If you’re dreading the remaining long months of cold weather ahead and the thought of being stuck inside, consider curing cabin fever with some fun, easy and rewarding home improvement projects.
1. Create walls that wow
Since you’re stuck inside staring at the walls, why not give them a new look. Adding modern trim work, crown molding and a bold coat of paint can completely change the look of a room without the expense of doing a complete renovation.
To really add visual interest to your walls, homeowners could go with a new or dramatic paint color or use painter’s tape to create stripes or patterns.
Custom trim and crown molding projects, for an investment of between $500 and $800 dollars, can make all the difference in the world in bringing some life back into a room. A popular trend right now he said is replacing typical baseboard with ones that are at least five inches wide.
2. Add a “splash” of personality to your kitchen
For homeowners looking to spice up their kitchen without spending a pretty penny, adding a backsplash is a great solution, not to mention the perfect project for a cold winter weekend.
Just a few years ago The Home Depot had only about 40 tiles to choose from. Today, the store has more than 400 different styles and sizes, ranging from classic subway tile to natural stone to metal. While adding more functionality to a kitchen, a backsplash can also help accessorize and emphasize countertops, cabinets and appliances.
Two pitfalls are not taking the time to prep and lay out a template which can result in irregular lines or spaces. And not cleaning off the grout completely, which once dry can result in a nasty haze that is almost impossible to get off.
In addition to free tile classes, The Home Depot does offer backsplash installation services for those homeowners not quite daring enough to tackle it themselves.
3. Lighten up your rooms
What better way to brighten and warm your spirits this winter than with new lights, lamps or ceiling fans. Not to mention it’s an easy and affordable way to update the style of any room.
LED-style lights, which come in contemporary and bold styles, also provide a money-saving option. Installing dimmers in areas like the family room or dining room saves money, while allowing homeowners to customize the ambiance.
In addition to pendant lighting, another style that is growing in popularity is Steampunk, which is a cross between vintage and industrial designs. But for a softer more romantic feel, a crystal chandelier is still a timeless choice.
4. Turn dull doors into classy decor
With home improvement projects, sometimes it’s the things that are used the most that are noticed the least. Like all the doors in your home — in and out of rooms, to closets and utility rooms. But after a closer look, the scratches, cracks, old hinges and outdated style can be hard to miss.
There are a lot of options that many people might not even think about. For example, double doors are a much more functional and attractive alternative to sliding doors and bi-fold doors, while French-style doors can add natural light and architectural detail to a space.
While installing interior doors can be a job for do-it-yourselfers, it can quickly turn into a bigger job than expected, especially when replacing doors in older homes.
Advice to homeowners looking to replace interior doors is for them to do their homework, know their budget, and have an idea of what they like.
5. Take your bathroom from drab to fab
There’s no better time than the winter to turn your boring bathroom into a spa retreat. While replacing a faucet, re-grouting tile, or repainting are relatively easy for the do-it-yourselfer, more ambitious jobs like replacing the tub or adding tile floor might be better left to a professional.
There is also a lot of plumbing involved with replacing bathtubs, sinks and toilets, which requires an expert to ensure it’s done right. Once the walls are closed up, a small leak can go unnoticed for a long time, resulting in serious damage and possibly a complete remodel.
Use Frugal Furniture Covers
No space to bring outdoor furniture inside in bad weather? Instead of buying pricy furniture covers, protect lawn chairs and tables by covering them with large plastic bags. If you have metal deck furniture, apply a bit of petroleum jelly to areas where they’ve been known to rust to prevent them from doing so during the long winter months.
Guard Outdoor Light Bulbs
While you have that petroleum jelly out, apply a thin layer to the threads of all your outdoor light bulbs. It will prevent them from rusting and make them much easier to replace when they blow out.
