Part 1 of 2 As the chill of fall starts creeping in, you'll want to prepare your home for even colder, wetter days ahead. This week, we offer...

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Part 1 of 2

As the chill of fall starts creeping in, you’ll want to prepare your home for even colder, wetter days ahead.

This week, we offer a few steps to weatherize the outside of the home. Next week, we’ll provide tips for making the indoors cozy.

Rain, rain, go away

Inspect and clean your gutters. Clogged gutters can result in basement flooding and roof and wall damage. Check for leaks, and make sure downspouts are not discharging water at your home’s foundation. Direct the water away from the foundation with a downspout extension or splash guard.

When cleaning gutters, use a sturdy ladder, making sure not to lean against a downspout or gutter. You can remove the debris by hand, or if that grosses you out (as it does us), use a large spoon, a gutter scoop or small trowel. Caked-on dirt may be easier to remove if it is sprayed with a garden hose.

You can also use a garden hose to flush out gutters after they have been cleaned. One way to reduce debris buildup is to cover gutters with wire or plastic mesh.

Gutter supplies and accessories can be found at home-improvement centers and hardware stores.

If your property is prone to flooding, stock up on emergency supplies, and make plans to divert water away from the home’s foundation. Be careful not to direct water toward your neighbor’s house, as you could potentially be liable for any damage.

Block water and wind

Check your home’s siding for cracks and gaps. Caulk them to prevent water leaks and damage. If any raw siding is exposed, use an exterior primer to temporarily waterproof it.

If you have a brick exterior, seal any visible cracks with a high-quality masonry sealer to prevent damage from freezing and thawing. From the exterior, you will want to install or replace any weather stripping on all windows and doors or any other areas where you notice gaps.

Install storm windows and doors, replacing any screens that seem damaged. If the windows in your home are older and not constructed of modern insulated glass, storm windows are that much more important. If you don’t have them, look into it.

Check for gaps around window frames, doors, pipes and electrical outlets inside the house. You could be losing heat or letting in cold breezes through the gaps. Seal the gaps with caulk.

Also, check for cracks around the chimney, fireplace, dryer vents, bath and kitchen exhaust fans.

Check the roof

Inspect your roof for missing or damaged shingles, and have them replaced. You can safely inspect the roof without climbing on it by using binoculars.

After checking the shingles outside, examine the insulation inside. A well-insulated and -ventilated attic will help keep heating bills down.

Generally, R-30 is the minimum rating of insulation a home should have. Newer homes are more likely to have R-30. If your house is older, consider adding insulation.

Piping in the warmth

You should make every effort to prevent water pipes from freezing. A frozen pipe can block water flow and lead to broken pipes. This can be an expensive problem to fix.

Faucets attached to the outside of your home should be turned off for winter at their source. Turn off the valve that feeds the faucet, then empty the line of any remaining water by turning the faucet on and draining it. This will help protect your external pipes.

Inside the home, foam rubber sleeves or fiberglass insulation can be wrapped around pipes. Pipes that run along exterior walls and through crawlspaces are especially vulnerable.

For extra protection in the cold areas of your home, pipes can be wrapped with special heating strips and then insulation.

If a cold front is moving through and you fear your pipes are going to freeze, there is still a last resort. Leave one faucet (preferably the one farthest from your home’s water supply) running slightly. Running water is less likely to freeze. Additionally, it may thaw ice that has formed in the pipes.

It might seem like a waste, but in an extreme case, a drip or trickle is a less costly alternative than the thousands you might be forced to spend to repair a busted pipe.

More tips

• Drain outdoor hoses and bring them inside so they don’t crack.

• Gather quality winter tools: a good snow shovel or two, and rock salt or sand for icy surfaces.

• Get ice scrapers for car windows.

• Lay mats outside entrances to your home and area rugs just inside the entryway to protect the floors of your house from mud, rain and snow. You may also want to place a boot tray by the door so family and guests have a place to set wet boots and shoes.

• Check walkways, steps and the driveway for small holes and cracks. These should be repaired to prevent water from penetrating and freezing, resulting in larger cracks and larger problems. You can repair smaller holes and cracks with asphalt or concrete crack-filler. Consult a professional for large repairs.

Be Jane is a monthly home-improvement feature in digs. It’s adapted from, the online community created by Heidi Baker and Eden Jarrin.