Tips for 'Nearly New' Homeowners this Winter

With cold weather approaching in many parts of the country, now is a good time for homeowners who have lived in their newly constructed home just over one year to make sure the home is ready for winter. Regular home maintenance prevents future damage, maintains proper operation, and preserves the aesthetic quality of a home.

Jim Petersen is the Director of Research and Development for Pulte Homes (NYSE: PHM), one of the nation's largest homebuilders. He encourages "nearly new" homeowners to follow these simple tips to help prepare a home for the winter months and prevent future damage.

  • Change your air filters -- they've been working hard all summer! This
    is the single most important task for maintaining a properly working
    heating system. Filters are located inside the furnace and can be purchased
    at most hardware and home improvement stores.
  • Drain sediment from the water heater to minimize rust and limestone
    buildup; also, test the pressure relief valve while the tank is full.
  • Trim tree branches and shrubs so that they are not in contact with
    the house or roof.
  • Winterize your sprinkler system -- turn off the timer, and use an air
    compressor to blow the water out of the pipes. Turn off the water to all
    outside faucets and drain water from the pipes leading to the spigot. Drain
    and remove all hoses.
  • Clean your gutters and downspouts. Be sure to clear any debris where
    the gutter connects to the downspout. Clogged gutters can cause water to
    back up, which can eventually damage wooden soffits located next to the
    gutter.
  • For wood-burning fireplaces, clean the firebox and screens before
    each use; for all fireplaces, conduct a check-up twice a year using the
    manufacturer's instructions.
  • Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Replace batteries
    periodically.
  • Clean and lubricate garage door hinges, rollers and tracks on
    overhead doors using a silicon spray.
  • Check your sump pump's operation (if you have one) and flush the
    system.
  • Check the roof and roof vents and replace any missing or damaged
    shingles; look for damaged flashing or clogged roof vents. Good ventilation
    is important, even in the winter, to prevent ice buildup on your roof.
  • Check the seals around all exterior doors to ensure there is a tight
    fit between the door, the jamb and the threshold. Install weatherstripping
    to help keep cold air out.

"After you buy a newly constructed home, you should expect things to run smoothly during the first year of ownership," Petersen said. "If there's a problem, you're usually covered on most items through one-year warranties. But after that first year, many common maintenance items become your responsibility. Often, it's simply a matter of identifying key systems that need to be maintained regularly and then establishing a schedule to take care of them to avoid preventable repairs in the future."

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