Capitol Hill Restoration Society

Preservation Cafe: Winterizing Your Home

Posted on November 19th, 2014

Gary Barnhart, general contractor and owner of GL Barnhart Construction, was the November Preservation Café speaker.
A Capitol Hill resident, Mr. Barnhart started GL Barnhart in 1997 with his father, focusing on home improvement and small commercial renovations. Today, the company focuses on modern renovations, historic restorations, and construction work in the Capitol Hill area.

Gary’s presentation focused on effective measures to “winterizing” a home and preparing your residence for the oncoming cold weather of winter.  Preventative measures were recommended for plumbing and rainwater systems as well as for heating systems.  Other items discussed included beefing up protective measures at the building envelope and structure.

Preventative measures to undertake for a residential plumbing system include installing frost-proof hose bibs and insulating exposed pipes.  A frost-free hose bib (or sill cock) has the valve located further up the pipe and operates away from the cold exterior air.  Installation of a frost-free hose bib is required by the current building code and should be slightly angled downward to allow water to escape when closing the supply valve and emptying out the pipes for winter.  Frozen pipes can be mitigated by installing closed-cell sleeve insulation around the pipes, especially those located in vented crawlspaces and at exterior walls.  For a more active anti-freezing system, Gary recommends installing heat tape, a sheathed electric cable that is wrapped between the exposed pipe and the sleeve insulation and is activated when temperatures falls below a certain set-point.

For rainwater systems, Gary encourages the installation of water management measures that divert water away from the house.  Examples include the installation of a French drain system, a trench filled with gravel that contains a perforated pipe that redirects surface water and groundwater away from the building foundations, and the installation of extensions at existing downspouts that redirect rainwater away from the grade of the house.

For boiler and forced air heating systems, Gary advocates turning on and testing the system a month before the.  This will allow you to fix any issues before the cold weather sets in.  For forced air systems, the filters should be replaced.  If a filter system is not present in the ductwork, one should be installed to provide better indoor air quality and to extend the life of your equipment.  Gary recommends installing a high-efficiency air filter system if possible.

For exterior walls, crawlspaces and attic spaces, providing insulation and sealing the interior from the exterior provides the largest return on investment.  Examples include weather stripping exterior window and door openings and caulking wall penetrations.  If windows will remain closed for the winter, Gary recommends using a putty system to seal cracks or the installation of a film system that creates an additional air barrier at the interior.

Happy to answer any renovation questions, Gary can be reached at 202.569.8471 or