7 Smart Steps You Can Take to Weatherproof Your Home

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iStock

If you’re new to home ownership, you may think that finding a house, getting approved for a mortgage, and closing were the hardest parts of laying down roots. And while buying a home is a big accomplishment, it’s just the beginning! To keep your dwelling in tip-top shape for years to come, you’ll need to outsmart its biggest threat: the weather. Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do to keep its structure safe and your utility costs low—and most of them don’t require contractor-level skills.

1. INSULATE, INSULATE, INSULATE.

Whether you live in a cold region of the country or a warm one (or both!), insulating your attic and basement is one of the best things you can do to keep heating and cooling costs down. Upkeep is minimal: Every spring and fall, do a spot check to make sure there aren’t cracks or gaps allowing outside air in (and inside air out).

2. GET TECHY.

Installing a programmable thermostat that automates indoor temperature is an easy way to save about $180 a year in heating and cooling costs. Decide if you want a unit with remote access, i.e., smart home technology, or without. If you’re replacing your old thermostat, it’s easy to do yourself; if you’re putting in an entirely new system, hire a pro.

3. PAINT YOUR HOME RIGHT.

Exterior paint is the first layer of defense against the elements. Harsh UV rays can cause paint to crack and peel, while extreme temperatures force the surface covering your home to expand and contract. In areas of the country where rain and humidity abound, moisture can seep into paint, causing mold, mildew, and algae to take root. Fortunately, the right paint, formulated for the conditions where you live, can make all the difference. Valspar® Reserve ® Extreme Weather Paint + Primer with SeasonFlex™ Technology forms a flexible bond with your home’s exterior throughout summer and winter; Valspar® Reserve ® Extreme Weather Paint + Primer with SunStopper™ Technology refracts light while neutralizing harmful UV rays; and Valspar® Reserve ® Extreme Weather Paint + Primer with RainRelief™ Technology forms a watertight bond with your home, while the included mildewcide fends off unwanted nasties.

4. GIVE YOURSELF A NEW OUTLET.

This is a tiny, easy thing to do, which makes it perfect whether you rent or own your place. Wave your hand in front of outlets to see if air is coming through. If yes, install a foam outlet gasket. They’re inexpensive and easily removable, so you can even take them with you if you move.

5. ALLOW YOURSELF TO VENT.

Yes, your home needs ventilation, especially around the dryer, over the stove and in the bathroom. But don’t allow air to escape. Look for a magnetic cover for your kitchen exhaust fan and an internal flapper for your bathroom fan to handle moisture. As for the dryer, be sure the external vent has a flap over it—and check it periodically to make sure it remains lint-free.

6. TREAT YOUR FLUE.

Yes, that real fireplace is quaint. When it’s not in use though, its chimney is also letting warm air out, as it’s designed to do. Always remember to close the flue when you don’t have a fire going. And if you’re just moving in, contact a professional to check the chimney’s physical state. They’ll examine it from roof to hearth, and may also install a balloon that inflates automatically underneath the flue to keep air from escaping. It will also deflate when there’s heat present, allowing the chimney to do its job.

7. STRATEGIZE YOUR REMODEL.

In some cases, weatherproofing your home requires more than keeping rain out and the right temperatures in. If you’re building or remodeling a home in a flood or tsunami zone near the ocean, consult an architect that specializes in extreme weatherproofing. Living areas can be raised, glass can be fortified and classic shingles can be replaced with composite tiles for ultimate gust and downpour protection.

Finally there’s a paint formulated to stand up to the extreme weather where you live. New Valspar® Reserve® Extreme Weather Paint and Primer in three regional, weather-specific formulas: SeasonFlex™, SunStopper™ and RainRelief™ . Find the one for you exclusively at Lowe’s or go to Valsparpaint.com/ExteriorPaint to learn more.

10 Rad Gifts for Hikers

Greg Rosenke/Unsplash
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.

1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14

Amazon

Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140

Amazon

Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.

Buy them: Amazon, Amazon

3. Yeti Rambler 18-Ounce Bottle; $48

Amazon

Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30

Amazon

The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.

Buy it: Amazon

5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19

Amazon

Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.  

Buy it: Amazon

6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25

Amazon

This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiker Hunger Ultralight Trekking Poles; $70

Amazon

Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Leatherman Signal Camping Multitool; $120

Amazon

What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.

Buy it: Amazon

9. RAVPower Power Bank; $24

Amazon

Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Pack of Four Indestructible Field Books; $14

Amazon

Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.

Buy it: Amazon

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11 Ways to Protect Your Home When the Seasons Change

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iStock

If you’re like most homeowners, you know you should protect your house against weather extremes. But the best time to prep is before things get bad—that means getting to work when your weather is still (relatively) mild. Here’s the year-round list of everything you should do—and when.

1. Insulate—against heat.
Insulation is probably the first thing that springs to mind when you think of winter, but it’s equally important in summer (or year-round, if you live in hot, sunny areas of the country, like the Southwest)—because just as a frosty draft seeps in, so, too, does sticky air. To beat the heat, start at the top: the attic. Before the mercury rises, inspect every nook and cranny to make sure your insulation is installed properly and not letting cool air out. Tip: If you can see the tops of the joists, you need to add a strip of insulation above the existing layer. Consider insulating your attic door as a final barrier to keep your A/C inside—and heating bills low. Also check floors and walls throughout your home for drafts, caulking where necessary. Installing weather strips to doors and windows is one of the easiest and most inexpensive ways to keep your cool.

