How to Have a House

Living with and understanding a home.

Leave a comment

Now for the Real Cold Weather.

IMG_0865It’s been cold enough this winter, with plenty of snow and ice. But if the forecast hold true, it’s going to get REAL cold. Here’s a few ideas to deal with this upcoming arctic air stream that is supposed to blow into the midwest.


  1. Get your pets indoors!  Little guys and short hairs can experience sudden effects of super cold air when stepping out to do their thing.  Keep an eye on them and get them and their bigger buddies back in quickly. If they’ll tolerate it, let them wear a jacket.  Watch for your neighbor’s pets too. If you see a neighbor’s animal out too long in this kind of weather, call the neighbor and remind them.  If your neighbor isn’t the kind of family that cares, call someone who does. They’ll come out, gather the animal up and keep them in a shelter.  Better to take action than watch them freeze to death.
  2. Keep the air filter on your furnace clean.  When it’s cold outside, the furnace needs all the help it can get.  In extreme cold, the furnace will run non stop at times, a clean furnace filter will allow the machine to run at correct temperatures and move lots of air.  
  3. Refrain from moving your thermostat back.  Don’t let your house cool off during the day while your at work, or at night while you sleep.  This weather will be challenging enough for the furnace. You may even find your furnace running almost non-stop.  Keep the house warm so the furnace is not trying to play catch up in extreme weather.
  4. Be ready for colder interior temperatures.  Furnaces are designed to provide only a certain amount of temperature rise above the outdoor temperature.  Usually between 70 and 80 degrees F. That means once the outdoor temperatures dip below 0 degrees F., it is likely the house temperature will dip too.  Bundle up, throw some blankets on the couch and beds. Remember basement family rooms are the last to warm up too.
  5. Keep the exterior intake and exhaust vents clear on your furnace.  High efficiency furnaces are vented through PVC pipes coming out the roof, or most cases the side, exterior wall of the house near the foundation.  Snow and ice build up can clog these vents. It’s not uncommon to find bug, bird or animal nests in these too. Make sure both the intake and exhaust are clear.  And remember the exhaust gasses are poisonous. Keep clear of that gas when working around these vents.
  6. Open the base cabinet doors on sink base cabinets, and washer dryer cabinets that are against an outside wall.  Depending on the direction the house faces, and the level of insulation in the house, pipes near outside walls will be the first to freeze.  If your basement is unfinished you may want to run a safe space heater under the plumbing that gets near the outside rim joist in the basement.  Make sure the area around the heater is clear of anything that can burn.  If you live in an antique home, and the wall insulation is missing or poor, this is important. In worse case scenarios, you may need to let those faucets run, pencil lead thin, streams of water overnight.
  7. If you haven’t done it yet, remove your garden hose from the frost free spigot.  This is normally done in October, but I still see a lot of hoses connected to houses all winter long.  If the frost free spigot has not frozen up to this point in winter, it probably will in the next few days.  And, you won’t know it’s a problem until the next time you turn that hose on and go into the basement to find a split frost free spigot flooding the room.  
  8. Ask a neighbor to check on your house if you are going to be away.  These are extreme temperatures like this region rarely experiences. If you are traveling away from your home, have a neighbor come and check the house for you.  Make sure they know where the main water shut off is in the case of a frozen and split pipe.
  9. And finally but most important, CHECK ON YOUR NEIGHBORS!  Take the time to consider your elderly and less abled neighbors.  Give them a call or knock on their door. Make sure they have your number in the case they need assistance.  This is one of those times when truly being a good neighbor counts.


We normally don’t get weather this cold in our region, so it’s easy to forget how damaging it can be to our homes.  Be vigilant and get ahead of things before they get ahead of you. Burn a fire, have some warm snacks, and do what you bought your house to do, stay in it and enjoy the safety and warmth it provides.  

Leave a comment

Winter Damage to Your House.

This region is hard on houses.  For those of us living in the midwest, things can be quite varied in the winter.  Unlike the great north, it does not get cold and stay cold here. And unlike the south, we don’t stay above freezing.  We actually get the worst weather of all. Sure, in our area (the Kansas City metroplex), we can have some sunny warm days throughout the winter.  It’s not unusual to reach 50 or 60 degrees in December, and our really cold weather comes around late January and February. We like to grill out on these warmer days, and go for walks in light jackets.  We feel lucky to get some light rain instead of snow. It seems easier than the long days of winter up north where it gets down to freezing in November and stays freezing until March. Unless you’re a house.  Recently our weather has been somewhat warm, in the 40s. We’ve had a lot of fog, rain and cloudy days. No ice on the driveway and leaving for work in the mornings is just easier when the temperature is above freezing. But our houses are getting soaked.  Water is seeping into cracks and soaking under paint. Our gutters may have leaves in them that are now full of water. Then, here’s the mean trick. We get a real freeze like last night. A freeze that makes the puddles on the driveway so clear and hard we don’t even see the black ice.  All that moisture and water soaked into our house is freezing too. With that freeze come expansion. And presto, our houses have just experienced one of the harshest conditions in the country. Here’s what to look for in the spring when things thaw out. Your gutters may have pulled away from the house with the ice load.  If there are no deicing wires on the house, it’s likely the downspouts have been frozen solid and torn up a little. Every place water soaked in under paint, is now under threat of that paint popping off. Caulk, snap-on vinyl window trim, joints in the siding, all these things are subject to the harsh effect of soaking and freezing.  In addition anything ceramic or clay on our patios is freezing and expanding too. Those big clay pots out on our patio loose a little layer of material at the very bottom every year. Freezing and popping. So even though we get to grill out in mid December, we’ll have to do some repairs in April. Put it on the list. Reattach loose gutters and downspouts.  Inspect the roof for loose or missing shingles, especially in the valleys. Touch up paint and caulk where it has popped loose, even the best paint on the market has a hard time standing up to the forces of freezing water. And don’t forget to have the trees cleaned up where limbs broke and fell. It’s all part of living the the great midwest. It’s a sneaky trick, these warm, rainy days, turning into damaging, freezing nights.  


house in snow.