Winter-Ready Home: Exterior Maintenance Tips Before the Chill Sets In

As the warmth of summer gives way to the crisp air of autumn, it's time to shift our focus to the exterior of our homes. With winter around the corner, taking proactive steps to maintain your home's exterior can make a significant difference in its appearance, longevity, and energy efficiency during the colder months. In this blog post, we'll explore essential maintenance tasks to ensure your home is winter-ready and able to withstand the challenges of the season.

Roof System

A comprehensive winterization plan should include your roofing system, which provides the first line of defense between your family and harsh weather. Use these tips to ensure your roofing system is ready for the season:

Check the roof. While some damage may be visible from ground level, the best way to check for roof damage is to get onto the roof and inspect it for any weak spots, rot, loose, or missing shingles that may result in leaks from melting snow. Keep in mind that walking on any roof should be kept to a minimum and performed by a professional to prevent shingles or tiles' damage. Did you know that algae or fungus may take root beneath the shingles? In freezing temperatures, algae may expand and expose roofing materials to the elements. Any visible signs of damage indicate you need to work on your roof before winter to avoid significant repairs later.

Flat roofs. A flat roof inspection will include looking for ponding water (which may indicate poor drainage or an inefficient slope), deteriorating seals and seams, punctures, and cracks. Clear any debris buildup that often leads to clogged drains and standing water. Remove leaves that can hold moisture.

Check your attic. Many people ignore their attic as an area that needs to be inspected to winterize your roof.

Does your attic have proper ventilation? If not, your attic may develop condensation, mold, and mildew, which is harmful to your health and home. It will also cause roof shingle, sheathing, and siding decay. Blistering or peeling outside paint may be caused by excessive moisture or high humidity due to poor attic ventilation. Correct attic ventilation consists of a balance between air intake at the eaves or soffits and air exhaust at or near your roof ridge.

Do you have adequate insulation? It's essential that insulation covers the eaves, but not the vents, which would block ventilation. By adding insulation to your attic, you will protect your roofing system, keep your home warmer in the winter (and cool in the summer), and save money on heating costs.

Check caulking and flashings to ensure the continued performance of your roofing seals. Seepage in the attic after a driving rain may be caused by inadequate shingle underlayment or deteriorated flashing.

Check the seals around your roof vents and chimney. Over time, the elements may cause them to crack or erode.

Chimney and Fireplace. If you have a chimney, ensure it's free of debris and animals' nests. Hire a professional to inspect and clean the chimney to prevent chimney fires and ensure proper ventilation.

Stop ice dams from forming. Ice dams form when there is snow on the roof, and indoor heating rises through the ceiling into the attic and warms the roof surface, except at the eaves. Snow on the heated portion of the roof melts and flows down until it meets the section of the roof below freezing. At that point, the water accumulates at the eaves and freezes into an ice dam. Further melting snow will back up behind the ice dam preventing it from draining and, as it lies on the roof, will work its way under the roof covering and flow into the attic. From there, it can leak into your home through insulation, ceilings, walls, and other areas causing soggy insulation, sagging and stained ceilings, peeling paint, and warped floors. Taking these preventative measures is the best way to keep ice dams from forming and maintain proper conditions on the roof deck:

  • Maintaining a consistent attic temperature.
  • Increasing ventilation with ridge and soffit vents.
  • Adding the recommended amount of insulation.
  • Covering your attic hatch.
  • Exhaust to the outside through your roof or walls, never through a soffit.
  • Proper flashing around your chimney.
  • Seal and insulate ducts.

Clear gutters. Most of us think about cleaning gutters in the autumn when leaves are falling. Remember to clean your gutters of all debris so melted snow will drain properly and not damage your roof and home. If you have asphalt shingles, do you see any particles in your gutters? Before the first snowfall, an essential step is to make sure your downspouts are guided away from your home to prevent leaks and flooding.

Trim tree limbs. Prevent the severe damage caused by branches breaking off and falling on your roof by trimming any branches or any dead tree limbs hanging over and threatening your roof ahead of winter.

Pest control. This task should also be included in your roof maintenance plan. Did you know that insects and small animals such as squirrels and birds can damage your roof and attic? Look for signs of gnawing on the wood, insulation, or wires as well as any nests and droppings.

