A beach home is a wonderful oasis during the summer months, but it requires as much maintenance before the winter as your long-term home does. You should start thinking about winterizing your beach home approximately one month before you leave it. This way, if any surprises come up when you are maintaining it, you will have the time to take care of them before the fall arrives.
Before you get overwhelmed at the thought of having to do a lot of housework and maintenance while you are on vacation, take a big breath. You probably don’t. A lot of this you can outsource. Follow this list of items to prepare your beach home for the winter months one step at a time.
Assess the Storm Shelter
you have a storm shelter in your beach home, spend a rainy afternoon assessing it for winterizing. Clean it out completely, and make sure that your stockpiles are tidy and organized. Organize your supplies in a way so that your most important items are readily seen and available.
Make sure blankets and pillows are clean. You may even want to put them in plastic so that they avoid dust over the winter.
Look for holes that might indicate rodents or pests. If you suspect a problem, call an exterminator. If there are no problems, making sure the shelter is well stocked and clean is enough to take care of this item on the list before winter.
This is a problem you probably want to outsource to roof repair services. Have your roof inspected by a professional, and you won’t need to worry about what needs to get done. They will perform a check-up and do the winterizing for you if necessary.
If you are a do-it-yourselfer, you can do a checkup before you call a professional. A checkup can be managed in a single afternoon.
Start with the shingles. Look for any that are bulging, missing, or look out of shape after bad weather. You also want to look for shingles that may have sunken sections. This is an indication of roof or shingle damage. You may just have missing sealcoating on your shingle and need some sealing work done.
Look for roof flashing in areas where you have metal installed, around chimneys for example. If you see any bending or rusting, you will need to call a roofing specialist. Otherwise, check this item off of your list.
Other areas of your roof have seal coating. Any asphalt will be sealed, and roofing nails do as well. Check for any signs of dried sealant or cracks. This indicates a problem that needs to be looked at. If you don’t see any drying or cracked areas, you don’t have a problem.
Another important part of your roof check-up is in your gutters. That is another day’s chore in itself, but a roofer can help you take care of this as well if you don’t want to do it.
Winterizing your roof may be the most important component of your winterizing schedule. This is why it is important to get started on your list a few weeks before you leave for the season. Your roofer may want to spend more than a day helping you get that done.
Rain Gutters and Gutter Covers
The gutter is a job that nobody likes to do, it is usually an absolute mess. You can get this job done yourself in just a few hours, or ask a roofer to help if they are going to be doing other work there anyway. When your gutters are cleaned, you may want to consider adding gutter covers to them. That will help you next season when you have to think about cleaning your rain gutters again.
Check every inch of your gutters to ensure that they are clean and free of debris and old or wet leaves. If you have any weight leaves, you will need to remove them in order to prevent the gutters from being weighed down and causing damage to the integrity of your building.
Water in the gutters might freeze come the winter, so this is not a task that you can just overlook and hope for the best. Ice damage from the gutters can lead to an ice dam in the gutter, which will render the gutter useless. Damage can range from a broken gutter to disaster flooding.
The chore of rain gutters and gutter covers goes hand in hand. Installing gutter covers this year to manage your roofing maintenance is an excellent way to make this chore a lot easier next season, if the builders or previous owner of your summer home did not already install them. Gutter covers or gutter guards are shields that you put on top of the gutter to prevent leaves and branches from clogging up your gutter.
There are a number of different kinds of gutter covers that you can get, depending on your preference and budget. The most common are screen gutter covers, surface tension guards, and also fine mesh guards. These kinds allow your gutters to collect and drain water, without the mess.
Chimneys and Stonework
Chimneys and stonework are another area to winterize before you leave the summer cottage. It is more important to do this if you are using the chimney on a regular basis. The chimney should get an inspection, particularly if you haven’t had one done in a while. The chimney and any other stone masonry should undergo a full inspection or clean-up.
The National Fire Protection Association says that a chimney that hasn’t been maintained is a leading cause of home fires. It’s impossible to determine what could be in there to clean, but you will often see birds, nests, pine cones, leaves, and even branches.
The chimney also needs to be cleaned of excess residue and materials. A potential fire hazard is the possibility of combustible materials that haven’t completely been extinguished or burned out their excess flammable chemicals.
If you know how to do it and have done it before, a chimney check-up shouldn’t be a difficult task. However, it is a dangerous job, and the consequences of not doing it well are dangerous as well. This is another task you can cross of your beach home winterizing to-do list with a phone call.
