With snow just around the corner, it’s important to take preventative measures now to get your home ready for winter. Many things require maintenance and inspection before it gets too cold. If you plan ahead, you can save yourself a lot of time and money in repairs, and even lower your utility bills – all while protecting one of your biggest investments.
Here’s our list of 20 things to get your home ready for winter:
1. Look over your roof. If you aren’t good with ladders, hire a professional to walk around your roof to see if any repairs are needed. Replace any loose, missing, or damaged shingles, and also any deteriorated flashing. Make sure to check for signs of leaks in the attic while you’re at it.
2. Clean out your gutters. This one might be better for a professional, too. While clearing away any debris, look out for pieces that are sagging. You will want to secure any loose areas to the home because the weight of snow and ice can actually pull them off your house.
3. Make sure water is running away from your home. Your downspouts should be diverting water at least three to four feet away from your foundation. If they aren’t, you may need to consider installing a French drain to keep water from entering your home and causing damage.
4. Sweep your chimney. Once again, it’s good to hire a professional for this one. If you have a wood or pellet stove, have it inspected before you crank it up again, too. If you don’t use your fireplace, now is a good time to block and seal it so that you don’t feel any drafts in coming months.
5. Inspect your heating systems. Whether you have a boiler, heat pump, or furnace, it’s a good time for a tune-up. Also, replace filters and make sure nothing is sitting within three feet of radiators or space heaters.
6. Repair rotted, broken, or cracked windows. Check for cracked panes and signs of rot. You want everything structurally sound to keep your expensive heat inside – and the cold out.
7. Caulk and replace weatherstripping. Light a candle and hold it close to your window, moving it all the way around the frame. If it flickers, that means you have a leak. Repeat this step with all of your windows, as well as your doors.
8. Insulate water pipes and your water heater. If you insulate hot water pipes, the water heater won’t have to work as hard. Another way to keep the water heater happy (and save money) is to wrap it in a “blanket.” You can easily locate one at a home improvement store.
9. Remove or cover window air-conditioning units. Once you are finished with your air conditioners, take them out and store them for the season. If they are permanently attached, close any vents and cover up the exteriors.
10. Patch and seal masonry. There’s nothing worse than shoveling an uneven walkway. It’s also a good time to repair broken joints and cracks in steps and other stonework.
11. Reverse ceiling fans. If your fans have reverse switches, make sure they are turning clockwise. This direction will move air towards your ceiling, pushing all the warm air back down into your rooms.
12. Clear debris away from exterior drains. Ensure they are free of twigs and leaves.
13. Winterize exterior faucets. Remove hoses and store them for the winter. Shut off water to the faucets and drain any water from pipes and valves.
14. Drain irrigation systems. It’s best to have these professionally winterized before the first big freeze of the season. Any water that freezes in the pipes can damage the system.
15. Prepare your mower for storage. Drain the gas and give it a good tune-up before you put it away. It’s a good idea to clean all your summer tools (to prevent rusting) and move them to the back of your garage or shed. That way, you can transfer all your winter supplies closer to the front for easier access.
16. Cover and store patio and deck furniture. Make sure to clean them according to their care instructions first.
17. Turn leaves into compost for your lawn. Instead of bagging like normal, run them over with your mower to pulverize them into tiny pieces. They will fall between the grass blades, turning into natural compost for your lawn. Don’t leave them whole, though! They will block sunlight from your grass and encourage disease.
18. Stock up on winter essentials. We all know what happens when the first big storm of the season is predicted. Buy ice melt, salt, and new shovels now. Also, make sure your snow blower is ready to go.
19. Consider purchasing a generator. If you live in an area prone to power outages, a generator may be an excellent investment.
Last, but not least, we want to help you avoid something incredibly dangerous and damaging.
20. Prevent ice dams. Ice dams occur when the snow melts on your warm roof and then refreezes on your cold eaves. Ice builds up along the eaves, creating a dam. As snow then melts behind the dam, water backs up and flows under shingles – and sometimes into your house.
The sheer weight of ice dams can rip gutters and siding off of your house. When water leaks through your roof, paint can peel, and wood can rot and grow mold. Water also makes insulation ineffective, allowing more heat to escape through the roof – meaning more melting snow and even more leaks! If these problems aren’t bad enough, the giant icicles that form at the end of the dams (and hang over your gutters) get big enough to kill a person.
To temporarily avoid ice dams, you can install heated cables along your roof to warm the eaves and prevent freezing. For a permanent fix, you must make the temperature of your eaves match the temperature of the rest of your roof. That means increasing ventilation, augmenting insulation, and sealing any drafts. Hire a professional to make sure you find the right mix of these options for your attic and roof.
If you do get an ice dam, never chisel or hammer it. That can damage your roof. Instead, you can try a roof rake (with wheels) to break it up. Another option is to take a leg of pantyhose and fill it with ice melt, tying it off at both ends. Position the hose perpendicular to your eaves, with one end of it hanging over the gutter. It will create a channel through the ice and allow a place for water to flow through. If water is already coming into your house, a quick way to stop it is to turn on a box fan in your attic, pointed towards the dam. The fan will cool that area of your roof and make the water refreeze – at least until you can break the dam.
Take a little time this fall to get your home ready for whatever this winter may bring. A little bit of caulk, some cleaning, and a box fan may protect you from major headaches in a couple of months. Take the chill out of Jack Frost; be prepared.