Between Labor Day and Thanksgiving, owners of second homes perform the annual ritual of closing up their un-winterized rural cottages, beach retreats and mountain cabins. If you plan on vacating a seasonal property for any extended period of time, there are a few basic things you can do to help safeguard your house through the cold months ahead. Outside the home -Check the foundation, siding and trim for cracks and crevices that could admit moisture or provide an entry point for unwelcome creatures. -Examine where the roof overhang meets the house. Pests as teeny as wasps and as large as squirrels often seek to nest in the solar-warmed space of house attics. -Clear the gutters so that rain and snowmelt run freely away from the base of the house, and using a ladder or binoculars, inspect the roof for raised shingles, making repairs if necessary. -Store outdoor furniture. Place tables, chairs, hammocks, delicate garden ornamentation, and other outdoor accessories in a garage, shed or storage unit. -Trim back any tree branches near the house that could cause damage in a strong storm. Power, gas and plumbing -Shut off electricity at the main. Leave on circuits that control such essentials as the alarm system. Also be sure to unplug appliances, especially the large and expensive ones, just in case lightning strikes. -Gas can be turned off at the main, but for many, it’s easier to call the utility and temporarily suspend service. -Drain all water pipes. Accomplish this by turning off the main water supply, opening all faucets and leaving them open. Remember to drain the supply hoses to indoor outlets like the dishwasher and outdoor outlets like the sprinkler system. -Prevent water in a toilet’s trap from evaporating (and thereby permitting sewer gases to enter the home) by raising the toilet’s lid and seat and covering the bowl with saran wrap. Kitchen, living and dining room -Clean out closets and cabinets, leaving them open to ventilate. -Clean out the refrigerator and freezer. Don’t keep anything that is likely to go bad during the time you are away. -Remove and store all bedding in plastic (throw in moth balls if you have them) and for protection against burrowing mice, cover all mattresses. -Store non-perishable food in metal containers and relocate cans to the basement if possible, or take them back to your primary residence. Security and service -Cancel your mail service. Ask a neighbour to watch out for any special deliveries that might arrive on your doorstep while you’re away. -Lock your house at all entry points and close the shutters. -Have someone make regular check-ins. Leave your caretaker with a key for emergency entry if something should go wrong. -Make it look like someone is home. Buy a couple of light timers and set them up to turn on automatically in the evenings. Do not leave valuables in a vacation home that may attract thieves. At the very least, move them out of the line of sight from windows.
Winter in East Kootenay can mean only one thing: tourism. And many of those out-of-town visitors will be renting guest homes to make the most of the skiing and snowboarding the region has to offer. If you’ve decided to take the plunge and take on renters in your guest home this season, here are eight tips to ensure you and your guests are a happy as possible. 1. Prepare a “Master List” for Your Guest Whether your guests are from out of town or from out of the country, chances are they’ll need some time to become accustomed to their new surroundings. You can help them out by preparing a list of important information, like the physical address of the guest house, garbage and recycling pick-up days, emergency contact information and security passwords. For a personal touch, include directions to the local grocery store, hardware store, hair salon and your favourite restaurants and bars. Include any information about rules. Is there a part of the house that’s off-limits? Do the neighbours have a habit of calling in a noise complaint if there’s partying past 11? Now is the time to let your guests know. 2. Prepare a “Master List” for Yourself Keeping an inventory is not a sign that you find your guests untrustworthy. Rather, it’s a way to avoid disputes over items that may have been lost, damaged (or yes, stolen) while you’ve been away. Putting together a checklist also ensures that your guests have everything they need to enjoy their stay. Perform a quick inspection of major appliances and furniture in the house and note their condition. If there are valuables in the house, like artwork, make a note of them; anything that’s truly irreplaceable should be taken with you or locked up. Consider taking pictures of the rooms in your house before your guests arrive. 3. Stock your kitchen — but keep it simple People rarely expect to eat off fine china — especially while they’re on vacation. So feel free to stock your kitchen with lots of inexpensive dinnerware, including all the necessary cooking and baking tools. When it comes to dishes, white is ideal. Unbreakable is even better. (Don’t forget to stock some wine glasses and a decent corkscrew.) 4. Help your guests prepare for their guests Unless you explicitly say otherwise, you should expect that your guest house will be hosting a large group function at some point in the season. Lots of chairs and/or patio furniture, a large table, extra bed linens and an inflatable mattress will help your guests roll out the welcome mat for visitors. 5. Keep bedrooms clean, bright and white Sleeping in an unfamiliar setting can be a bit uncomfortable at first. You can help your guests adjust by keeping the tone of your guest bedrooms as neutral as possible — no crazy colour schemes or knickknacks on the night table. Simple white bed linens look clean and can be bleached to maintain their radiance. 6. Help your guests keep the space clean Let’s face it — messes happen. But if you give your guests the tools they need to clean up after themselves, it’s less likely the damage will be permanent. Stock cleaning supplies like paper towels, all-purpose cleaning spray, air freshener, a vacuum cleaner, mop, dust pan and broom. Put slip covers on your sofas and mattress covers on your bed. Leave plenty of space in closets and cupboards for guests to store their things. 7. Buy a housewarming gift It doesn’t need to be anything fancy; a basket of festive goodies or a bottle of wine goes a long way toward making your guests feel welcome in their home-away-from-home. 8. Think of the little things Throw in some board games, movies, toys and sporting equipment to help keep your guests entertained. If your guest house has a BBQ, fill up the propane tank and clean the grill.
