We have clients all over the United States and the world. What you do to prepare your residence for the coming colder weather has to do with what your climate is like at this time of year.
Preparing your house for colder weather really is just common sense. You find your house to be a nice, warm place when it is cold outside. It should be no surprise that the critters around the woods beyond your residence also like the warmer interior of your residence, compared to the freezing temperatures outside. So, you may have unintended company in your house, unless you take a few precautions, both in the design and in the maintenance of your residence.
First, have your architect who is planning your house (if it is presently not yet built) carefully design a tightly sealed structure. It has been our experience that you should not ventilate crawlspaces. Rather, tightly seal them, then dehumidify them with a couple of always-on automatic dehumidifiers, to remove moisture from the air there. Any devices requiring combustion air will require their own makeup air directly to them. If you are thinking of becoming clients of ours, give us a call and we can share with you how to best seal off this area.
Next, have your contractor use tight tolerances in his framing and finishing of your home. It is amazing how small of a crack a little mouse can crawl through, not to mention insects. Quality construction in part has tightly fitting boards and that helps close off your house to the varmints. Your architect can observe the construction as it happens, to watch for such tight tolerances, along with noting this in his specifications.
Have your architect in his Sealants specification note where to seal your home. Along with higher quality sealants that will last for decades (rather than just a few years with cheaper caulks), your design professional will also likely specify the use of liquid foams at certain locations to “button-up” your house. These practices are all in line with the latest energy conservation techniques which will not only provide you with greater comfort, but will lower your energy bills and result in fewer creepy-crawlies in your house. This is also a subset of “Green” design principles.
Regarding healthy design practices, you will need to have a dedicated source of clean, treated incoming ventilation air at your Air Handling Unit(s) (AHU), because if your residence really is tightly built, you will need a source of fresh air.
Okay, now that your home is properly designed and hopefully built in accordance with your architect’s drawings and specifications, let’s see what you might want to do.
Walk around your house after it is built and look for cracks and crevices, especially from between the ground and the underside of your wall finishes, and any other locations where there might be gaps. Have your contractor install high-quality sealants and foams where you have detected gaps, to seal off these locations of infiltration (unwanted air inflow or outflow in your house), and possible insect and rodent infestation.
If you live in a house with a ventilated crawlspace, you may wish to consider contacting a professional company experienced in sealing off your vents and in sealing your crawlspace to make it dry. We can help you with that as well. You really do not want Arctic air under your feet, which is what happens when you vent the area under your main level.
Also, engage the regular services of an experienced and State-licensed insect extermination company to monitor your residence and treat areas of concern.
If you get into your attic and see that there is not much insulation, you may wish to consider contacting a professional insulation installation company in your area to add the type and thickness of insulation recommended to increase your “R” value up to an amount that will help you be more comfortable in all seasons and reduce your heating and cooling bills. Before adding any insulation, have a professional examine your existing installation and verify if you have a vapor barrier, and the recommended location of one, and that you have the proper ventilation required for any added insulation, should you choose to add some.
If you can find a means for your insulation company to examine what insulation exists in your walls and floors, those are all candidates for possible additional treatment. We have actually seen older homes with no insulation whatsoever. They were built before there were building codes, or other circumstances occurred that resulted in them having nothing. You should give consideration to bringing your house up to current energy code levels, as this will reduce your utility bills and provide you with enhanced comfort while reducing the drain on the nation’s electrical generation requirements.
Check the damper on wood-burning fireplaces. You should be able to easily close the damper and open it only when you are burning solid fuel (like wood) in the fireplace. Leaving your damper open is like opening one of your windows about halfway and leaving it like that all through the winter.
Take a look at your exterior doors and windows. Consider replacing single-pane glass with double-pane. Replace older hollow-core doors with new metal-clad doors with foam-insulated cores and magnetic weatherstripping. Seal every gap and crack (but do Not seal weep areas above door and window heads and sills– those have to be allowed to drain, also do Not seal brick and stone weeps which will be lower on the walls). If you are not experienced in applying sealants, consult with us, a high-quality residential builder or other entity that knows what they are doing. You could unintentionally seal something that is supposed to breathe, like a vent for a hot water heater, or a drain line for an air-conditioning coil. When in doubt, ask for help and pay for it. It will be worth it.
And please let us know if we may ever be of assistance to you.