Interesting weather lately, wouldn’t you say? A little snow, some rain a dash of wind and cold. And who knows what’s coming next?
That’s why we thought we would address some frequently asked weather-related and moisture-related questions this week.
Perhaps some of these questions are some that you’ve also had.
Question: Our neighbors had a burst pipe incident last week, which got us nervous about our own pipes. What’s the protocol for protecting our pipes next time it turns cold?
Answer: There was a fair amount of burst pipes going around! We even had to attend to some of our own.
It’s good you’re asking the question now because like so many home maintenance concerns, a little foresight and maintenance is almost always the easiest, fastest and most cost-effective route compared to coping with an emergency.
So, you can insulate pipes fairly easily and inexpensively. Simply go to a local hardware store and they can help you with pipe insulation. (This can also end up saving you money in energy costs over time.)
If you haven’t insulated your pipes, there’s never a bad time to do that. If however, you get caught in the next cold front without having checked “insulate pipes” off your to do list, one quick way to prevent bursting pipes is to leave both hot and cold water dripping from the sink farthest from the hot water thank. This method helps circulate the entire water system; and when water is moving it doesn’t readily freeze.
If you know that another cold front is headed our way, you should also unhook and drain your garden hose and wrap your outside faucets with an old towel or T-shirt and cover that with a can, plastic wrap or a milk jug. It may not be elegant, but neither is a plumber’s bill.
Besides, spring should be coming soon and you can quickly undo your handiwork when the warmer weather returns for good. We found most of our trouble where pipes were near foundation vents. Cover them any way you can while it is icy out.
Q: Our house was cold during this latest cold snap, what are some things we can do to stay warmer the next time the mercury dips low?
A: Almost all of our answers on this are fairly basic – but sometimes it’s hard to remember when you are chilled to the bone.
First, add another layer or two to what you’re wearing. With layers, you don’t only gain the warmth of the additional clothing itself, but also the trapped warmed air between the layers.
Before you keep nudging up the thermostat, make use of your extra blankets and quilts at night or even on the coach reading and watching TV.
Another easy way to make your house feel warmer is to shut off rooms that are not in use and concentrate the area to be heated. Keeping key doors closed – or even closing off a whole floor – can make a big difference rapidly.
Other obvious but sometimes overlooked quick fixes include using blockers under doors and for heaven’s sake making sure your windows are shut.
When you are warm enough to think clearly, take a peek at the insulation in your attic, basement and inside your walls. It is worth taking a look to see if your home is properly insulated, which is a relatively inexpensive fix.
And during especially cold snaps, we even recommend temporarily shutting or blocking your foundation vents.
As important as proper ventilation is to keeping moisture from getting stuck in your foundation, the icy cold air is usually dry so closing the vents during a short cold snap will help you keep the temperature up. (Just don’t forget to open them back up when the weather warms up.)
Q: I have a small laundry room that gets steamed easily. When I’m doing laundry I usually turn on a fan and open a window to let some of that moisture out. When it’s a rainy day, am I actually letting more moisture in?
A: The laundry appliances are not a major source of moisture when the dryer vent is tightly connected to the self-closing flapper vent outside. Trouble starts when that pipe isn’t connected right or there is a hole in it which allows the hot moist air into the room, under the house or into the wall cavity-all are bad. But maybe you haven’t cleaned off the filter screen every time you dry clothes or maybe that flapper vent outside is stuck full of moist lint. We suggest you turn on the dryer and check for hot air blowing through holes in the pipe. Then go outside to see if hot air is coming out the flapper.
Q: Does a blocked or broken gutter really need my immediate attention?
A: In a word, Yes. If your have a gutter that is blocked or broken – which can happen this time of year – most likely it is sending copious amounts of water onto the side of your house instead of conveying it down to the ground and hopefully away from the foundation.
Giving your siding an intermittent bath at the least encourages mold – which we’ve just recently discussed in this column – but can also cause the siding to fail and become a costly repair. This is one of those cases where a stitch in time saves nine.
We always like answering your housing questions. Call or e-mail if you have a question for us.
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Dave Murnen and Pat Beaty are construction specialists at NeighborWorks® of Grays Harbor County, where Murnen is the executive director. This is a non-profit organization committed to creating safe and affordable housing for all residents of Grays Harbor County.
Do you have questions about home repair, renting, remodeling or becoming a homeowner? Call us at 533-7828, write us or visit us at 710 E. Market St. in Aberdeen