An HVAC repair or maintenance tech is another call you should make if your HVAC system needs extensive repair. Standard winterizing of the HVAC system and air conditioning unit is fairly simple. Don’t spend money on a professional unless the unit actually needs to be fixed.
Remember that the unit itself is designed to be an outdoor product. It will be able to withstand some weather over the fall and winter. At the same time, you can protect the unit to be sure that you don’t have any weather damage when you arrive next season, otherwise, a major repair will be necessary.
Shut off the unit before you perform any maintenance on it, to close the circuit to prevent maintenance problems. Most units have a lid that just needs to be lifted to find the simple on and off switch. Wash the cover if it needs to be washed. You just need a damp cloth to dust any dirt or droppings from the unit. Check the entire unit on its sides and on the ground, and wipe them all down. Once it is cleaned, use a dry towel to dry it thoroughly.
Cover the entire unit now. You can get covers from your local hardware store. A tarp is a good cover, as that may be avoided by rodents, although it will be difficult to find a safe cover that is completely animal-proof. Keep it covered, and you may want to put plywood on top of the unit to ensure the tarp or cover doesn’t fly off in winter. Remember to remove the cover when you return next season and begin using it.
HVAC systems may have pipes that are exposed. You should cover these with foam covers that you can also get at the hardware store. These easily slip on, and will prevent your HVAC pipes from freezing and bursting over a colder season.
That is all you need to do for HVAC maintenance if you don’t need a repair. If you have someone keeping an eye on your house over the winter, have them check on the unit every month. Ask them to remove snow or garbage off of the top of the unit if needed, and check for damage or debris such as rodents.
Landscape and Tree Care
The next task before you is to manage the landscape winterizing. You may want to call a landscape and tree care service Check the sprinkler system and run air through the hoses to ensure there is no water remaining that could cause the hoses to freeze or burst.
Start with the appliances you use with your landscape before you make any major decisions about landscape and tree care services. Consume the gas from your lawnmowers and leaf blowers, when you use them for the last time before the end of the season. Do not throw out gas that has not been consumed. Find the nearest hazardous waste disposal center and bring the unused gas to them. They will give you a government-certified container and take it from you.
Clean the barbecue and grill. Even if you clean it after every use, go the extra mile and give it a stronger clean before you leave. Make sure that it is covered with a strong tarp or heavy grill cover if you don’t already have one. With this, make sure that all of your outdoor furniture is covered, or has covers that you can put on the night before you leave.
If you have any plants that are outside, that are in pots or can be transported, bring them inside the night before you leave. If any of them are tropical, cover them to make them feel like they are as warm as they would be at home.
If your landscape contains any water features, drain them all in the last week that you are there. For any pumps, unplug them.
For landscapes and trees, get your pruning done early. You don’t want to prune after the mid-summer point, or after July, because pruning will delay the dormancy of the tree. Fertilizing should also stop around this same point. You want to stop fertilizing approximately one month before the first frost, but two months prior to the first frost would work as well.
Wrap the trunks of your trees with tree wraps, to help prevent both sunburn and winter burn which will dehydrate the trees. Use burlap to wrap any extra shrubs or trees that you have around the yard. Covering them completely is the easiest way to know for sure that everything will be protected.
Most of these things you can do on your own, but don’t have to if you don’t want to. You shouldn’t need a tree care service unless you are removing dead or cumbersome branches from the trees, or if the tree appears to be ill. Every kind of tree shows its own symptoms of illness. One way to tell if a tree is ill however is to see how quickly the leaves are turning. A sick tree will have leaves turning brown or black earlier than the fall.
To finish your landscape winterizing, in your last week you can begin taking in everything from outside. Bring in toys, furniture, cushions, anything that you use that is seasonal that can blow away or be destroyed by weather should be brought in.
The only other thing to worry about now is those last-minute security features to stay on top of before you go.
When You’re Away — Winter Security
If the home is going to be vacant for months, brush up on its security. Install an alarm system, or have a neighbor or trusted community friend come by to check on the home every month or so. You may need plants watered or even mail picked up on occasion.
Set up a lighting system so that your home looks like it is being lived in while you are away. You can also install motion sensor lights outside as a deterrent to prowlers. Have your mail forwarded and make sure that your newspaper delivery gets stopped until next season.
When you have gone through this list and had professionals help you to winterize your beach home, you will feel much more secure about leaving it. Any of the items here can be outsourced. Leave the work with the professionals, then the only thing you will be stressed about is that summer is over. Have a safe trip home.