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Getting Ready for Winter - Part Two

By William May
Published: 10/20/03 Topics: Comments: 0

Last week we talked about those pesky little tasks every owner needs to do to get their Vacation home ready for winter guests. This week, let's focus on the needs of vacation spots in colder climes.

WATER PIPES: There are just two ways to manage water pipes in cold climates. If your homes is frequently vacant and for extended periods (a week or more) it makes more sense to shut off both the water and the heat when not in residence.

Frankly this method scares me a bit because everything must be done just right. First turn off the main water vale. Second, drain the excess water out of the pipes (hopefully you have a valve in the basement that allows you to do so easily.) And then, upon returning open the main valve, and open each sink to refill the pipes leading to them. Certainly this is the most sensible approach for homes that are vacant all winter.

But this approach has problems if you rent. Management companies, caretakers and certainly guests are not perfect. Failure to follow the process could cost you dearly.

HEATING THE HOME: The second method to manage water pipes is to keep the home slightly heated during the winter months. Naturally this adds energy expense but it insures your pipes will not freeze. That is, of course, as long as the power doesn't fail. So this method is not without its risks also.

PIPE HEATERS. It doesn't happen quickly but insulation around pipes can fail too. In the coldest of areas owner use electrified tape around all pipes, especially those anywhere near an exterior wall. This heats the pipe ever so slightly and prevents freezing. Autumn is the time to inspect all the pipe insulation and electrical connections to make sure they're going to protect your home for another winter. When in doubt replace the insulation or tape. Don't take chances.

MONITORS: No matter how good your management company or caretaker, do you worry that the heat could fail in your home and you could face huge repair bills? Let me warn you with a story. Some years ago a lake home directly across from one of ours suffered a water pipe break in an especially cold spell. With no one in the home (The owner did not want to rent in the winter) the water eventually became over three fee deep in the basement. This was a new $500,000 home and yet the water in the basement froze and, as we all known from high school, expanded as ice and eventually broke the concrete foundation. The damages $80,000.

This problem could have been prevented through the use of a protection device? Numerous manufacturers offer temperature alarms that, if the temperature in your home falls below a level that you set, will phone you and warn of the problem?

All of them monitor temperatures and other things such as power failure or the presence of water and will call you on up to three different phone numbers. Some can even receive phone calls allowing you to adjust your furnace or hot tub temperature before your arrive. You can look these manufacturer's m up on (VROA.org)VROA.org Supplier list under "gadgets." Or check them out at:

(TalkingThermostats.com)TalkingThermostats.com 800-838-8860

(Sensaphone.com)Sensaphone.com 888-534-2315

(ProtectingYourHome.com)ProtectingYourHome.com 800-947-9098

KEEP IT OCCUPIED: There is a lot to be said for renting your home in the off season. Naturally we think its great to rent to short term guests even if you get lower rates.

If you don't use or rent your place short term, having a human in the house who keeps an eye on pipes, furnaces and so forth is a big plus. Look for a local responsible person to rent the home during the winter. If necessary offer them a cheaper rate and use a long-term contract that gives you a good deal of control over occupancy, cleanliness and so forth. Be sure to have a firm end date so the home will be available for more profitable guests when the high season arrives. If you didn't get the past letter that dealt with the problems of Long Term Tenants you can find it one the (VROA.org)VROA.org website.

CHIMNEY SWEEPS: The folks we use still wear the stove pipe hats, mostly for fun I think, but soot build up in your stove pipes is a very dangerous thing. In colder areas and especially with second home guests using your place you may not keep track of how much wood is going up the stack. But with every piece creosote build up occurs in the pipe.

Have you noticed the TV commercials for "Chimney Sweep Logs?" These are saw dust logs impregnated with certain chemicals. These products are not new and even Sweeps use something like them when the Creosote is so hardened as to make mechanical sweeping difficult. After which the softened material can be removed with conventional sweeping.

But most experts agree that these products are not sufficient to protect owners from the threat of chimney fires. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA.org)CSIA.org recommends having your chimney inspected annual and cleaned as need be. Of course the frequency of cleaning is dependent on how much wood you've sent up the flue. Vacation homes may get less use but don't presume that smaller amounts spread over a number of years makes you less vulnerable.

Also, if you fireplace has bad breath (gives out a smell) cleaning will nip that halitosis in the bud. Another reason for inspections and cleaning. Guests loves cabins and lodges but they don't want that damp creepy smoke smell to infiltrate their clothes.

FIREWOOD: Yep, its time to haul in the firewood. Its actually smarter to order wood in the spring when the prices are usually lower but if you are not sure you have enough better place that order now. Remember to use a reputable dealer and double check that the wood is nice and dry. Using unseasoned wood greatly increases the odds of a chimney fire due to build up.

STORM WINDOWS: Do you use storm windows in the winter? If so, these too are not ageless. The seals can harden and crack causing the window to lose its protection. Be sure to inspect storm windows and doors every fall.

SNOW BLOWERS: A mechanical snow blower or snow plow is indispensable in many winter areas. Your Guests expect to have reasonable access to your property so you'll have to break out the blower when the white stuff piles up. But will it start when you need it? Just like Boats in the Spring, Snow blowers need to be serviced regular and Autumn is the time. The relatively minor cost and inconvenience of toting to the repair shop will be greatly offset by possible loss of income when guests can't access your home.

SNOW SHOVELS AND DE-ICERS: I hope you have lots of snow shovels and a good supply of deicers on hand. In our neck of the woods we're told its going to be a cold winter and keeping the walk ways free of snow is an on going challenge. Watch for salt and other deicers to show up in your home center and grab a bunch to get you through the cold hard winter.

Oh, and by the way, if you missed last week's reminder check list about winter tasks for all homes, regardless of location, here is a reminder:

SMOKE DETECTORS. Make sure you have them in all necessary locations and replace all the batteries.

CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS: If you don't have them get them. They are another wonderful safety devices.

FIRE EXTINGUISHERS: Fire extinguishers need to be recharged or replaced periodically. Check the tag on yours to see if they are still good.

WINDOW AND DOOR SEALS: Things break. Make sure your window and door seals are in good condition.

EMERGENCY SHUTOFFS: Make sure guests know how to shut off your electricity and water in an emergency by creating signs and posting them in a handy location like by the kitchen sink.

SUNDRIES: Now is the time stock up on paper towels, toilet paper and coffee filters.

DEEP CLEANING: You will want to get this out of the way. Make sure windows, carpets and the whole house are neat and tidy.

Please see the website section for other ideas:

- Tip and Techniques

- Forms & Contracts (Download free Property Checklist)

- Suppliers List under "Gadgets"

As always I seek your feedback. Please share you tips, techniques compliments and complaints on this or any other subject by writing me at Editor@VROA.orgEditor@VROA.org.


Palm Springs Magazine has Carole Smith's English Garden Cottage. The site has flash presentations and virtual tours. Click here to see this beauty: (palmspringsvacationconnection.com)palmspringsvacationconnection.com

*** If you want your place added to the list of weekly contenders just drop me an email.

Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0033 – 10/20/03

Comments: 0

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