Years ago a lost girl whispered her wish to return home as she clicked her sparkling ruby slippers. For her and legions of others, home is the place we long for and in which feel safe. Home is the place we retreat to at the end of the day and the place we spend much of our time, especially now, with winter about to pound on our doors. It is only fitting that we get our homes ready for winter's chill.
Start by protecting your house from unwanted and costly air leaks. Areas that can leak cold air into or warm air out of your home are:
Baseboards, coves and interior trim.
Door and window sashes and frames.
Fireplaces and chimneys.
Light fixtures and electrical outlets and switches.
Plumbing and utility access points.
Water and furnace flues.
To determine how airtight an area is, hold a lit candle or thin tissue next to the suspected culprit. If the flame or smoke stream from the candle or the tissue "blows in the wind," you have an air leak. Once you know where the leaks are, fix them with caulk, sealant or weatherstripping.
Filling the gaps
Caulks are best for sealing gaps between a home's nonmoving parts, such as around windowsills, chimneys and intake and exhaust vents. Remember to caulk and seal air leaks at plumbing, ducting and electrical penetrations in exterior walls, floors, ceilings and soffits.
Before tackling this job, scrape off any old caulking, clean the surfaces and let them dry. Then, apply fresh caulk. For best results, don't caulk if the temperature is below 40 degrees.
Weatherstripping guards against air loss around movable elements of the house, such as sliding glass doors, garage doors and regular entrance doors. This is usually a do-it-yourself job, but one that requires accurate measurements to determine the amount of weatherstripping needed.
Depending on the type, weatherstripping may either be nailed or taped into place. Although the foam-backed tape weatherstripping is the easiest to apply, it is the least durable. So, consider the wear and tear on the product before deciding what type to buy.
Other methods to block unwanted air flow are to tape heavy-duty sheets of plastic tightly over window frames, install storm windows over single-pane windows or replace single-pane windows with double-pane windows. Also, remember to keep the fireplace damper closed when it's not in use.
Check your home's insulation or have it inspected by a professional. One survey showed that only 20 percent of homes built before 1980 are considered well-insulated.
Additional insulation may be needed if the house feels drafty or cold in the winter and warm in the summer. Places where additional insulation may be needed are:
Getting your home ready for winter is not only about insulation. Now is a great time to:
Clean leaves and other debris from gutters and downspouts.
Unhook and drain hoses.
Turn off outside water spigots.
Repair leaky faucets.
Inspect your home's foundation for cracks. If they are less than 1/4 inch, you can most likely seal them yourself.
Fix uneven walkways before water seeps in and freezes, creating a tripping hazard.
Cover air conditioners or remove window units.
Change the batteries in your smoke detectors.
Assure that your carbon monoxide detector meets the Underwriters Laboratories Inc. standards and is functioning properly.
Whew! All this and I didn't even mention preparing the furnace for winter. I'll tackle that important topic next week.
Carol Boncella is education coordinator at Lawrence Memorial Hospital and garden writer for the Journal-World.