Skip the Rock Salt
Icy sidewalk? Throw cat litter down instead of rock salt. It won’t harm your grass, stain your clothes, or hurt the environment, but it will provide plenty of traction for safe walking and driving. Stop Drafts Before They Start
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a well sealed home can be up to 20 percent more energy efficient. Most leaks occur in the basement or attic—look where you feel a draft or around wiring holes, plumbing vents, ducts, and basement rim joints. You’ll be able to seal lots of leaks with a simple caulking gun, but for instructions on how to plug larger holes, check out these tutorials from EnergyStar.gov.
Clean a Fireplace With Cola
Try an old masonry trick to brighten up soot-stained brick. Mix a can of cola with 3½ fluid ounces all-purpose household cleaner and 3 ½ quarts water in a bucket. Sponge onto sooty brick and leave for 15 minutes. Loosen the soot by scrubbing with a stiff-bristled brush. Sponge with clean water. For a stronger solution, add more cola.
Here’s are some helpful tips to help you cope with this dangerously cold weather at home, in your car or when caring for your pets:
AROUND YOUR HOME
Stay indoors if possible. If you must go outdoors, officials urge you dress warmly and wear loose-fitting, layered, lightweight clothing. Wear a scarf over your mouth to protect your lungs.
Watch for signs of hypothermia, including uncontrollable shivering, weak pulse, disorientation, incoherence and drowsiness, and frostbite, including gray, white or yellow skin discoloration, numbness and waxy feeling skin.
Have safe emergency heating equipment in your home, as well as a flashlight, portable radio and three days’ worth of food in case the power goes out.
To prevent frozen pipes, State Farm suggests letting your hot and cold faucets drip overnight and open cabinet doors to allow heat to get to uninsulated pipes under sinks on exterior walls.
Locate the water shut-off valve in your home in advance of a water emergency, so you know where to go if a pipe bursts.
Disconnect garden hoses and, if practical, use an indoor valve to shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets.
If you are going away for an extended period of time, be sure to maintain adequate heat inside your home at no lower than 55 degrees.
Do not place a space heater within three feet of anything combustible.
Go ahead and program your local utility contact information into your cell phone now, before you need them.
KEEPING YOUR CAR SAFE AND RUNNING
If your car battery is three years old or older, it is more likely to fail as temperatures drops, according to AAA. Never attempt to charge or jump-start a battery that is frozen, as it may rupture or explode.
Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.
Make certain your tires are properly inflated.
Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up.
If possible, avoid using your parking brake in cold, rainy and snowy weather.
Wintry weather can contribute to the deterioration of your windshield wipers. Worn blades streak and impair vision, critical during winter months. AAA says wiper blades should be replaced every year.
Keep your washer fluid topped-off with winter formula fluid so it won’t freeze. Many of your car’s fluids should be checked once a month.
KEEPING YOUR PET(S) SAFE
Keep your pets inside. Dogs and cats left outside can freeze, get injured or become lost.
If there are outdoor cats in your area, bang on the hood of your car before starting the engine to give them a chance to escape.
The ASPCA suggests wiping your dog’s legs and stomach down when they come in from snowy or icy conditions. Dogs can ingest salt, antifreeze and other chemical when licking their paws.
It’s time to think about winterizing your house, no matter whether you’ll be there all winter or plan to be away for an extended period. Don’t panic, the tasks aren’t overwhelming when you prepare for winter one step at a time!
Heating System Checks
Have a heating professional do a routine-check before cold weather arrives.
Vacuum vents and other heating components.
Replace the furnace filter. Make future replacements as needed or directed by your furnace manufacturer.
Reprogram your thermostat settings for winter. This includes setting the clock back to standard time.
Try not to set your thermostat higher than 72° F when you’re at home. Lower your thermostat to 65° F when you’re sleeping or away from home
If your thermostat uses batteries now may be the time to replace them.
Seal Around Doors and Windows
Add or replace worn weather-stripping around doors and windows.
Caulk gaps where necessary.
Replace worn door sweeps at the bottom of doors.
Don’t forget to winterize basement windows.
Use caulking and weather-stripping around entry points for all pipes and ducts that travel through an exterior wall.
