4 DIY-Friendly Projects To Get Your House Ready For Winter

(BPT) – The leaves have changed, temperatures are dropping and pumpkin spice treats abound, which means winter is coming. Now is the time to winterize your home, which can mean up to a 10% savings on your energy bills, according to Energy Star.

“Winter brings unpredictable weather and dropping temperatures, which can test the limits of your home and reveal weaknesses – like drafts – you didn’t realize were there,” said Cathy McHugh, director brand management at DAP. “Taking a few simple steps now to repair, prepare and protect your home through the harsh winter weather will help save on time, energy bills and costly repairs come spring.”

Help your home fight the cold, without breaking the bank, by tackling these four DIY-friendly preventative projects.

Seal windows and doors.

Check for small cracks and gaps between window frames and doors. These are the spots that allow water, insects and cold air to creep inside. Do this yourself by holding a lit candle or incense stick near the potential leak; if the flame or smoke dances around then you know you have a leak. Protect your home and keep it warm by replacing worn exterior caulk with an exterior grade sealant, like DAP Dynaflex Ultra Advanced Exterior Sealant. Backed by a lifetime mold-, mildew- and algae-resistance guarantee, this sealant uses exclusive WeatherMax Technology for all-weather protection that provides a strong, weatherproof and crack-proof seal to keep out wind, snow, rain and cold air.

Check your furnace filter.

Did you know the dirtier your furnace filters are, the harder your furnace has to work? In most homes, filters should be changed monthly throughout the heating season. You should also have your furnace serviced periodically to make sure it is working properly. Not only will regularly changing the filters in your central air and heating system give your wallet a break, but it can also significantly improve your furnace’s efficiency and longevity.

Defend against pests.

Avoid issues with mice and other pests trying to stay warm this season by sealing up gaps and cracks inside your garage, attic, basement and under sinks or around pipe and electrical cutouts using Mouse Shield. Specially treated to block mice, birds, bats and tree squirrels, as well as ants, roaches, spiders and bees, the foam also works to seal and insulate to help save on energy costs.

Protect your pipes.

Pipes can burst and cost a fortune to replace. Locate pipes in the home that pass through unheated areas, like crawlspaces or basements, and insulate them with foam rubber sleeves. Just cut the sleeve to fit the length of the pipe, wrap it around and secure with duct tape. In extreme cases, put heating tape on first to ensure that the pipe does not freeze. Also, be sure to locate your home’s water shut-off valve just in case a pipe does burst. Better safe than sorry.

For more ideas for your next project, check out DAP’s DIY videos on YouTube.

Winter Is Coming: Be Prepared For Costly, Damaging Storms

(BPT) – Winter weather is difficult to predict. Use these tips to help protect your home from the costly damage winter storms can bring.

Take care of your roof

  • Keep your gutters clear. This keeps ice from accumulating and backing up under the shingles.
  • Trim trees year-round so branches don’t fall on your house.
  • Worn-out, missing or damaged siding and roof flashing can let water and ice into your home. Be vigilant and replace them.
  • If your chimney is leaning or the mortar has seen better days, get it repaired.

Prevent ice dams

  • Eliminate heat sources under the roof, such as lights and heaters in the attic, that can contribute to thawing.
  • Keep the attic cool and ventilated to stop or slow the refreezing cycle.
  • Consult a roofing professional to remove snow or standing water before an ice dam can form.
  • Invest in a roof rake, a tool that allows you to stand on the ground and safely brush snow off the roof.
  • Avoid trying to chip any ice dams off your roof, as you could damage the roof. Ask a roof specialist for help instead.
  • Talk with your roof specialist about sealing the roof deck with a moisture barrier.

Prevent water damage

  • Ventilate the attic and insulate the attic floor to stop warm air in the house from melting snow and ice on the roof.
  • Wrap exposed pipes with insulation sleeves or 2 inches of Underwriters Laboratories (UL)-listed heat tape.
  • Caulk cracks and holes in the home’s outer walls and foundation. Holes left by cable installation can also leave pipes exposed.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to let warm air circulate around pipes.
  • Trickle water from faucets connected to pipes that run through unheated or unprotected spaces.
  • Locate the home’s main water valve – typically in the basement or outside near the curb – so you can turn water off quickly if a pipe does burst.
  • If you leave the house unoccupied for an extended period, shut off the water and have a professional drain the system. Turn the heat down, but don’t turn it off.

Clear surfaces where you walk or drive

  • Keep walkways, steps and driveways clear of snow and ice.
  • Treat these areas with rock salt or de-icing products.

For more information on ways to protect your home, visit USAA.com/HomeSafety.

Safety guidelines are not intended to be all inclusive, but are provided for your consideration. Please use your own judgment to determine what safety features/procedures should be used in each unique situation.

USAA means United Services Automobile Association and its affiliates.

Five Fall Fix-Ups For Your Outdoor Space

(BPT) – After a long summer relaxing on your deck or patio, autumn is a great time to renovate your outdoor space – or build one from scratch. Home improvement expert Alison Victoria, host of HGTV’s “Windy City Rehab,” offers five tips for fabulous fall fix-ups.

