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Either way, fall is the time to make home preparations

by: COURTESY PHOTO: TYLER FRANCKE - Cleaning gutters is an unenviable task, but in Oregon -- where it rains a lot between October and March -- its essential to keep them clear over the winter months.Fall has come to Forest Grove and the surrounding area. It’s a time when many members of the animal kingdom begin to store food and build up their fat supply in anticipation of a long, cold season.

Though full-on hibernation is not a real possibility, fall is also a time when many homeowners begin to make certain preparations for the winter. Known as winterizing, or weatherizing, a few easy and economical projects can save residents hundreds or even thousands in the coming months, according to Mark Nakajima, co-owner of Ace Hardware in Forest Grove.

Of course, in Oregon, fall and winter bring more than lower temperatures. They bring rain — lots and lots of it. And, according to Nakajima, that means one of the most important projects a homeowner can undertake before the rainy season really begins is to take a look at his or her roof and patch any holes.

Most any hardware store sells tar-based patches that can be applied to a leaky roof using simple hand tools like a trowel or a putty knife. Nakajima said most of these products can be used equally well in dry weather or during a storm, but he highly recommended trying to make any necessary fixes before the rains start falling.

“It’s a lot easier to do this prior to the weather event, safety-wise and convenience-wise,” he said. “It can be dangerous getting up on your roof when it’s raining.”

Another precipitation-proofing project most will need to consider is cleaning out their house’s gutters. As virtually any Oregonian homeowner knows, those leaves that deciduous trees begin shedding during this time of year often seem to make their way into nearby gutters.

And if gutters get too packed with leaves, pine needles, branches and other debris, they’ll clog — often redirecting water over the sides of the gutter, including in between the gutter and the house, which has the potential to cause water damage.

Hardware stores also offer a number of products to help intrepid do-it-yourselfers keep their gutters free and clear, including ladders and gutter rakes. This, too, is a project undertaken sooner rather than later, Nakajima advised.

“It’s a lot easier to do your gutter maintenance when it’s dry rather than when it's overflowing with water,” he said.

Some may prefer to make a bit more of a financial investment and save themselves time and trouble in the long run. They may want to consider gutter foam — a specially designed filter that doesn’t impede water but keeps large debris from getting in gutters — or covers, which can vary widely in price depending on size and quality.

Even though the rain certainly causes no shortage of headaches this time of year, the cold can be a concern as well. Most homeowners will want to consider insulating outdoor, exterior and basement pipes and spigots. For just a few bucks, do-it-yourselfers can help prevent pipe freezing and breakages by wrapping them in specially designed foam or Styrofoam insulation.

Nakajima said most newer homes were built with frost-proof faucets on their outdoor spigots, but he said homeowners should be advised that these generally don’t work unless the hose is disengaged. Detaching the hose for the winter is a good idea anyway, as it allows the hose to drain and thus, prevents it from being damaged by freezing.

“Unless they absolutely have to have access to the hose during the winter, it’s really not a bad idea to take it off,” he said. “There are potential problems that can come if you leave the hose attached.”

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