2. Combat direct sun.
Wooden decks are easily dried out by intense sun, leading to shrinkage and cracks. Ultraviolet rays also break down wood fibers and lead to discoloration. When finishing—or refinishing—your planks (decks should be redone every other year), be sure to add a UV protectant sealer or stain as your final layer. If using a clear sealer, be sure it contains UV protectant. A stain, on the other hand, is naturally better at blocking the sun. The darker the stain, the better protection it offers your wood.

3. Help your home play defense with the right paint.
Bad weather can wreak havoc on the exterior of your home. Harsh UV rays cause paint to chip, peel, or fade; humid, rainy conditions help mold and mildew take root; and extreme temperatures force your home’s exterior to expand and contract, shortening the life of the paint. Stand up to Mother Nature’s forces with a fresh coat of paint developed for your weather conditions. New Valspar® Reserve ® Extreme Weather Paint + Primer with RainRelief™ Technology protects from intense rain and humidity, Valspar® Reserve Extreme Weather Paint + Primer with SeasonFlex™ Technology protects against hot and cold extremes, and Valspar® Reserve Extreme Weather Paint + Primer with SunStopper™ Technology protects against blazing heat and sun. Bonus: all these formulas cover in one coat, so no matter where you live, you can get the job done faster and easier.

4. Put your mind to the gutter(s).
Fall can be one of the most pleasant weather seasons, but that doesn’t mean you can rest on your leaf piles. You know to rake your lawn, but you also have to clear your gutters of them. This’ll help keep water from freezing inside and splitting them when temps dip below freezing. Adding mesh or leaf guards can also solve the problem. While you’re up there, make sure your gutters are pitched at the right angle—between 1/16 and ⅛ inch per foot—to direct water to the downspout, and away from your home’s roof or foundation.

5. Outsmart the critters.
Just as you’re getting ready to hibernate, so are mice and other rodents—in your warm and cozy home. Before it gets too cold, check the exterior of your house. If light can get through a crack, so can a mouse. Spaces around doors and windows are easy entry points, so be sure they’re sealed. (If you’ve already weatherproofed them, you should be all set. Just be sure weather strips aren’t warped or need replacing.) Search for holes in the interior of your home, too—including common entry points such as behind the sink and dishwasher—and plug up anything bigger than a dime with foam or caulk. Vents, however, are there for a reason. Rather than blocking, place wire netting over them to keep critters out without sacrificing airflow.

6. Appraise the roof.
Before extreme cold hits, get up on the roof to check for damage. Be sure all shingles are properly affixed and check for excessive moss or other natural growths that can warp your roof. Get rid of it using a roof cleaning solution, or call in pros if the problem seems larger than you can handle. Inspect caulking around areas like the chimney, pipes, skylights, and even your satellite dish. If the sealant is cracked or warped, simply recaulk to get ready for cold temperatures.

7. Correct concrete cracks on and around your property.
Water seeping into your driveway, patio, or front walkway is never good. But when cool weather rolls around, the water will freeze, making existing cracks larger and warping your concrete. Prevent this giant tripping hazard by—you guessed it—sealing the cracks. Starting with a clean, dry surface, caulk the cracks with acrylic latex concrete repair and fill in larger holes or chasms with a patching compound. Use a putty knife or other straight edged implement to remove excess materials and keep the surface smooth and flat. Keep foot traffic away for a day; avoid driving over the surface for three days.

8. Become a fan of ceiling fans in cold months.
Fans keep you cool in summertime, but they can also temper frigid air. Just employ one simple trick: Change the rotation of ceiling fans from counterclockwise to clockwise before cold air rolls in. This will push down the warm air in your home, ensuring heat stays where you need it most—and that your heating bills stay low, too.

9. Refresh your home’s “wardrobe.”
If the area you call home is headed into winter, think of it as giving your house a coat, scarf, hat and gloves. Recheck the attic’s insulation as you did before the summer’s heat, fixing any new exposures that have cropped up. Put draft guards under and around exterior doors. And consider a little redecorating. Swapping out gauzy curtains for thicker drapes will help trap heat indoors—the darker the color, the better it works. Open them on sunny afternoons to let warming rays in; close them by sunset to keep cold air out. And adding area rugs to hardwood floors will help insulate them, and keep your toes toasty.

10. Trim the trees around your home.
Warm days bring a new sense of hope—and, sometimes, overgrowth. If you have trees or bushes close to your house, be sure any branches close enough to touch it are trimmed back, and inspect trees for branches that may have been damaged by winter storms. Remove dead or dangling branches to keep them from threatening your roof and gutters. 

11. Seal leaks.
The rainy season is no joke, so be sure your house is good and waterproof. Check your gutters once again to make sure they’re pitched correctly and didn’t suffer any cracks or damage over the winter. As for downspouts, ensure they’re pointing away from your home; otherwise, water will flow directly to the foundation, seeping in and endangering your basement. Don’t forget to inspect your home’s interior as well, looking for signs of water damage on walls and ceilings. If you see any at all, try a simple seal around windows and doors. But continue to trace the problem up to the attic or roof to find the source of entry.

Finally there’s a paint formulated to stand up to the extreme weather where you live. New Valspar® Reserve® Extreme Weather Paint and Primer in three regional, weather-specific formulas: SeasonFlex™, SunStopper™ and RainRelief™ . Find the one for you exclusively at Lowe’s or go to Valsparpaint.com/ExteriorPaint to learn more.