. A professional will charge up to $100 to winterize sprinklers, but you ll be looking at a bill triple that amount if your system needs to be repaired in the spring. Do-it-yourself home improvement expert Jodi Marks, who co-hosted a show on HGTV and coauthored the bookFix It in a Flash!, advises homeowners to inspect their house s exterior and caulk holes before the snow and ice make their way inside. If you don t caulk the gaps, that lets in air and moisture, Marks says. You are going to see repair bills down the line because moisture will deteriorate the siding and windows. It s like pulling thread, she adds. If you don t fix problems now, they re going to unravel down the line and cost you a lot more.