Winter’s Uninvited Guests

blog-image_2014-11-11It’s that time of year!  The upper Midwest has been blasted with heavy snow, freezing temperatures, and howling winds, by Astro, the first named winter storm of the 2014-2015 season.  According to the Weather Channel, “The highest snowfall totals so far were in the towns of St. Augusta and Cambridge, where at least 16.5 inches of snow were recorded. St. Cloud saw at least 13 inches, making Monday the snowiest day there in 49 years.”  And if by chance you missed it, back in October, the Farmer’s Almanac shared their prediction that “the winter of 2014–15 will see below-normal temperatures for about three-quarters of the nation,” as well as “copious amounts of snow and rain for the eastern third of the country.”

If you haven’t begun already, now is the time to begin preparing your homes for the upcoming winter.  Common tasks homeowners should be accomplishing now include:

  • Cleaning out gutters, and installing gutter guards where appropriate
  • Trimming trees and removing branches that could fall on your home, vehicle, or worse still, someone on your property
  • Have your heating system checked, as well as chimney inspections
  • Make sure you have functioning smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
  • Add pipe insulation or heating cables to avoid pipe bursts

One not so common task is checking a house’s foundation and sealing any cracks or holes found in it or anywhere else. This will preserve heat as well as seal a home effectively against leaks, dry rot, and mold.  This practice is also beneficial for another reason, it can keep out animals who may want shelter from winter weather.

Any openings in a home’s foundation are an open invitation for animals such as raccoons or possums to spend the winter in your basement—and do some considerable damage.  Mice can slip through tiny holes almost anywhere and they will nest in bags of clothing or any material they can use to build their new homes. Personal property can be chewed up, or contaminated with droppings.  Our SOS team has seen its share of rodent destruction when inventorying loss sites.  During our contents inventory process we will often find animal droppings in containers or bags full of goods, which can destroy the contents beyond repair.  It’s also not uncommon for squirrels to get into attics and nest in the insulation. They are very destructive and can chew into almost anything.

The key is to visit your attic and cellar on a regular basis and look for droppings–or if you hear that telltale scratching, or noises caused by movement in the attic, you need to explore to make sure you are rodent free.

However one chooses to weather (or critter) proof a home, it’s still important to expect the unexpected.  Don’t put off completing these projects until December because, as is evident by Astro’s arrival, winter has already made its presence known.

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