Inspect your ceilings. Often overlooked, you should inspect the ceilings in your home for interior damage. A water stain, wet spot, or mold and mildew may indicate inadequate or faulty shingle underlayment allowing leakage or inadequate ventilation.

Preventative maintenance extends your roofing system's life, may prolong the manufacturer's warranty, and improve your home's efficiency.


Siding is the first line of defense against damaging weather and pests. Regular cleaning is vital to prevent dirt, debris, mold, and mildew buildup on your siding. Depending on the type of siding you have, it's essential to understand that each material has its own unique characteristics and maintenance requirements.

Loose or missing siding. Siding that is falling off a house can no longer protect the underlying structure. The primary concerns with loose or missing siding are that excessive moisture (such as rain or snow), as well as pests, can get underneath. Those factors have the potential to lead to a range of issues and potentially expensive repairs.

Pest damage. Woodpeckers, termites, and other pests are more than just a nuisance, they can cause acute damage to your home.

Color fading. While fading doesn’t mean you need to replace your siding as soon as possible, it might be a promising idea to start considering your options. Educate yourself by exploring the different house siding options that are available for your home.

Rot. Your siding is exposed to Mother Nature all day, every day, for years. Weather, water, and time can all lead to trouble, and rot may be a symptom. If you have wood siding that is soft or crumbling, that can be a sign of rot, which should be addressed sooner rather than later. You’ll want to investigate the root cause to determine the extent of any damage.

Siding that is buckled, cracked, sagging, or warped can damage your home’s curb appeal and may be a sign it’s not doing its job to protect your home. If there is damage only to small areas, you may be able to just replace those pieces of siding. But widespread damage may get worse, so if you notice it all around your house it may be time to get a consultation for a full siding replacement.

Bubbling or blistering. If your siding is blistering or bubbling, you may want to take steps to repair or refinish it before the damage spreads. If left unaddressed, this could lead to even more unsightly conditions and other issues.

Filling small cracks and chips. Check for cracks or chips in stucco surfaces. Be particularly thorough around windows, doors, and other openings, as these areas are more susceptible to damage.

Inspect fiber cement siding for cracks, chips, or damaged areas. Pay attention to the seams and edges, as these are vulnerable areas for water infiltration.

Windows & Doors

They say, "windows are the eyes to your house" and play a significant role in the overall look, feel, and curb appeal of your home. Use these tips to ensure your windows and doors are ready for the season, and improve your home's energy efficiency:

Check window and door caulking. If your windows and doors aren’t properly aligned, warm air will escape and frigid air will come in which may dramatically increase your heating bills. Prepare your windows and doors by re-caulking old spots that may be broken or cracked to help seal out drafts (typically done on the exterior). Don’t forget to include your basement windows!

Check weather stripping. If your windows and doors have worn or loose weather stripping, it needs to be reapplied. Weather strips are an inexpensive method to ensure your windows and doors are sealed tight and eliminate drafts. There are three main types of weather strips.

  • Foam weather stripping is available in assorted sizes with adhesive backing on one side. While easy to install, it may only last 1-3 years.
  • V-type weather strips will fit against the side of a window or door jam and form a seal to prevent frigid air from entering.
  • Compression weather strips are the most durable seal for swinging doors and window sashes.

Install a storm door. A storm door not only protects your front door, but it also serves as a buffer from wind, and stops drafts.

Use a draft guard. Installing a quality draft guard/sweep along the bottom of an exterior door is a simple solution that keeps your home warm and can block frigid air. These come in a range of decorative colors and premium finishes. It’s important to measure the length of the door when it’s closed and cut the guard/sweep to the size you need to ensure a good fit. There are a variety of door guards to choose from:

  • Heavy duty - this is the preferred guard. Its surface applied on the exterior bottom of outswing doors.
  • Drip cap door sweep - this is applied on the exterior bottom of outswing doors. It prevents infiltration of air, dust and insects by sealing the opening, often in conjunction with the threshold.
  • Brush sweep - this is applied on the exterior bottom of outswing doors to keep warm air in, and frigid air out.

Repainting and Touch-ups. If your home's exterior paint is chipped or peeling, consider repainting before winter arrives. Fresh paint not only enhances your home's curb appeal but also provides an extra layer of protection against the elements.