Check the Fireplace
Have the chimney inspected and cleaned.
If you’re not using your fireplace, keep the damper airtight to keep warm air from escaping your home.
Check the Roof
Replace loose shingles.
Make sure the flashing around the chimney or vent pipes is watertight.
Check the bricks and mortar.
Clean gutters and point downspouts away from the house.
Trim tree limbs that are hanging over or touching the roof.
Winterize the Plumbing
Take care of known issues with pipes that freeze. Heat tape can be used to keep them warm during extremely cold weather.
Learn how to turn off water at its source so that you can stop leaks immediately if they start.
Drain water from outdoor faucets and sprinklers.
Winterizing Outdoor Items
Give decks an additional coat of sealer.
Check the foundation and siding for cracks or gaps. Repair as necessary.
Drain garden hoses, roll them up, and store them inside.
Prune shrubbery and add mulch to perennial flower beds.
Your roof is part of the finely tuned machine that is your home. It helps keep your house warm, protect you and your home from water damage, and protect your from bad weather and unwanted wildlife.
If you’ve been on the fence about whether or not you should take the steps to winterize your roof, we are here to help. This roof winterization guide will teach you everything you need to know!
Eliminate Low-Hanging Tree Branches and Other Vegetation
During the winter, ice and snow can weigh down trees and branches. That’s a problem if they happen to be located near your home. The last thing you want to hear during a winter storm is a crash that means a branch has taken a tumble onto your roof. This could also have an impact on the cable and phone lines that go into your home. Save yourself some stress, and have branches trimmed back before Mother Nature does it for you.
Check for Pests
It’s a good idea to check your roof for signs of pest infestation as part of your winterization plan. That’s because things like mice, squirrels, and raccoons might see your home as a welcome respite from cold winter weather. These kinds of animals can cause big, expensive problems for you if they decide to call your house home. Check your roof for any signs that animals have already taken up residence somewhere up there. You should also check for weak spots that a chilly animal might exploit to get warm.
Consider heat cables
Heat cables help your roof and gutter system perform their best, even in freezing temperatures. The cables are installed strategically on your roof to help ice and snow melt away without damaging your roof or home. Consider them if you notice spots where there’s not a lot of direct sunlight available or spots where it’s easy for water to collect.
Remove fallen leaves and other debris
If you have a lot of trees and plants on your property, you may notice that during the fall your roof quickly becomes covered in leaves, acorns and branches. It’s really important that you get those things off of your roof as soon as you can. Leaves and other debris can help trap moisture on your roof, which can lead to other problems. They can also clog your gutters, which leads to the final point.
Clean your gutters
Even if you don’t have a lot of leafy green trees on your property, it’s important that you clean your gutters as part of your roof winterization process. Your gutters are important to the overall health of your whole home. They help ensure that water flows away from your home so that it can’t do any damage. However, if they’re clogged they can’t do their jobs. Clean your gutters yourself using some water and a hose, or bring in professionals for a more detailed gutter cleaning.
You couldn’t live comfortably in your home without a roof – so take proper care of it. Start your winterization process in the fall and you’ll be able to relax and enjoy your warm home once the wintertime arrives.
Find the leaks by holding a candle near the edges of the window frame. If the flame flickers or goes out, you have a leak.
Remove your screens, clean the tracks and put in storm windows. This should be easy, if unlike at my old apartment, the windows are relatively square.
If your storm windows aren’t cutting it, there’s the good old-fashioned shrink wrap trick. You can buy the kits or just buy the stuff on a big roll at the hardware store. Apply two-sided tape to the window frame, stick the plastic to it, and gently heat that puppy with a hair dryer until it’s taut. For extra drafty windows, and in areas without persnickety neighbors, you can also staple sheets of heavy-duty plastic to the outsides of window frames.
