Preparing for the return of Old Man Winter

By Todd Lewys

In Manitoba, it’s something that’s as inevitable as death and taxes: the onset of winter.

And as a recent blast of unexpectedly harsh winter weather illustrated, you can never be too prepared for the return of Old Man Winter.

That means getting organized to ready your home to withstand five to six months of frigid weather.

Advance preparation is critical, as it will allow your home – and you – to emerge from the coming onslaught of cold, snow and ice in good shape.

Here are some tips to help you get your home winter-ready:

• Get your furnace checked. Nothing is worse than having your furnace conk out on you on the coldest day of the year. With that frigid thought in mind, make an appointment ASAP with a reputable heating and cooling company to get your furnace checked. It’s an investment that will pay big dividends when temperatures plummet below -30c; you will have the peace of mind that your furnace is primed and ready to do its job.

• Invest in a generator. As Winnipeggers just learned, winter weather can hit hard, and in unexpected fashion, causing power outages that can last for days. If your budget permits, look at purchasing a gas-powered generator, just to be on the safe side.

• Check your snowblower. If you don’t have one, look at buying one. There are several reasons why you should have a snowblower on hand. First, having one at the ready just makes the task of snow removal that much easier, especially if you have a long driveway and walk, or struggle with the exertion of shoveling snow. If you already have a snowblower, check it to make sure it’s working properly. If you don’t have one, consider investing in a good one – you’ll be glad you did.

• Check winter tools. Nothing is worse than going to shovel snow, only to find a broken shovel languishing in the corner of the garage. Also make sure to have an edged tool on hand that you can use to break ice up with.

• Trim back tree branches from around house, electrical wires. As the recent spate of winter weather showed, heavy snow can wreak havoc with trees and power lines. Trimming back tree branches in advance of winter weather can prevent disaster.

• Inspect outdoor lighting. This is something that shouldn’t be overlooked, as there will be times when a sudden snowfall will coat front or back steps, decks and sidewalks. Having good lighting at the front and back of your home will ensure that you or visitors to your home won’t slip on an unseen piece of ice and suffer a serious injury.

• Always have ice melt on hand. This is handy stuff, as you can simply throw it on the steps, sidewalk or deck on short notice to provide much-needed traction when the sun turns snow to ice.

• Be roof ready. It’s a certainty: snow will accumulate on your home’s roof over the course of the winter. Put wires on the roof to guard against ice damming or get an extra-long rake that can be used to remove excess snow. Make sure shingles and sheeting are in good condition to prevent water leaks, and get your chimney checked if you have an older furnace.

• Window and door check. Inspect windows for cracks or poor seals; make sure storm doors seal tightly and that windows seal securely when closed.

• Pipe check. If you have any exposed water pipes, ensure they’re adequately insulated. This will prevent them from freezing at the most inopportune time.

• Deck check. Ensure there are no loose boards or rails and make sure it’s cleared properly when the snow hits.

• Evacuate eaves. Clean your eavestroughs prior to the onset of winter to ensure proper drainage in winter and spring. Also, make sure downspouts point away from the home for proper drainage.

Follow these tips, and chances are good your home – not to mention you – will emerge from winter with as few battle wounds as possible!