Protect Decks and Fences. Clean and treat wooden decks and fences to prevent deterioration from moisture and cold. Apply a fresh coat of paint or sealant where necessary to provide an added layer of protection.

Additional Exterior Maintenance

Exterior foundation and walls. Take a walk around the exterior of your building and look for the following:

  • Signs of bulging or leaning. Both the foundation and home walls should be flush and level.
  • Look for cracks in the foundation, particularly those that are 1/8 inch wide or more, those that span around corners of the concrete, stair-step-shaped cracks on the concrete block walls, or horizontal cracks on the walls.
  • Look for crumbling concrete, which can be a sign of deterioration
  • Check for pooling water around your foundation, particularly after rainfall.
  • Foundation issues can cause your framed roofing system to warp as well, so look for wavy or drooping portions of your roof while you’re outside.
  • If you notice that your chimney is tilted or cracked, this is another telltale sign of possible foundational damage.

Trim Overgrown Vegetation. Trimming back bushes and shrubs away from your home's exterior is essential before winter sets in. Overgrown vegetation can hold onto moisture and potentially damage your siding materials. Proper pruning not only protects your home but also promotes healthy growth come spring. Clear leaves and debris from your yard to prevent moisture accumulation.

Prep Your Lawn and Garden. As your plants go into their dormant phase, prepare your garden by clearing away dead plants and debris. Mulch around the base of trees and plants to protect them from freezing temperatures. Also, drain and store garden hoses to prevent freezing and cracking.

Protect Outdoor Furniture and Equipment. If you have outdoor furniture, grills, or gardening equipment, consider storing them indoors or using waterproof covers. This prevents these items from being exposed to harsh winter conditions that can cause deterioration.

Prepare Outdoor Plumbing. Shut off and drain outdoor faucets and hoses to prevent freezing and potential bursting. Consider insulating exposed pipes to further safeguard against extreme cold temperatures.

Outdoor Lighting. With shorter days on the horizon, proper outdoor lighting becomes crucial for safety and aesthetics. Check and replace any burnt-out bulbs and consider installing motion-sensor lights to improve visibility during the darker months.

Walkways/Sidewalks. Keep areas clean by removing all stains, repairing all cracks, chips and indentations. Resurface if needed.

Driveways. Driveways are one of the most used areas and often overlooked until they stain or crack. By making repairs quickly, you can extend your driveway’s life and attractive look well into the future and save money in the long term.

  • Prevent cracks. For driveways, prevention means sealing concrete annually and sealing asphalt every few years to prevent water from penetrating, freezing and cracking. Tree and shrub roots can cause cracks by pushing up from underneath.
  • Fill cracks. If cracks or holes do appear, patch them immediately. Ensuring your driveway is smooth and level may also help reduce tripping accidents when guests visit your home.
  • Minimize water on the driveway. Clear a two to three-inch strip around the edges of the driveway to provide a runoff area for snow and water to reduce its chances of penetrating the surface. Also, ensure that downspouts empty into the yard rather than onto the driveway.
  • Plow carefully. Ensure the snowplow blade doesn’t scrape and damage the driveway surface.
  • Protect the edges. Edges are particularly vulnerable, chipping under excessive weight. So, make certain that your car is parked away from the edges.
  • Clean the driveway. Removing stains caused by motor oil, radiator fluid and similar substances affects more than your drive’s appearance. Motor fluids can penetrate up to a quarter inch in concrete and can soften asphalt.

Being well prepared for winter’s harsh weather conditions will minimize damage and costly repairs.

Whether you are in the market for inspections and maintenance, skylights, siding, gutters, windows and doors, or a new roof, speaking with a trusted, award-winning industry leader like National Contractors, Inc. is an excellent way to make sure you’re protecting your investment.

National Contractors is GAF Master Elite certified with extensive training and licensing to get your roof repair(s) or replacement done correctly. We offer unsurpassed general construction services to community associations, condominiums, management companies, engineering firms, residential and commercial property managers.

We are a 23-year multi-chapter member of Community Associations Institute with staff that has earned the Educated Business Partner distinction. Hiring a CAI member ensures you are collaborating with a professional that understands the specific nature and unique challenges of community associations.

Winter Ready Home