Start getting your house ready for winter Point up the masonry, paint the windows, caulk where needed


HEY, YOU THERE, lying on your lounge chair in the sand -- you're probably thinking about whether to start that new John Grisham book or what might be the proximity of the next mai tai.

If you're the super-organized type, you might have just begun thinking about getting the kids ready to go back to school.

But you're probably not thinking about caulking and painting windowsills, pointing masonry or cleaning up debris around the foundation of your house.

OK, it can wait until you get off the beach.

But this is the time of year when you need to start contemplating the ravages that winter can wreak on your house and how you're going to prevent them.

Because winter is just around the corner. You're running out of summer to do all those projects you were going to do and haven't gotten around to, and to take care of things that can be affected by cold and moisture.

Like painting.

The prime purpose for painting is to protect a surface from moisture.

If you have exterior wood trim with peeling paint, the wood is exposed to the weather. The problem is compounded in winter when the wood gets wet. When the water freezes, it expands within the wood, opening the grain further and allowing more moisture to get in. Unprotected, the wood eventually splits, splinters and rots.

If you keep the wood sealed, it will last a long time. If you don't, you will be replacing it -- and the cost to paint is about one-quarter of the cost to replace.

Window frames and sills, fascias and soffits, columns, railings and porch floors are prime candidates for preventive painting.

Watch the temperature

And, yes, now is the time: The rule in the trade is don't paint outside unless the temperature is at 45 degrees and rising. If you paint at lower temperatures, even with oil-based paint, it will not cure properly and will not seal out moisture. (As paint dries, the water or mineral-oil base evaporates and allows the paint molecules to bond to each other. At low temperatures, the base evaporates more slowly and the paint molecules don't bond properly.)

The second rule is do good preparation.

Scrape all loose paint and sand all surfaces. Make sure the paint you are going to put on is compatible with the paint underneath. If you're not sure, use an oil-based primer, or one designed to be compatible with all types of paints. Allow sufficient time for drying between coats.

Another big item to tackle before winter is leaking of air around windows and doors (though you are also losing money in the summer, as air-conditioning escapes).

Old wood-sash windows are notorious for leaking. The best solution is to replace them, but expense or historical considerations may make that impossible.

Don't forget the doors

So the next best thing is maintenance. Reglazing the windowpanes and recaulking the frames will protect the wood and reduce air penetration. Adding some weatherstripping at the top, bottom and middle of the sashes will help, too.

Doors should also be caulked and weatherstripped. Use good quality caulk, flexible and paintable. Cheap caulk will dry out, crack and fall away, and you'll have to do it again. And that will really cut into next year's beach time.

Next: Ventilation and condensation.

Ron Nodine is owner of American Renovator Inc., a Baltimore design-build remodeling firm, and current president of the Remodelers Council of the Home Builders Association of Maryland. Karol Menzie is a feature writer for The Sun.

Pub Date: 8/23/98

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