The days are growing shorter and the nights colder. You’ve harvested most of your fall garden and stocked up on feed for the animals. Heavy wool blankets air out on the line, and your family’s winter boots stand in the front hall alongside a drawer full of insulated work gloves.
When the ground freezes and your plants go into dormancy, it’s the perfect time to catch up on home and property repairs. Here are five projects that not only will prepare you for winter’s cold months, but also the busy spring to come.
1. Heat It Up
Now is the time for annual service to your home heating system. If you have a furnace or boiler, make sure they are inspected and checked. Clean your chimney and stock up on all fuels necessary to maintain steady heat, including backup generation.
2. Up on Top
Whether you’ve noticed just a few shingles blown off or know for sure that at least some — if not all — of your roof will need replacing, it’s time to evaluate short-term need and long-term value. The first consideration should always be safety. Which roof repair project best protects your family’s health and well-being, especially in terms of approaching winter?
If at least 30 percent of your roof has sustained damage, including random missing shingles, you’re most likely looking at a full roof replacement. Search for contractors willing to offer off-season rates, and study material guides carefully. If done right, your new roof should last another quarter century or more.
3, Keep It In
It’s a good idea to reseal your home and outbuildings against the cold. Caulk around windows, and line blankets or towels under doorways to protect against drafts. Insulate plumbing pipes that are hot to the touch. If you will be relying on heat lamps in outbuildings, double check electrical outlets and circuit breakers.
4. Break It Down
Composting habitually slows during cold weather. Take advantage of this natural rhythm both to prepare your plants for winter and get a leg up on spring. Spread mulch liberally along flower and vegetable beds. Pack it tight around tree and shrub trunks, and cover your garden. Not only will root systems remain warm, but nutrients from your compost will also fall into the soil, preparing plants for springtime germination.
Try to use all your compost so you can clean the bins thoroughly and start a fresh batch. Otherwise, place remaining mulch in a separate airtight container. Because compost breaks down more slowly in the winter, it helps if you cut kitchen scraps into small pieces, tear thin strips of newspaper and mow dead leaves finely.
Beware of turning compost too much. If you expose decomposing matter to the cold air, even for a moment, it will slow the process further. Alter your mixing schedule to reflect a more relaxed timetable.
5. Put It in Its Place
You’ll never know precisely how much productive time is lost when you can’t find a tool you need. Add up all those search and rescue missions, and you’ve got a large percentage of work hours spent in frustration and annoyance. Organize your tools and supplies now, so wintertime chores run smoothly.
While you’re putting everything in its rightful place, make sure you have a rag, bucket of soapy water, and sandpaper or steel wool handy. It’s a great idea to store your tools clean. If you encounter hard-to-handle rust, consider adding oxalic acid to the soap mixture. Set aside dull-bladed pieces for sharpening, and fix any loose handles.
Now that you’ve repaired and winterized your home, put your garden to bed and gotten it together in the organization department, maybe it’s time to take a simple cue from the root systems of your dormant plants. Pull those blankets off the line, get cozy and hunker down for awhile!
Photo by Getty Images/AGrigorjeva