November 11, 2012

Don't dam the ice or go full-steam on heat

Snow and more snow – it's bound to shake things up. Here's a list of chores to help you get your house ready for the really cold weather.

By Ray Routhier
Staff Writer

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Clogged gutters can lead to ice dams, moisture problems, leaks and slippery walkways in winter. To avoid these issues, clean them out before the snow flies – or hire someone else to do it.

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The Greater Portland Board of Realtors recommends preparing an emergency kit to keep on hand in winter. Such a kit might include candles and matches, blankets, bottled water, batteries, some non-perishable food and first-aid supplies.

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Always maintain three points of contact while on a ladder. For example: Two feet, one hand.


To prevent ice and melting ice from causing roof problems, including leaks, it's a good idea to inspect your roof before winter, says Tina Gleisner, who runs a website called

Look for and repair gaps in your roof or around your chimney, including any missing or loose shingles caused by Superstorm Sandy in October. Make sure downspouts are aimed away from the house and are secured to the house, which may mean adding extra nails or screws.

Ice dams often form when heated air escapes into the attic and warms the roof, says Sally Zimmerman, manager of historic preservation services for the preservation group Historic New England. So you might not know this is happening until after the first snowfall.

Zimmerman suggests checking your roof after the first light snowfall or heavy frost. If you do not see an uninterrupted blanket of snow or frost, you might have a problem. Then you should make sure your attic is cold by ensuring it's adequately sealed and insulated. Also, make sure the attic is vented to move warm air outside before it can heat the roof.


To keep heating costs down and prevent damage, you'll want your house sealed up as tight as possible for the winter.

Caputo suggests that you take care of all the little things, like making sure storm windows are down, closed and locked. Remove air conditioners from windows. Install plastic shrink-wrap over older windows. Seal all crawl space or basement vents that lead to your living space.

The Maine State Housing Authority also suggests that a way to keep heat from escaping through an older foundation is to take all your leaf bags after fall cleanup and stack them against the foundation around the house. The authority also recommends using caulk to fill in gaps around doors and windows.


And finally, being safe in your home in winter means being ready for storms. The Greater Portland Board of Realtors recommends preparing an emergency kit containing things that will help you in a power outage, including candles, matches, batteries, flashlights, blankets, a first-aid kit, medication, bottled water and some non-perishable food.

More information on home emergency preparedness can be found at


Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:


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Local chimney sweep companies advise homeowners to remember to schedule inspections annually.


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