If you thought last year’s mild winter was the new norm, think again. While Canada posted the third warmest winter on record in 2011-2012, meteorologists with AccuWeather are predicting a healthy dose of snow and cold across the nation this season. Alberta and British Columbia, in particular, are expected to experience colder and drier conditions than usual. But homeowners need not fear; by winterizing areas in and around the house, you can easily keep Jack Frost’s icy grip at bay. Gold Star Cleaning offers these six tips to get your started. 1. The Furnace and fireplace Preparing your home’s heating system for winter won’t just save you money on your heating bills – it could also save your life. A build-up of dust or debris over the summer months can turn your furnace or fireplace into a potential fire hazard, so it’s important to make sure they’re functioning properly. Here’s a quick to-do checklist: -Have your furnace inspected annually by a qualified HVAC technician. Have your ducts cleaned every three years. -Clean or replace your furnace’s air filter. -Clean your vents, and ensure that vents are not obstructed by furniture or debris. -Have your chimney cleaned, and cap the top of your chimney. -Remove any flammable objects from around your furnace and fireplace. Star tip: remove glass from gas fireplaces with a screwdriver, lay flat on a drop sheet and wipe away stubborn mineral deposits using a gas fireplace glass cleaner. 2. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors While we’re on the topic of fire safety, now is a good time to ensure you have a working fire detector in your home, as required by law (the Office of the Fire Commissioner of British Columbia has a break-down of the new requirements for smoke detectors in private dwellings, which have been in place since 2010). If your smoke detector is battery-powered, replace the batteries in your smoke detector and test it. Replace smoke detectors every ten years. If you haven’t yet installed a lifesaving carbon monoxide detector in your home, get one. 3. Doors and windows Keep the warm air in your home by identifying and sealing leaks. An easy way to find leaks is by holding a candle near the edges of a window or door frame; if the flame flickers or goes out, you have a leak. Caulk your window frames inside and out and weatherstrip around doors. Remove your summer screens and install storm windows (or use good ol’ fashioned shrink wrap). 4. Roof, gutters and downspouts Take it from me – you don’t want to be climbing on your roof in the dead of winter to fix a leak. Take the time now to replace any damaged roof shingles or tiles, clear out of your gutters and install leaf guards. If necessary, add piping to your downspout so that it transports water at least 10 feet away from your home. If your home has an attic, add additional insulation to keep warm air from escaping and forming condensation or ice dams in your home. 5. Pipes and Plumbing A burst pipe can cause untold damage to your home. Avoid this potential catastrophe by targeting pipes where water is likely to freeze. Turn off the water to your hose bibs via the shutoff valve inside your home. Look for exposed pipes in your house – likely locations include crawlspaces, basements or garages – and wrap them with foam rubber sleeves or fibreglass insulation. If you’re going away for the holidays, keep the temperature in your home above 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) to reduce the risk of freezing. Star tip: Check that sump pumps are working and ready for the spring thaw. If you do have flooding problems later on a cleaning company that does restoration cleaning is a number you will want to have on hand. 6. The Great Outdoors Spring may seem like a distant memory, but that’s no reason to neglect your yard. Trim any tree branches hanging close to your house or near electrical wires. Protect garden tools and outdoor appliances by cleaning and storing them. Drain your garden hose. Remove the gas from your lawnmower – and while you’re at it, fill up the tank in your snowblower and test it. Finally, make sure you’re prepared for the inevitable snowfall with a sturdy shovel and bags of sand or salt. Star tip: Insist that people remove their shoes at the door and keep a rubber boot tray at each one to prevent the outdoors coming indoors.