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7 Mistakes That Cost Homeowners BIG Money During Cold Weather

February 3rd, 2022

Wintry weather is great at turning up problems you didnt even know you had. Like that first snowy night in front of your fireplace that you thought was pure bliss -- until you noticed a leak in the ceiling corner, which apparently was caused by a lack of insulation. How were you supposed to know that?

Many homeowners dont realize theyre making critical missteps that can cost a ton when winter sets in. Here are seven wintertime mistakes homeowners often make (and what they could cost you!):

1. Not Buying a 2 Protector for Your Outdoor Faucet

What Itll Cost You: Up to 15,000 and a whole lot of grief

Its amazing what a little frozen water can do damage-wise. An inch of water in your basement can cost up to 15,000 to pump out and dry out. And, yet, its so easy to prevent, especially with outdoor faucets, which are the most susceptible to freezing temps.

The simplest thing to do is to remove your garden hose from your outdoor faucet and drain it. Then add a faucet protector to keep cold air from getting into your pipes. Theyre really cheap (some are under 2; the more expensive ones are still less than 10). Get these now, says Danny Lipford, home improvement expert and host of the Todays Homeowner television and radio shows. When the weatherman says weve got cold coming, theyll sell out in minutes.

While youre at it, make sure any exposed pipes in an unheated basement or garage are insulated, too, or youll face the same pricey problem.

Wrap pipes with foam plumbing insulation -- before the weather drops. Its cheap, too, just like the faucet cover (only 1 for six feet of polyethylene insulation). And its an easy DIY project, as long as you can reach the pipes.

What Itll Cost You: 500 -- if youre lucky; a lot more if youre not

Those icicles make your home look so picturesque, you just gotta take a few pics. But you better make them quick. Those icicles can literally be a dam problem. (Yes, dam -- not the curse word that sounds the same. )

Icicles are a clear sign that youve got an ice dam, which is exactly what it sounds like: a buildup of ice on your gutter or roof that prevents melting snow and ice from flowing through your gutters. Thats really bad news because these icy blocks can lead to expensive roofing repairs.

Depending on where you live, expect to pay at least 500 for each ice dam to be steamed off. Leave the ice and you risk long-term damage, which could ultimately cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars to your roof, depending on what type of shingles you have and the size of the damaged area.

How to prevent them? Insulation. Ice dams, icicles, and ice buildup on the gutters is a symptom of not enough insulation in the attic, says Chris Johnson, owner of Navarre True Value and several other stores in the Twin Cities area.

And you need to have at least 14 inches of insulation in your attic, no matter where you live, says Lipford. If you live in a colder climate, youll need more.

If you dont have the cash to insulate, heated gutter cables, which run between 50 and 150 each, can be a less expensive alternative when temporarily affixed to areas prone to ice damming, Johnson suggests.

3. Going Lazy on Your Gutters

What Itll Cost You: You really dont want to be in a position to find out

It can be so tempting to skip gutter cleanups as winter nears. It seems like as soon as you clear your gutters, they clog right back up again. So whats the point?

Well, if it looks like youre living inside a waterfall when it rains, water is missing your gutter system completely. Its being directed to your foundation instead. And a water-damaged foundation is never, ever cheap to fix.

A contractor can plug foundation cracks for 1,500 to 3,000, says David Verbofsky, director of training for exterior home products manufacturer Ply Gem. But a worse problem, one that requires a foundation excavation or rebuild, can set you back (gulp) 30,000 or more.

Suddenly, cleaning your gutters a few times each fall doesnt seem so bad. A pro can do the work for anywhere between 70 and 250, depending on the size of your gutter system.

4. Giving Cold Air a Chance to Sneak In

What Itll Cost You: Nights where you never feel warm, despite sky-high heating bills

If it were possible to take every crack on the outside of a typical home and drag them together, youd have the equivalent of a three-by-three window open all the time, says Lipford. Yikes.

Yet cracks can be easily and inexpensively sealed with a simple tube of caulk, and its available in hundreds of colors to match your window panes, outside siding, and even brick. Not sure where to caulk? Look for visible cracks around:

  • Window sills

  • Baseboards

  • Fireplace or dryer vents

  • Anywhere something inside pokes a hole to the outside

5. Not Getting Personal with Your Thermostat

What Itll Cost You: Money you could spend on something else besides heating

We all know we should, but we seem to have some mental block when it comes to programming our thermostats to align with our schedules. Its not that hard, and sometimes all it takes is buying a new one that suits you. (Like maybe a Wi-Fi one thatll give you a little money-saving thrill each time you swipe your app.)

From a cost-savings perspective, a programmable thermostat is a great investment, Lipford says -- as much as 10% off your energy bill, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

6. Skipping Furnace Tune-Ups

What Itll Cost You: A furnace thatll die years before it should -- and higher energy bills

Forget to service your furnace and you could easily cut five years off the life of your system, says Lipford, who added that five years is a full third of the typical units life span. New units can cost around 4,000 installed, making the 125 annual maintenance charge a no-brainer.

While youre at it, dont forget to replace the furnace filter, which cleans the air in your home, and also keeps your furnace coils cleaner, which can shave up to 15% off your energy bill. Johnson suggests at least every three months, but possibly as often as monthly if you have allergies, pets, or smoke cigarettes at home.

7. Foregoing a Fireplace Inspection

What Itll Cost You: Possibly your life -- and your home

A cozy fire is great, but if you dont maintain your chimney, a fire can cost you thousands of dollars, says Johnson, not to mention the risk to you and your family.

Schedule your maintenance appointment as early as you can.If you wait until the busy season, youll have a hard time getting them out there, youll pay more, and youll get a lower quality job, says Lipford.

Alaina Tweddale is a freelancer who writes about money, home and investing. Her work has appeared on, the Huffington Post and When shes not writing, shes working with her husband to slowly renovate what seems like every square inch of their home.

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Disclaimer : The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Houston Association of REALTORS®

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