Get decked out.

Fall is an ideal time to tackle a deck project, whether it be repairs, board replacement or a completely new build. In addition to offering more pleasant temperatures for working outside, fall and winter are typically slower times for contractors, meaning you won’t have to wait as long to get onto their schedules. Contractors may also be willing to offer off-season discounts on their services or materials, which tend to be cheaper after the spring and summer rush.

“Another big advantage of waiting until the off-season to tackle outdoor projects is contractor focus,” explains Victoria. “Rather than being one of many projects a contractor is juggling, you can be one of the few, which often translates into greater attention to quality and better customer service.”

Think high and low.

Research the best materials available for your budget and be sure to keep maintenance in mind. After all, the last thing you want is a deck that requires constant upkeep. Victoria suggests looking for materials that are both high performance and low maintenance.

“Trex decking is my go-to material for outdoor projects,” explains Victoria. “It’s a composite material that delivers the beauty of wood without the environmental impact, the labor-intensive upkeep or the natural deterioration over time. I love that it’s made from 95% recycled materials and only needs an occasional cleaning with soap and water to maintain its beautiful appearance for decades.”

Raise your railing game.

Railing is one of the most visible elements of a deck and has tremendous impact on a deck’s aesthetic and curb appeal. In recent years, the industry has seen an influx of statement-making railing styles inspired by contemporary architecture and commercial design. Give your outdoor space an instant facelift by replacing your old wood deck railing with sleek, sophisticated aluminum railing. Trex Signature Railing comes in a variety of modern designs, including rod, mesh and glass that can take any deck from drab to dramatic.

Hide and chic.

Nothing dampens the enjoyment of an elegant al fresco gathering quite like the sight of unattractive trash bins or nosy neighbors. Providing function and design, lattice is perfect for concealing storage areas or unsightly views and enhancing privacy. With styles ranging from romantic to deco, lattice panels also can be applied to structures such as arbors and trellises, or used as wainscoting or deck skirting.

Light it up.

“Lighting is a must for any outdoor space,” says Victoria. “In addition to amping up the ambiance, it enhances safety and helps to extend the time you can enjoy your outdoor space.” Outdoor lighting can easily be integrated into deck boards and stairs, as well as railing posts and caps. Trex offers DIY-friendly components that feature plug-and-play installation and energy-efficient LED bulbs that are dimmable and cool to the touch, making them safe for kids and furry friends.

3 Things That Might Go Wrong If You Don’t Winterize Your Home

(BPT) – Fall is here, which means, like it or not, cold weather is just around the corner. While most of us would prefer not to think about turning on our heat just yet, this is actually the best time to check your heating to ensure everything is operating as it should.

Neglecting to winterize your home and letting small issues pile up can have big repercussions. Ahead of the winter season, HomeServe, a leading provider of service plans, repair and installation services for the home, wants to make sure you’re aware of three major things that may go wrong if you don’t winterize your house or neglect your heating system.

Your utility bills may skyrocket.

Utility bills often jump up in the winter due to the increased hours of darkness and the cost to heat your home.

But if your heater is on the fritz or your filters are clogged, you could be in for an even bigger surprise. Dirty filters cause your furnace to work harder, which leads to inefficiency and a shortened lifespan for your heating system. Replacing filters is often an easy task for homeowners. A yearly tune-up is an inexpensive way to help prevent a costly system breakdown in the coming months. Also, keep in mind that some warranties require annual tune-ups, so don’t let your warranty go invalid by skipping this year’s tune-up.

The threat of carbon monoxide is very real.

Do you know how old your furnace is? Do you know how long it’s been since a professional checked it over? Carbon monoxide poses a health threat when the heating system flue, vent or chimney becomes blocked from debris or other material. During a heating system tune-up, a professional service technician can check to make sure all your vents are not blocked and are working properly. Drains and traps also need to be checked and combustion gases should be analyzed and compared to the specifications of your furnace or boiler to make sure everything is running safely. Installing a carbon monoxide detector in your home is another smart way to help with early detection.

Water pipes can burst.

It’s not just your heating system that needs to be winterized. All too often it happens – we wake up to realize our pipes are frozen, or even worse, leaking. Before the cold sets in, make sure outside hoses are put away and water is turned off. Evaluate which pipes are at the greatest risk for freezing during cold weather. For example, if your water pipes come up from an un-insulated crawl space, or if they are in or close to an uninsulated outside wall or vent, they are more likely to freeze and burst in low temperatures. Inside pipes should be covered in insulation to keep pipes warmer longer. Pipe insulation is easy to apply and available at most hardware stores and home centers.

By having an annual tune-up in the fall, you can catch small issues now, instead of experiencing bigger problems in the dead of winter. A tune-up can also save energy, reduce heating costs and prevent a system breakdown in the coming months.

For more information on National Tune-Up Day, including a heating system check-list, visit nationaltuneupday.com.