If this coming winter’s temperatures are even half as cold as last year, we’ll once again be doing everything we can to stay warm. For this, many turn to alternative forms of heating such as fireplaces, space heaters, boilers, and traditional wood or pellet stoves.
Wood or pellet stoves are an increasingly popular form of alternative or supplemental heating during the cold season, but like every form of heating, they must be used with care. As the prevalence of these stoves has increased, so has the number of fires caused by their misuse or improper installation and maintenance. If you plan on heating your home with a wood or pellet stove, make sure you take the necessary precautions by following the tips below:
- Install the stove in a central room to maximize heating effectiveness.
- Make sure your stove and chimney are Underwriters Laboratories tested and approved.
- Hire a professional chimney sweep to keep the chimney’s flue and stove pipe clean and remove any blockages, oils, or creosote that may have built up.
- Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home, especially in the room where the stove is located.
- Use only the fuel type (wood, corn, pellets, coal, etc.) the stove is specifically designed to burn.
- If you are using wood, make sure it is dry and well-seasoned.
- Non-flammable floor protection such as tile should extend out at least 18 inches on all sides of the stove.
- Always keep flammable materials away from any heating source.
- Never use liquid fuel such as kerosene in a stove.
- Prevent small children and pets from getting too close to the stove by putting up a non-flammable safety gate.
- Run the stove only when your home is occupied.
- Check the charge on your fire extinguisher to make sure it is full and ready to use in case of emergency.
Before installing a new stove in your home, check to make sure the installation will comply with your local fire and building codes and always hire a licensed and insured installer.
As you’re researching contractors for work on your home or business, it is important to remember the lowest bid may not be the best bid. Here are 10 questions to ask a potential contractor before you sign an agreement:
- Are you licensed and insured with liability insurance? (A qualified contractor should carry liability and workers’ compensation insurance to protect you and them in the event of a roofing accident.)
- Are all the workers who will be working on my roof covered under your liability insurance?
- What type of shingles and which ice and water shield manufacturer do you recommend and why?
- Are you licensed by the roofing manufacturer you are recommending? Is your license active and current? (This is important for warranties and to ensure that the materials will be properly installed.)
- What is your warranty on your work? (This is in addition to the manufacturer’s warranty.)
- Would you be pulling the necessary permit?
- Will you be onsite with your crew to ensure the work is being done properly?
- Can you provide me with at least three references?
- How will you prepare my house and the surrounding plantings to protect them?
- What is your clean-up and disposal procedure?
To understand some of the answers behind these questions and why they are important, read “Prepare Your Roof for Winter.”
In the record breaking winter of early 2015, many of us got an unwelcome introduction to the havoc ice dams can wreak. In case the next winter is just as harsh, there are preventative measures you can take to prepare for winter. Damage from ice dams can be extensive and the repairs disruptive.
We’ve outlined some prevention tips relating to:
- Ventilation and insulation of your attic.
- Ice and snow shield installation.
- What questions to ask a contractor when installing a new roof.
- What steps to take once it starts snowing.
But first, what is an ice dam?
A line of ice that forms along the roof edge, an ice dam prevents melting snow from draining off the roof. As your attic warms up from the heat in your house the snow on your roof melts. If the temperature outside is warm enough, this water will harmlessly run down to your gutters (this is a good reminder to always make sure your gutters are clear). But when the temperature stays below freezing, this water backs up behind the ice dam and can seep under shingles and into your house.
What causes it?
Three factors create the “perfect storm” for ice dams:
- Heavy, consistent snowfall and below-freezing temperatures
- Inadequate ventilation and insulation
- Poorly installed roofing materials
The first you can’t control. But the last two you can, and should consider addressing before the flakes fly.
Prevention now — ventilation and insulation
To properly ventilate the attic and roof to permit warm air to escape, consider installing any one, or an appropriate combination, of the following:
- A ridge vent
- Soffit vents (or make sure the ones you have are not blocked)
- Roof vents or channels in the attic, from eaves to ridge
Proper insulation prevents heat loss into the attic that causes snow to melt. Consider:
- Insulating your attic floor and the underside of your roof, making sure not to cover soffit vents.
- Eliminating warm air leaking into your attic from around light fixtures, stair trap doors, pipe openings, and anything that cuts through the attic floor.
Prevention now – roofing / ice and water shield
When you are having a new roof installed consider having your roofer install an ice and water shield at least six feet up from the roof edge and two to three feet up the side walls of dormers. Work with your roofer to choose a good-quality material, one that’s substantial in thickness and self-seals around the roofing nails.
Confirm with your contractor that the shield will be installed over the fascia board and into your gutters, with the roof’s drip edge installed on top of the shield. This helps prevent water from finding a path behind your gutters and into your walls. Now is also a good time to have old flashing around any dormers or roof valleys replaced because older flashing becomes brittle and can let water enter.
But before you start any work, it’s important to use a qualified, licensed, professional contractor. There are several questions you should ask to help you choose the right roofer for you.
Once the snow starts – the roof rake
All property owners still need to keep on top of the snow when it starts to fall. A roof rake is an essential tool in this battle. Once you have one to two feet of snow on your roof, rake it off as high as you can safely reach and watch out for any wires. If you need to have your roof professionally cleared, make sure to use a qualified roofer as they understand the right way to clear your roof, mitigating any damage and subsequent repairs or leaks.
We hope these tips help you prepare as we head into winter.