Should my fireplace be inspected every year?
Yes, whether it is wood burning or gas, your fireplace should have an annual inspection and cleaning. The areas of concern are build-up, functionality and ventilation. Have your chimney and fireplace cleaned to remove any buildup of debris. Debris can affect the efficiency of your fireplace and is also a safety concern. While your chimney is being cleaned, it should also be inspected for cracks and loose mortar. It is important to keep your chimney water tight to prevent moisture from getting in and potentially damaging your flue tiles. All of the mechanics of your fireplace need to be checked and any valves and connections that could potentially develop leaks need to be maintained for safety and optimal functionality. Ventilation is extremely important, cracks, debris, and animal nests can all affect airflow. Carbon monoxide and smoke are both deadly, you want to make sure that your fireplace is venting properly and the air is flowing in the appropriate direction, so your family can safely enjoy cozy fires all season long.
What are the top five things a homeowner can do to help keep the heat in and the cold out?
Make sure you have enough insulation in your attic:heat rises, so if your attic isn't insulated sufficiently, the heat will go right up and out of your house. Check all the caulking around your windows and doors, removing and replacing anything that has shrunk or cracked. If you want to be really thorough, use a thermal imaging camera to find the cold spots that you can't see with the naked eye. The outer building envelope that protects the inside of your house needs to be watertight. Check your roof and foundation for any potential leaks; missing or damaged shingles and cracks in your foundation need to be addressed. If you are noticing certain rooms in your house are colder than others, your registers may not be balanced. A simple way to check this is to carefully reach in and see if you feel a damper (a valve or plate that stops or regulates the flow of air). If you find one and it’s closed, open it to allow the warm air to flow into the room. If there isn't a damper, call in an HVAC specialist to investigate further. Lastly, check and replace your furnace filters.
How do I prevent animals from moving in and hibernating in my house for the winter?
You want to find all of the gaps, big and small, and block them off by repairing the problem or by using mesh. Make sure that you have any existing animal tenants removed (humanely) before you block off your gaps, otherwise they will be trapped inside.
What can I do to prep the outside of my house for fall?
Start by cleaning all your eaves troughs, you don't want any leaves or debris in there that will cause blockages and affect drainage. Make sure all of your downspouts drain at least four feet away from the base of your house; this will help prevent a wet foundation. The ground should also be properly graded: you want it to be sloping away from the house so all the rainwater that falls off of your roof will flow down and away from your foundation. If you have any big trees near your house, trim back any branches that could potentially break in bad weather and cause damage.