Another neat trick is that bubble wrap makes for good insulation. Who knew? Apparently you just take a spray bottle and mist the inside of your window pane with water and stick a piece of the large-bubbled wrap to the glass, bubble side down. This method is very quick and easy – and is removable. Try it in your guest room. You can leave the windows covered when the room is not used and take it down when a visitor wants the ability to spy on your all-too-close next door neighbor. The bubble wrap seems like a good idea for sliding doors, or a window you may want to keep useful for ventilation.
Don’t forget the window frames! The downside to bubble and shrink wrap is that they don’t actually solve problems of drafty frames. Also, FYI, aluminum frames are much colder than wood or vinyl (if you’re thinking of replacements).
You’ll need to find the leaks in your frame and fill them with caulk, inside and out. For bigger spaces, I’d recommend using wood filler and a coat of paint.
A pair of heavy curtains will help insulate against drafty frames. You can buy curtains that are designed specifically to insulate and absorb heat from the sun or, you can go the cheap route (like me) and just buy dark curtains (because, as we all know, dark colors absorb more heat) or, you can even go dorm room chic and nail up an old blanket.
How to Winterize Your Doors:
Doors need to remain usable (stupid fire code). Find leaks and seal with caulk or wood fill, as above.
Replace the threshold if it’s worn, it will please the eye as well as the thermostat.
Add a sweep to the bottom. They’re available in different varieties: the bristly kind, the rubber kind, and the kind that automatically rises so it won’t get stuck on your carpet (I know!).
Check the door’s alignment. If it isn’t hanging straight, adjust the hinges and strike plate. This is your chance to break out the power tools, even though a Leatherman would probably do the trick.
Don’t forget yourgarage door! Add weather stripping to fill the gap between the bottom of the door and the ground. Adhere foam panels to the backside of the door with double-sided tape.
Winter’s coming, and with it, plunging temperatures and shorter days that make you want to curl up and relax, warm and cozy by the fire. As the coldness looms and you prepare to pump the heat, it’s important to protect your home from potential damage and address heat and energy leaks. These seven simple tasks will help you stay warm, safe and energy-conscious this winter. 1 Prepare your hearth for fire
Before getting chestnuts ready for the roasting, get your fireplace set for the fire. Grab a flashlight and look inside for build-up, bird’s nests or obvious cracks. From the outside, check for broken bricks and crumbling mortar. Ensure that your damper opens and closes and seals tightly. Clean out the ashes and remember that in addition to these steps, you should have your chimney professionally cleaned every other year (more often if you burn a lot of fires). Stock up on wood and kindling, and you’re ready for a comfy, cozy season by the fire. 2 Seal the windows
Seal drafty windows to keep heat in and energy bills low with one (or both) of these two simple tasks. First, caulk the cracks. Sold in temporary or permanent form, caulking is inexpensive and easy to apply. Second, cover your windows in a thin plastic film (available at any hardware store) and tape it down with waterproof double-sided tape, heating the edges with a hair dryer and pressing the protective layer into place. When it gets warmer outside, simply peel the film off, open the window, and let the sun shine in. 3 Clear out the gutters
Clogged gutters block the drainage of rain and melting snow, resulting in household leaks and damage to landscape and foundation. As fall sheds its last leaves, grab a ladder, a garbage bag, some rubber gloves and dig in. Remove everything, from twigs to leaves to caked-on dirt. Check that the downpipes are clear of obstruction and then ensure the entire system is un-clogged and leak-free by running water through it.
4 Prepare for winter storms
Don’t let a blizzard take you by storm―always have a fully-stocked emergency kit at hand. Include batteries, a flashlight, candles, matches and a lighter; warm clothes and blankets; a battery-powered radio; non-perishable food items and water (two liters per adult per day); a first-aid kit and specialty products like medicine, baby formula and pet food (if necessary). Store at least three days worth of supplies for everyone in your household.
5 Don’t forget about heating maintenance
Is your heating system ready to weather the winter? Have a professional check your heating system and ensure it’s in good working order before you turn it on. Schedule checks for your furnace, venting system and chimney. Don’t forget to replace the batteries on smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, in case any of your heating systems are overworking.
