If you are worried about the effects of a particularly harsh winter, a little exterior home maintenance can go a long way. Let's talk about your roof, your gutters, and your siding:
A healthy roof is ready for winter. One of the best ways to prepare your roof against the worst is to check for any serious problems. Complete a close examination of your shingles and other materials. Old, cracked, or missing shingles should be replaced before winter storms cause even worse problems.
You should also take a look at your flashing (the metal strips at the edges of your material). These can rust and warp, allowing winter ice to melt and leak in at the worst times. Pay special attention to flashing around chimneys, vents, and other parts of the roof where gaps and cracks can develop over time. Get these fixed before winter hits!
Finally, check your roof and the surrounding area for any plant life and debris dangers. Nearby branches should be cut down so they don't cover your roof with junk or get torn off in a storm. If you have any moss or lichen problems, you should get them cleared up now so they don't soak up moisture from winter rains and cause problems with decay.
There are two very important types of exterior home maintenance you can complete to get your gutters ready for the winter season. First, clean your gutters out! Winter tends to be very rough on gutters. Any debris and leaves left inside gutters can cause problems later. If gutters aren't cleaned properly, rain and snow could back up onto the roof. Then, moisture could leak backwards in ice dams and infiltrate your roof. Blockages stop proper draining as well. The best solution is to climb up and clear away all piles of needles, leaves and everything else - before the storms start.
Second, check how well your gutters are fastened to your roof, looking for any loose gutters or brackets. The weight of snow and icicles can bend, break or collapse your gutters— especially if they have weak attachments. Tighten brackets where necessary, or replace them entirely to give your gutters the strength they need.
Exterior home maintenance on siding is a little easier than maintaining your roof and gutters. To help improve your siding's life span and resistance to cold weather damage, take a walk and look for any signs damage before the worst of winter arrives.
Check for any areas where cracks or gaps have appeared. These should be filled in with caulk if possible. Pay special attention to areas where siding meets your shingles, your foundation, or other parts of your home. If you notice that your siding looks funny - say, that it has developed blisters or has started to warp - call a professional and ask for an inspection to uncover any problems.