Niki Ottosen

HOMEFINDER: Tips for winterizing your house’s exterior

Fall leaves can cause damage to lawns and flower beds if left over the winter months

The recent stormy weather has given West Shore residents quite the reminder to check their drains, gutters and any flat roof surfaces to make sure they are clear of leaves and debris.

While these things can cause structural damage if left unchecked, they aren’t the only exterior features homeowners should be winterizing, said Niki Ottosen, owner of Gardener for Hire.

The biggest thing is for homeowners to remember to properly turn off irrigation systems and taps.

Many homeowners remember to turn off their irrigation systems and timers, Ottosen said, but they forget to open outside taps so any water left in the line can drip out.

“When your tap freezes, it’s no fun,” she said.

If exterior taps must be left on, Ottosen recommends wrapping them with burlap, towels or foam to keep them from freezing. It is also important to have irrigation lines blown out properly by a professional at the end of the season so there’s no risk of residual water damaging lines during the winter months.

Another helpful step that many homeowners may forget is to add a little fuel stabilizer to gas-powered machines such as lawn mowers, trimmers and leaf blowers that may get parked in garages and sheds for the winter.

“This will just let them start easier in the spring,” Ottosen said, adding it helps keep fuel from getting old and components such as carburetors free from clogs.

As well as storing tools, it’s a good idea to store any cushions, tents, swings or umbrellas to keep them from looking weathered and help them last a few more seasons. Ottosen suggested moving outdoor furniture, lawn ornaments and nice pots against a house or somewhere else covered in the yard so they are sheltered from the elements.

For any plants left in pots over the winter, it’s important to remember to remove the water tray from under the pot, she said, or else “they’ll be standing in water all winter and the plants will rot.”

To help keep other plants from rotting, cut back dead or dying perennials and clean up any surrounding debris. November is the perfect time to prune roses, which, with the exception of climbing roses, should be cut back by roughly half, Ottosen said. New growth on rose bushes is more vulnerable to frost damage and if left, that damage can leech into the hardwood sections of the plant.

It’s also important to clear away fallen leaves from lawns, as they can rot and cause ruts. Leaves in flower beds can be good insulators, but they need to be cleared away well before spring hits, she said, as they will start to strip nitrogen from the garden as they begin to decompose and can hinder bulb growth. Ottosen suggests letting leaves partially decompose before applying any leaf mulch to gardens.

And don’t forget about the birds that utilize outdoor spaces through the winter. While birds may not be using them to wash up, keep the ice broken in bird baths so they can still drink the water. As well, keep your bird feeders topped up.

For hummingbirds, which require something a little sweeter than a sunflower seed, Ottosen likes to repurpose old socks by cutting off the end and sliding them over feeders to keep the liquid nectar from freezing.

That will not only help attract some feathered friends to your yard but could also help draw in potential buyers.

Q: How can you increase curb appeal in winter?

While a nice wreath on the front door of home can invite potential buyers in, it isn’t the only thing sellers can do to spruce up their home’s curb appeal during dreary winter months.

By taking the time to properly winterize a house’s exterior, homeowners aren’t just saving themselves some possible headaches, they are also making their home more appealing and inviting to potential buyers.

Niki Ottosen, owner of Gardener for Hire, said now is the perfect time to give outdoor surfaces a light pressure wash. This will help keep exteriors looking neat and tidy through the winter months. It also helps keep surfaces “free from moss and algae,” which can become very slippery.

And nobody wants a potential buyer to slip while on a tour of their home.

Homeowners should also be prepared for winter weather – an ice-free sidewalk or front step isn’t just inviting to potential buyers, it’s required by most municipality’s bylaws. If Ottosen sees the forecast predicting a cold spell, or even snow, she likes to be prepared and buy items such as salt, de-icers and shovels ahead of time.

This allows her to avoid the mad rush when the weather hits, and avoid driving from store to store looking for items that are often sold out. From a safety perspective, she said, it can sometimes “save you from driving in the snow.” This can be a handy tip for anyone wanting to be prepared for those last-minute showings.

Those few little things you do to winterize your home can also go a long way in helping a home shine.


» 415 / 465 — NET UNCONDITIONAL SALES / TOTAL, November 2014

» 556 / 682 –NEW LISTINGS / TOTAL, November 2014

» 2,986 / 3,631 — ACTIVE RESIDENTIAL LISTINGS / TOTAL, November 2014

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