6 Pad your pipes
A small frozen pipe can cause big household damage if it bursts, so pad your pipes to prevent floods. Grab some tubular pipe insulation sleeves from your local hardware store and set to task covering exposed pipes in unheated areas, such as a basement, attic, crawl space or cabinet. The pipe sleeves are easy to apply and can be cut to fit. Cover all exposed parts, including bends and joints. Finally, seal the seams with duct tape. With that simple task, you’re not only preventing considerable water damage, but also conserving energy.
7 Clean out your garage
Like your traditional spring cleaning, consider scheduling a traditional ‘fall cleaning’ of your garage. Organize the remains of your summer projects and clean and store gardening tools. Like a seasonal turning of your closet, push what you won’t be needing―the lawn-mower, hedge trimmer, rakes and summer toys―to the back and bring any winter necessities―shovels, snow blowers, skis and sleds―to the front. Set out salt and gravel containers, and you’ll thank yourself the first time the ice hits.
Clean the roof completely to remove the year’s accumulation of dirt, debris and leaves. Especially in areas with deep snow accumulations, the excess weight may stress the roof. Plus, accumulating organic matter encourages rot to invade your roof. Typically a shovel or broom – even a hose from the ground in some instances – makes short work of the job.
Inspect the roof during the cleaning to identify areas where shingles are missing, damaged or otherwise in need of repair. Look for other problems such as soft areas, chimney or vent damage and separating gutters. Hire a professional to perform the inspection and repair work.
Clean the gutters surrounding the roof. Move to the downspouts and ensure they are clear and in good repair.
Weatherproofing Your House Exterior
Rake away leaves and rotting vegetation from your house foundation.
Squirt expanding foam insulation or caulk into gaps and holes in your exterior house wall, such as around pipes or wires.
Check window wells surrounding basement windows. Remove debris and ensure the window is safe from potential damage. Install special plastic window shields as necessary.
Ensure your wood supply, if applicable, is separated from the house by at least 20 or 30 feet and covered with a plastic tarp or other moisture barrier. Open trash or recycling containers, woodpiles and similar collections invite rodents and pests to invade your home and enjoy the heat.
Inspect outbuildings and areas such as sheds and cellars or crawlspaces. Note any damage or potential problems. Secure windows and doors in these areas.
Drain garden hoses and insulate exposed water pipes as applicable.
Blow out or drain sprinkler systems.
Cover central air units with heavy protective material to block snow and ice. Have a professional open the unit cover and turn off the disconnect switch first to prevent accidental use in winter. Clean the outside of the unit, removing dirt and leaves, and allow it to dry before covering.
Remove window air conditioner units or cover permanently installed units.
Trim tree branches hanging over your house, electrical wires or outbuildings. Remove dead and damaged trees and branches.
Preparing Your Windows and Doors
Inspect windows to ensure the glass is in good condition and secure in the window frame. Check doors for structural stability. Replace or repair windows and doors as necessary. Upgrading old windows with newer, energy-efficient models will boost your utility savings.
Look for air gaps around window and doorframes. This proves easiest when it’s light on one side of the wall and dark on the other. Fill voids with a little low-expansion spray foam insulation designed for windows and doors. Once the foam cures, it is simply trimmed flush with the wall surface. Doors, especially, tend to leak air from around the frame and trim.
Replace or install weather stripping under entry doors and around windows.
Take down summer window screens and screen doors. Replace with storm windows and storm doors.
Hang plastic over windows or use shrink-wrap. Large windows, in particular, lose a tremendous amount of heat, especially older windows. Plastic sheeting placed over the inside of the window, if performed with care, doesn’t look that bad and will significantly lower your heating bill.
Winterizing With Insulation
If your house is fairly new, the insulation level is likely sufficient for your climate. Older homes, however, often installed insulation somewhat haphazardly – if at all – and you may pay for it with your wallet.
