Get Your Home Ready for Winter

ready for winter feature image

Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, cooler temperatures will be here before we know it! Given that our homes are typically our single biggest investment, here are a collection of ideas from Consumer Reports, HGTV, and yours truly (having owned homes for many, many years), which you may find useful.

Getting your home ready for winter may feel tedious and unnecessary. However, there are real financial savings you can reap by protecting your home and which may entice you to get you off the sofa and take care of these tasks. Heating costs can really soar if you have leaky windows, frozen pipes, or an inefficient heating system. Take a look at some of these easy-to-do items, and break them down into weekend-sized chunks. Maybe you can engage some of your family members to help, too.

1. Check Those Windows

If you have older windows with separate storm and screen inserts, take out those screens and install your storm windows (and doors). This creates an air space between your windows and the outside cold air, which acts as another layer of insulation. This includes adding or replacing worn weather stripping and caulking any gaps. You want to block any potential places for cold air to enter your home. This includes any places where pipes or ducts travel through an exterior wall (e.g. exhaust fan ducts or outside water pipes). This is also a good time to give those windows a good cleaning, too, while you’re at it.

2. Check Your Roof

If you can see that you’re missing some shingles, or you suspect you might have some loose, damaged, or missing ones, now is the time to seek out a licensed roofing contractor to do an inspection before winter comes. Or if you’re handy yourself, carefully go up on the roof yourself.

Now’s also a great time to clean those gutters!  When the temps drop, clogged gutters can mean freezing water which then backs up and enters your home, causing damage. Keep those gutters and downspouts clear and properly connected. Also, check to make sure the runoff is going away from the foundation. Use downspout flexible extensions if you need to direct water away from your home. 

3. Check Your Patio and Landscaping

Before winter is also the perfect time to repair those loose patio pavers or stone walkways.  As weather comes, the freezing and thawing will only cause those loose areas to become even worse, which will be troublesome when you have to shovel or blow snow off of them. This is also a great time to mark your garden beds and driveways with markers, because we all know how tough those can be to identify after a heavy snowfall!

Check your landscaping, too. Dead tree branches covered in snow can easily snap, hurting people and causing thousands of dollars’ worth of damage if it strikes a roof or car. Who remembers the “Halloween Screamer” of 2011 when we got 8” of snow in late October when all the trees still had their leaves? I know I do! Before the first snow, have a reputable tree service or landscape contractor remove any dead or ailing limbs, or if the job is small, do it yourself.

4. Service Your Furnace and Chimney

Fireplaces, chimneys, and heating equipment are some of the biggest causes of home fires, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Be sure to have them serviced and inspected annually. Make sure the inspector examines the condition of the chimney if your system has one. Don’t forget about the chimney cap, which keeps heat-seeking animals out. Also be sure to keep those filters changed to ensure optimal efficiency.

Don’t Forget Your Outside Water Sources!

Avoid problems before they have an opportunity to happen.

Drain and store any garden hoses or sprinklers before the first frost to eliminate the chance that they’ll freeze and burst.  Roll up the garden hoses and store them inside where they won’t be exposed to extreme cold.

For hose bibs, shut off the water supply valve (inside your house or basement) that feeds the line, and then open the outdoor spigot. This will allow any water trapped inside to drain out.

If you just shut off the spigot itself, water trapped in the pipe could freeze and cause a burst pipe inside your wall.

Be sure to identify any “problem” pipes that are prone to freezing and think about using plug-in heat tape or insulation to keep those pipes warm during extremely cold weather.

Finally, be sure everyone in your home knows how to turn off the main water supply at the source. This will minimize potential damage when (preferably IF) a pipe bursts.

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