Winter usually comes knocking at the door in January and February. Sometimes (like this year) he just kicks the door in and sets up housekeeping. Still, it’s not too late to marshal every resource your home has to help the cold and dark months pass more smoothly.
One such resource? The garage. Unlike most of the year when the garage is your friend – a repository for “stuff,” a place to work on small projects – in the winter months it becomes more utilitarian, mainly just someplace to park the snowblower between driveway excursions and where you warm your car before venturing out.
Transitioning the garage to winter duty isn’t a monumental task, even if you let the fall pass you by without dealing with the leftover detritus of summer. So here are a few reminders about what a homeowner can do:
Clear the decks
First, get the trash and clutter out of the way. You’ll need the floor space for the chunks of frozen slush that are falling from your car’s wheel wells. If you haven’t already, wait for a non-freezing day and drain hoses, roll them up and put them out of the way. Check containers of liquids to see that they are intact and not leaking, then move them to the basement (use a large plastic tote; it makes hauling them easier and helps prevent a mess should something later spill or spring a leak). Keep an eye out for condensation on the containers once you bring them in from the cold. And while you’re at it, move any remaining toys of summer (sports equipment, canoes, squirrel traps) into the far corners.
Change your mindset
Tina Skinner, author of “Big Book of Garages” (Schiffer Publishing), points out that the garage door has become the main point of entry for most families.
“You would certainly save energy by opening the front door as opposed to throwing open a large garage door,” she said. “So using an alternative entrance or putting in a small door on the side of the garage is a good idea.”
Your grass-cutting days are over for a while, so make sure you’ve taken care of the lawn mower, draining the gas tank and removing the spark plug, plus whatever the owner’s manual recommends – and stash it out of the way, maybe in the basement. This should clear space for the snowblower and shovels to take center stage, in a spot where they’re readily accessible. Also check your supplies of ice-melting material for sidewalks and steps, and wild bird seed to use over the winter. Supplement if necessary, and make sure you have them in an easy-to-access spot.
Skinner said that because the garage is being used for leaving and entering the home, it’s smart to have a clean place where boots, coats, hats and gloves can be piled up and kept neat. That way the snow can melt outside the home.
“Consider creating a corner of the garage near the entryway to store extra winter gear for the whole family,” she said.
If you have a fireplace, don’t let your entire inventory of wood sit outdoors. Stock a supply of firewood in the garage. A log run is so much quicker and easier when it doesn’t involve a hat, coat, gloves and boots and a hike through snow to the wood pile out back. And your wood is likely to be drier and make a better fire if it’s been sheltered in the garage.
The big door
It’s not too late to call in a professional for a tuneup (you can also fill out a service request here). It may be working just fine now, but garage doors are notorious for getting balky when weather is at its worst. A little oil, a little tightening and a check of your openers, and you’re in business, ready for the next storm. A door that won’t open properly renders a garage useless and leaves you parking in the elements; one that won’t close is a security risk and can raise your heating bill.
The house door
Check the weather stripping on the door that provides access to the house. If it’s worn, replace it.