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Maintenance Keeps Winter at Bay

Trees are decked out in gold, baseball fans are absorbed with the "Fall Classic," and the kids are gearing up for Halloween. While you're having all that fun, have you thought about preparing the house for winter? Don't just stand there, do your maintenance!

Homeowners need to take action now to preempt possible damage, wear and tear that come from winter weather, says Laura Christman of Scripps Howard News Service. Simple tasks can prevent big headaches, such as trimming trees to prevent dead limbs from crashing down on the car or the roof of your home during a wind storm. Tree experts say that having trees checked in the fall is a lot easier than waiting until inclement weather prevents them from reaching problem branches. Heavy equipment can't be maneuvered over saturated soil. That means you pay more for workers to climb up the tree and do the job manually with their chain saws. Make sure the tree company is licensed and bonded.

Homeowners forget that the roof requires maintenance, too. The old adage--an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure-- applies with a vengeance. Just a small gap in the roof can cause serious water damage. Check around flashing to make sure the seals are water tight. Also remember that temperature extremes during nighttime and daytime cause composition shingles to expand and contract and start leaking. Inspect the roof every couple of years for possible repairs. Get it done now because snow, rain and moisture will prevent your contractor from making permanent repairs later.

Keep the furnace in top operating shape--your family's health and comfort depend on it. In order to prevent releases of carbon monoxide, gas-burning furnaces must be checked to make sure that all the fuel is being completely burned. Non-gas systems need to have the coils cleaned and filters changed. Again, procrastination is folly. Now is the time to decide if you need to repair the furnace, BEFORE it gets too cold to have your heating system out of commission for a few days. By that time, most heating equipment repair companies are very busy.

Chimney maintenance and fire safety go hand in hand. The Consumer Product Safety Commission says that most wood heating fires involve the chimney. Creosote deposits or soot build up inside, ignite, and start a secondary fire that spreads to other parts of the house. A house fire could result anytime from continued use of a damaged chimney, warns the CPSC. Now that the nation has entered the heating season, CPSC strongly urges you, if you have a wood stove or fireplace, to check the chimney. A local chimney repairman, or chimney "sweep," can inspect for damage and clean the chimney. Have any damage repaired NOW.

Obtain maximum energy efficiency for minimum effort by caulking, sealing, and weather-stripping around cracks or openings on the exterior of the home--around windows, door frames, electrical boxes and plumbing fixtures especially. To keep pipes from bursting in the middle of a cold snap, make sure that pipes in the crawl space or attic are insulated, and disconnect or shut off water to outside faucets.