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Batten down the hatches, winter's on its way

By Lorraine Graves

Published 4:04 PDT, Thu October 17, 2019

It’s definitely fall. And, it’s not just squirrels who are getting ready for winter. From our homes, gardens, vehicles and insurance, there are things we can do to make ourselves ready for the winter ahead. 

Weeding now makes spring a breeze

For your garden, be it an acreage, a front yard or just a few pots on your balcony, the co-owner of Prickly Pear Garden Centre says it’s time to do two things: clean up and plant. 

“You just want to clean up, basically get any stuff that’s dying back like hostas, because it’s finished,” says Patti Maskall. “Clean up the leaves that have fallen, like roses. Clean up really well in the garden beds, and while you’re at it, pull some weeds. It’s going to make it easier for spring.”

If you have a lawn, now is the time to apply lime. It corrects the pH (acidity) to help it take up nutrients and subdues the moss that loves to grow in the wetter, darker winter. Because grass seed likes cooler, but not freezing, temperatures to germinate Maskall says you can scatter grass seed over the dead or thinning parts of your lawn. But she cautions, “If the temperature drops in a hurry it might be too late for the seeds to germinate. That said, fall is generally a good time to over seed. It’s getting late for winter vegetables, but you can definitely plant bulbs like tulips and daffodils for next spring.”

Maskall adds, “You can still do stuff. Don’t give up on your pots. You can put in pansies and violas. They’ll last all winter. Bulbs for sure can be put in pots.” 

In fact, she suggests first putting the bulbs in pots then planting winter blooming plants on top so you’ll have flowers now and flowers that come up in the spring. The same holds true for bulbs and plants going into the ground. 

Maskall reminds gardeners of all ilks to put their raked leaves and garden refuse in the green compost bins. 

Check-up ensures coverage you can afford

Insurance costs may be going up, but it is security you can’t afford to be without.

Andrew Tablotney of Legear Pelling Insurance Agencies suggests a check-up of all your insurance policies, whether for vehicles, houses, condos or a home you rent. And you don’t need to wait until renewal time to do a review. Many people pay more than they need, while others are paying for insurance that doesn’t cover what they think it does and they only find out when they file a claim.  

Agents know a variety of different insurance companies and their policies. They help you make an informed choice that fits your budget and needs. 

For instance, you can combine the liability insurance on a few cars and residences for a couple of people to reduce your cost while increasing the coverage. While some parts of car insurance have to be with ICBC, there are other parts that can be done through different companies, sometimes with a significant saving or with better coverage or both. 

Tablotney also suggests everyone have a list of content values, which most people underestimate by 20 per cent on average. 

“Take photos of everything especially unique items—a collection of Dalton figurines, art work, etcetera,” he says.  

By remembering to write down all serial numbers, you may have a chance of getting items back if stolen. You can also find the value more easily as manufacturers often have a list of items, models and year made. You can also prove it is yours if recovered, or if you find it listed for sale online. 

Another point Tablotney made was the need for a water shut-off valve for your entire home. Knowing where it is can mean the difference between a little damage and a lot when there is a leak inside the house. He says that it’s worth having a plumber out to also put in a timed valve that shuts off the water after a set time. If you have a leak, especially while you are out of the house, it will limit the damage. And, if you are going away and don’t need the water on, he suggests turning it off completely. 

Something that came to light during the interview with Tablotney was that Richmondites can now get flood insurance.  

And, while you are doing all these jobs around the house, Tablotney says, “All heavy appliances and furniture need to be fixed to the wall. For instance, china cabinets and things like water heaters should be strapped in for earthquake safety, and to prevent children having heavy furniture fall on them. “

As the cold arrives, keeping warm is a priority

Heating systems need to be readied for the coming winter, and according to Brad Langley, co-owner of the Richmond heating company, Flame, most manufacturers recommend annual maintenance. 

Some require it to keep your warranty in good standing. 

“Regular maintenance also ensures safe operation and maximum comfort and efficiency of your home’s heating system,” says Langley. 