The easiest, most reliable method to ensure your insulation is up to keeping you warm is to have an energy audit performed. Some utility companies offer courtesy energy audits, or you can hire a professional. It’s also possible, in some cases, to verify the level of insulation by measuring the material and determining the total R-value by multiplying the depth by the insulation’s R-value per inch. Add more insulation, of the type desired, to obtain the R-value recommended for your area. Checking the insulation level in the attic is likely the easiest place for the DIYer to start, and one of the most important places since heat rises.
While adding insulation, if necessary, may prove the most costly step of your home winterization, you won’t have to do it again anytime soon. Better yet, you will get the money back, month by month, and in some areas rebates may be available. For more information, consult a professional.
Don’t forget about your water heater. Turn down your water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit and cover it with blanket insulation or a cover, as specified by the manufacturer. If your water heater is in an uninsulated area, this is even more important.
Interior Weatherization and Safety
Open any register vents or air returns inside your house. Vents may be wall mounted, in the floor or in the ceiling. Repair or replace damaged or loose vents.
Feel the wall around electrical outlets, pipes or wires leading to the outside. Seal and insulate as appropriate. Expanding foam insulation for windows and doors provides the benefits of both.
Reverse your ceiling fans to help circulate warm air that gathers near the ceiling. When the fan blades rotate clockwise, they push the warm air down to “reheat” the lower areas.
Mount smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, if you don’t already have them, or change the batteries if you do. Test each one to ensure it operates properly. The winter season, when heating appliances may emit carbon monoxide and burning fires and other potential hazards are common, is a good time to schedule this annual task as part of your winterization process.
Servicing Furnaces and Ductwork
Check the house thermostat to ensure it works properly. Replace old thermostats with newer, programmable models that allow you to set a lower temperature while you are away or asleep and raise the temperature only when you need it. According to the Department of Energy, lowering the temperature about 10 degrees for eight hours a day may save you up to 10 percent a year.
Change your furnace filter. Always follow the recommended filter change schedule according to the furnace and filter type. This may vary from monthly to perhaps every six months.
Check the furnace pilot light to see if it is lit. Turn on the furnace and blower to ensure the furnace ignites and completes a full cycle, from warming up to blowing heat and shutting off the blower again. Hire a professional to evaluate the furnace and determine if it operates safely and efficiently.
Shine a light into your ducts to look for evidence of mold, pests or accumulations of dirt and debris. The EPA states that there isn’t yet enough evidence to suggest regular cleanings are necessary. Instead, clean ducts when moldy or excessively dirty. Consult a professional for more information and cleaning assistance.
Inspect the heating ductwork. Look for holes and loose connections, tightening, taping or replacing pieces as necessary. Problem areas often occur where ducts meet the floor, ceiling or go through the wall.
Insulate ductwork that runs under your house or through unheated areas. Special blanket insulation makes insulating around the ducts easy, simple work. According to Energy Star, the typical house loses about 20 percent of the air flowing through the ducts due to holes, leaks and loose connections. Factoring in heat loss through uninsulated ducts, the amount is likely even higher.
Inspecting Fireplaces, Wood Stoves and Chimneys
Inspect the chimney if you have a fireplace or wood stove. Look for obstructions such as bird nests or leaves blocking the flue. Place screen and a chimney cap over the top of the chimney to prevent future problems.
Clean the chimney to remove any creosote buildup. Scrape the ashes and creosote out of the fireplace or wood stove when finished.
Check the fireplace or wood stove to ensure it operates properly. Hire a professional to assess the equipment if preferred.
Test the interior portion of the wood stove flue, between the stove and the wall where it exits. Make sure the connections are secure and the pipe is sound.
A Winter Weather Survival Kit
What would a discussion about winterizing your home be without mention of an emergency kit? If all else fails and you lose power, the sturdiest house won’t keep out the cold. Keeping supplies on hand to help you through a storm and power outage will help keep you safe. Gather a kit containing:
A battery-powered radio, especially a NOAA radio or two-way device.
Two or three blankets.
Seven days worth of non-perishable food and a can opener if needed.