FAIRBANKS — The “Ask a Builder” series is dedicated to answering some of the many questions Fairbanks residents have about building, energy and the many other parts of home life.
As winter approaches, it’s a good time to look at a fall home maintenance punch list before it gets too cold. In addition to a boiler tune-up and chimney inspections, there are a few more details worth considering.
Now is the best time to make sure your roof system is in good working order. It’s not too late to replace shingles, add snow stops, patch leaks or replace any missing fasteners on metal roofs.
When the leaves are down, the gutters are ready for inspection. In the spring, gutters clogged with frozen debris are virtually impossible to clean and can cause melt water to overflow and run down next to the foundation and into the basement or crawlspace.
Check the downspouts, too — they should be unobstructed, firmly attached and pointed to direct water away from the house.
While walking around the house, check the grade for drainage. Surface soils will remain unfrozen for a while longer, so it’s not too late to do any last minute dirt work to ensure spring runoff is directed away from the house.
Inspect any heat traces to make sure they are in good (and safe) working order. Replacing heat trace now is a lot less hassle than a frozen waste or supply line in the winter. If you have any concerns about the safety of a heat trace — particularly if it’s older — consult an electrician. A malfunctioning heat trace can be a fire hazard.
If you have an HRV system, make sure all parts are in good working order. Alaskans tend to spend a lot more time indoors during the winter, and good ventilation is critical.
An inspection should include a look at the supply and exhaust grilles on the outside of the house — not just those belonging to the HRV, but also dryers, range vents and bathroom fans, especially if they are close to the ground where the intake can become clogged with leaves grass or other debris. If an exhaust damper is present, make sure it is operating smoothly.
Open up the HRV and examine the filters and the core. The cores can be removed and washed out if they are dirty. The condensate drain and drain line under the HRV should be free of obstructions; if a trap is present, it should contain water.
A properly installed HRV is designed to bring in and exhaust the same amount of air. The system should provide enough fresh air to ensure occupant health and control indoor humidity but not over-ventilate, as excess airflow is simply wasted energy.
If you’ve never had your system professionally balanced and inspected, now is the time to call a residential ventilation contractor.
If you’re planning any air sealing with spray foam, the cut-off temperature for most expanding foams is above freezing, although a few brands may go lower.
Last but certainly not least, make sure your home has operating smoke alarms and at least one operating carbon monoxide detector all within audible distance of the bedrooms.
Ask a Builder articles promote home awareness for the Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC). If you have a question, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 457-3454.