Essential home maintenance for before winter kicks in

As the weather starts to cool and we swiftly head towards winter, now is the time to address essential home maintenance. With that in mind, we asked our New Zealand Certified Builders regional presidents what we should be doing now to ensure our homes are in tip top shape in time for the cold.

Let’s start with your garden. Mike Craig, of Mike Craig Builders Limited in Waikanae, suggests you start with clearing your gutters.

“Check that your gutters are free of leaves or debris and check downpipes are working,” he says. Make sure you clear any stormwater sumps, too, as gutters backing up can create issues, including water running back into your home.

“Keep trees and shrubs cut back from house to stop mould or mildew building up on cladding. And to stop pests from getting in your house, cut branches away by more than one metre (as rats can jump that far).”

Richard Poff, of RTP Builders in Christchurch, says you should also wash down the exterior of your house to clear spiderwebs, dust and “general summer muck”.

“Make sure you also clear pathways of summer growth, and trim any trees/branches that may cause issues in winter storms,” Mike says. “And ensure your garden is generally kept clear of the actual house structure – good ventilation around the base of any building is important.”

Phill Claffey, of Character Building in Gisborne, suggests checking your window and door seals for air leaks, too. “Make sure they are all in good shape and replace if damaged to prevent heat loss over winter.”

Mike agrees. “Check your hinges are still pulling in frames to be tight against rubbers on aluminium windows, if they’re not you may need hinge replacement. For wooden windows, get foam or rubber weather strips which have adhesive backing to help with any gaps that show when window is closed.”

Foam or V profile weather strips are easily bought at a hardware store.

“Tidy up or replace curtains with good quality thermal cloth,” Richard adds.

Now’s a good time to complete any maintenance on your heating, too. “Get a chimney sweeper around to clean the chimney and check the fire box is all ready for the winter months,” Phill says.

Richard says to make sure your firewood is stacked neatly and is well-ventilated. “Damp wood is an inefficient fuel, so a well-ventilated storage spot is key. Make sure you have a supply of firestarters or dry kindling and matches if required. You should also repair any loose parts/tiles/glass around your firebox. Generally, a good chimney sweep contractor will advise of any issues they may spot.”

If you have a heatpump, Richard has advice for that, too. “Ensure the exterior heat-pump area is clear – the machine needs to be able to breathe. Give it a washdown (not with a water-blaster!) and trim any close garden plants. Take the filter from the interior heat-pump unit and clean it. Often just requires a quick vacuum suck, but most filters can be hand-washed in warm water and put back once dry.”

Phill suggests installing a heatpump or a wood burner if you don’t have one. A DVS is also a great option. “It will help a new home breathe, eliminating condensation and also pushing warm dry air to all parts of the house.”

Next on the list? Insulation, and Mike has some great tips.

“Check ceiling and under floor for good insulation, this may be easily updated to keep your house warmer. Hot water pipes running in ceiling space or under floor can also have insulation foam applied around them to keep water hot when flowing,” he says.

Phill says don’t forget your roof or underfloor space. “Insulate your roof space, if it is already insulated check the r value of insulation as it may be worth putting a second layer over the current insulation. You should also insulate under your timber floor or lay polythene on the ground to prevent ground moisture rising up into the home’s floor,” Phill says.

You could also get a quote for double-glazing to help keep the warmth in your home. Many local councils have low interest loans available to help pay for heating, insulation and double-glazing options, so do some Googling before you start. But we’ll leave the final, and simplest, piece of advice to Mike.

“And finally, remember to air house out during day to get rid of condensation which forms over night from showering, human breathing and cooking, it’s the main course of mould build up in houses.”

The great news is that most of these tasks require little more than time and a bit of elbow grease. Though, if you discover something which needs a builder’s attention to fix, you can find your nearest NZCB builder here.

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