What We Learned From A Historic Winter


During January of this year, we were having conversations about how mild this winter was compared to 2014.  Then the blizzard hit on January 26th and it has been one of the worst New England winters in recent history.  This winter has proven to be challenging on many levels, but in order to put a positive spin on this season, we have turned it into a learning experience on how to best prepare for the inevitable winters to come.

Together with my team of inspectors, I have identified several chores that should be on everyone’s pre-winter checklist. Some of these tasks should be accomplished by a professional, while some can be performed by you, the homeowner.  Ultimately, each home requires different treatment and these tips are meant to provoke thought about how you choose to best maintain your home during the winter.

In the fall, home inspectors should be staking all propane tanks that are in the ground. We have had difficulty locating the propane tanks that are buried in snow.  By clearly staking tanks, we will have a much easier time locating them and checking fuel levels during snowy months.

Mark your vents. For customers with a heating system that relies on gas, our inspection team will be installing signs that indicate where the gas vents are located. During storm inspections this year, the task of locating and digging out unmarked vents has been difficult and time consuming. 

Plowing, plowing, and plowing! Many homeowners have made the choice not to have plowing contracts in place during the winter months.  Over the years we have respected this choice, realizing it is an expense that you may not want to incur when you are not using your Cape Cod home.  We are reconsidering this position and will be asking homeowners to at least establish a relationship with a snow plow contractor. 

If you rely on fuel delivery (oil or propane) or visit your home during the winter, setting up a snow plowing contract is necessary.  The best time to do this is at the end of summer with your landscaper.  If you live on a private road that is not tended by the town, you should speak with your neighbors and come up with a plan for plowing the road. 

For those of you who have forced hot water heater systems and leave your heat on during the winter, we are recommending that you introduce anti–freeze into your heat piping. We have had a number of heat pipes that are on exterior walls freeze, causing breaks in pipes and then water damage.  By introducing anti-freeze into the system, it greatly reduces the potential for a freeze up.  (This should be done by a professional plumber and should be repeated every three to five years.)

Lastly, if you don’t visit your home in the winter months at all, consider draining your home’s systems and closing it up completely.   This eliminates many potential problems and subsequent costs.  You will not have the expense of fuel;  you will not need to worry about plowing;  you will not have to worry about power outages and heat going off;  there is no chance of frozen pipes and water damage. 

Although this winter has been unusual it is obviously not out of the realm of possibility that next winter is equally rough.  The property management team at Cape Associates is here to help you with any questions you may have.  Before this winter becomes a welcome distant memory, please consider these suggestions and discuss them with your family or property management professional.

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