Hingham Homeowners: December To Do List
For many people, the month of December is a frenetic, fun time of year with focus on family, friends and upcoming holiday festivities. Even though you are out and about and busier than usual, you can start ticking some things off of your homeowner’s winter checklist:
Wood for indoor fire
Clean inside of fridge
Winter storm kit
Lawn mower put away
Stay Warm with Wood
Do you have a cozy fireplace or wood stove? If you do, now is the time to order that firewood. It has been a warm fall but that doesn’t mean that a howling, polar front won’t descend on us soon. Prepare the area for storing firewood by sweeping, and putting a thick tarp on the ground. And if you have any unused plastic bins, instead of tossing them into the recycling, use one or two as containers for kindling. Keep wood piles away from existing wooden structures, or provide a barrier with a sturdy tarp. This will help keep wood eating insects from gnawing on your home, garage, shed or barn.
Think about what is in your refrigerator right now. With various gatherings over the next few weeks, it might be a good idea to make room for things now. It takes less time than you think. Plan it around your trash pick up or transfer station runs so that you don’t have food sitting in your garage to tempt the critters.
Tackling the inside and outside of your refrigerator takes a lot longer than breaking it into parts. To clean the interior, get a couple of plastic laundry baskets and have your trash bin handy but line it with a black construction trash bag. Take everything out and put into the laundry bins.
In order to free up the sink for washing all your recyclables, first wash the shelves and brackets with warm, soapy water, rinse, and dry well. Do the same with the plastic shelving on the doors. Spray some Windex or any multi-surface cleaner on the walls, bottom and top of your refrigerator’s interior and dry with paper towels before putting the shelving back into the fridge. Check the rubber seals for mildew and clean. For reappearing mildew use a mild bleach solution and be sure to rinse after applying.
Now sort through the contents that you removed. Wash the recycled materials and throw away everything that is outdated, moldy or stale. Keep a wet towel handy to wipe down any bottles that are messy on the outsides. You can put your things back and feel great about a sparkling clean refrigerator!
If you are a baker, roaster, broiler or braizer, now might be a good time to clean your oven. If your oven brand has a self-cleaning feature, be sure that you will be around the house and that you are well acquainted with your oven manual. Always remove your racks as the extreme heat can damage the metal over time. Be sure all spills are cleaned up first (the charred food is what creates carbon monoxide when it burns), and if some remain, vent the kitchen with the fan and open windows.
For other cleaning methods, use baking soda, or vinegar and salt as safe alternatives to the toxic chemicals in oven cleaner. If you have an electric oven ONLY, using ammonia fumes is safe and effective. Turn the oven to 150 degrees and also boil a pot of water. Turn the oven off. Place about 1/2 cup of ammonia in a disposable foil pan on the top rack and fill a pan on the middle rack with boiling water. Close the door and do not open it for at least 12 hours. The steam, heat and fumes will work their way through the oven grease. In the morning, dilute the remaining ammonia in a quart of water with a few drops of dish soap and then wipe the oven with a rag dampened in the solution.
Winter 2015 Diagnostics
Did you experience any water problems during last year’s brutal winter? Use that as your diagnostic for preparing now for what might come later. Maybe your pipes froze, or you had ice damns. Think back to the spring and whether or not you found any roof shingles. If there were windows with the storms fully in place, that became packed with snow, review the problem now while the areas are accessible.
What do you have in your winter storm kit? Do you have a kit? After last winter’s endless snow accumulations, there might be things that you can bundle together to have on hand for the next round. Get started with obvious things like flashlights and batteries. Leave the batteries out of the flashlights and put them in separate plastic baggies. This way any battery leaks won’t ruin the flashlights. Waterproof matches, candles, headlamps, a battery operated radio and a separate car charger for your cell phone can all be put in one place and used only for winter storm emergencies.
Lawn Mower Swap
Get your lawn mower tucked in for the winter and wake up the snow blower, if you have one. If you don’t, then uncover those snow shovels and car window scrapers.
Treat your faithful lawn mower well by treating the remaining gasoline in the tank and running your mower for 5 to 10 minutes. Clean the underside and top components and then dry it, making sure to remove all of the dirt, grime, leaves and clippings from underneath. Park it where it will stay for the winter and disengage the spark plug. Write down a list of maintenance items you will need in the spring (they are difficult to find in stores now). That way, you can order specific parts like oil filters and spark plugs that will fit your particular engine. Once you wipe down the mower, it is a good idea to cover the engine for the winter.
Clean Air Furnace
By replacing the filter in your furnace ever few months the air inside your home will be free from so much dust and pollen. It is easy enough to do, after you determine which air filter you need. The air filter is usually found behind the air return grate mounted on a wall or in the floor, or near the air handler. To make it easier to replace next time, put a sticker on or near the return with the size filter you need to buy and when to replace it.
Disconnect and Drain Outdoor Hoses
It is much less painful disconnecting hoses when it is above freezing. It also assures you that your hoses won’t split from freezing and thawing water. Remove all your nozzles and attachments and wash them in warm soapy water. This will give you the chance to throw away any damaged washers. Once you disconnect each house, elevate one end of the hose so that the water drains out completely before hanging up in your shed or garage. You can keep one house out for occasional outdoor water use. Be sure it is disconnected and drained in between uses and leave any attachments open so that water won’t stay in your hose.
Winterize Hose Faucets
After you remove the hoses, be sure to drain and cover all the faucets outside. Unless you have frost-free faucets, this is a must to save your spigots. After locating the pipe going to the faucet, follow it towards the house center until you come across the shut off valve and turn the lever so that it crosses the pipe. Then open up your outdoor faucets, and go back to the shut off valve with a bucket to hold underneath the small drain cap above the valve. Close up the drain, and the faucets. Sometimes people can’t drain the pipes, in which case purchasing some insulating covers is the next best thing.
Clean Your Gutters, but not Because of Ice Dams
Get some thick rubber gloves and remove debris from your gutters before it gets too cold to want to. There is a myth that full gutters create ice dams and this is not the case. Gutter sales companies might have you believe this, but the science behind dams does not take into account gutters.
Ice dams are caused by your roof heating up to a temperature greater than 32 degrees and gutters have nothing to do with this. Empty or full gutters can make your house prone to larger, thicker ice dams, when compared to a similar house that doesn’t have gutters. This is because gutters create more overhang, and the overhang is colder than the roof area with attic space underneath it. A bunch of leaves in your gutter won’t change the equation.
So why clean your gutters out? Because gutters jammed with decomposing leaves won’t alllow water to trickle away from your house. This can cause damage to fascia, soffit, or roofing, and even the foundation of your home. Additionally, things like termites, mosquitoes and other insects like to nest in decomposing plant material. With proper use of a ladder and a reasonably temperate day, without a lot of wind, your gutters can be debris-free in no time.