Langley says keep your heating system in tiptop shape is the Fortis rebate program. Currently, you can receive part of the cost of an
annual maintenance call on your gas
furnace, fireplace, boiler or heat pump. And while regular maintenance calls can be scheduled through the year, the Fortis service rebate program has start and stop dates so best to check details at fortis.com.  

If you have a heat pump, having it serviced at the same time as other equipment can cut the cost of the call and save an emergency trip should it stop working when you need it. Langley says they do not need winterizing, but many air conditioners do. They should have their electrical breaker turned off and, if they are outdoors, their winter cover needs to be installed.

“If your newer furnace stops working, look for the plastic window in one of the doors,” Langley says.

He adds behind that clear window will be a flashing LED light that gives you the trouble code. Giving that to your service person ahead of time means they can come prepared and may save time and money.  

Cars need help to get ready for the chilly weather

It’s time to store the summer tires and replace them with all-weather, all-season or winter tires.

Juan’s Auto Service encourages people to consider true winter tires. They advise that the aggressive tread helps in the snow, but more importantly, the rubber compound is engineered for colder weather.

It means they still grip even when it’s cold out. The rubber in summer tires isn’t made to stay as grippy in the cold. Also, for those who like to travel, some mountain highways require winter tires in B.C. 

With our mild West Coast winters, do we really need to worry about antifreeze? Juan’s Auto Service says it is important at any temperature. The word antifreeze is a bit of a misnomer. It does stop freezing, but also increases the cooling properties of the water in the system.

Because water expands when it freezes, and it’s powerful, it can crack pipes, hoses and even engine blocks. When there were cold nights and warm days, the Romans used the expansion of frozen water to quarry great blocks of marble. 

It’s also wise to ensure your vehicle has good quality wiper blades.

All-weather tires aren’t meant for absolutely all weather. They are meant for milder winter conditions with heavy rain, snowfall that melts quickly and slush, but not winter conditions.

Painting up a storm 

The senior designer with Benjamin Moore’s Richmond decorating centre says you may have missed your chance to do much painting outdoors for this year. But she offers encouragement for other work.  

“I don’t recommend painting outside at all at this point,” says Kristie Helps. “Though we do have products that work at a lower temperature, if really need to.”

Helps says that even though the days may be warm and dry, the wood is too damp and the nights too misty to let paint dry properly.

“I had a guy come in who wanted to paint or stain his fence and I said, ‘No. You’re going to spend all this money to have this fence stained and it’s never going to be dry because there’s all this moisture pushing this product out.” She says he took her advice. 

Helps does suggest that this is the perfect time to either touch-up or redo the paint inside the house. She says most professional painters have time now that outdoor work is done and the Christmas rush has yet to begin. 

“It would be a good idea to start now because we get the people who panic at the last minute,” she says. 

Even if you aren’t ready to take up a paint roller or brush, Helps suggests looking for ideas in magazines or online then taking them to the paint store.

When you are trying to decide on a colour, buy a tiny container of the hue you are thinking of. “That way,” Helps says, “you can take it home and test it out on the wall so you see what it looks like in your lighting.”

Helps and her colleague, Cherry McCulloch, also offer in-home consults. For $150 they will spend an hour with you, going over paint and wallpaper suggestions that go with your taste and existing décor. They keep your choices for each room in their store’s computer system so, even years later, you can buy more paint that colour. 

Helps says that while she will not suggest doing something a client doesn’t like, she says she’s seen many different options that many customers might not have seen. 

Helps has a suggestion for wear-worn walls or ones with a mended place. She says to prime the repaired spot and erase the marks, “Then once you get all that off, just throw on one coat about the same colour. You’ll be fine. It’ll look so much better.”  

So whether you’re just covering up some smudges, freshening up a single wall, or redoing a whole room, Helps says, “This is the perfect time. Once you get Thanksgiving over you can really focus on what you want to achieve once Christmas comes.”

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