Winterize Your Home: Everything You Need to Know

by Eccotemp

With Winter quickly approaching, it's important to prepare your home to withstand the coming months. Winterizing your home is the best way to protect it from the damage that wind, rain, snow and freezing temperatures can cause. Don't wait until it's too late; follow these ten simple steps to winterize your home and you'll reap the benefits all season long. 

1) Furnace Inspection

  • Call an HVAC professional to inspect your furnace and clean ducts.
  • Stock up on furnace filters and change them monthly.
  • Consider switching out your thermostat for a programmable thermostat to help cut back on unnecessary heating costs.
  • If your home is heated by a hot-water radiator, bleed the valves by opening them slightly and when water appears, close them.
  • Remove all flammable material from the area surrounding your furnace.

2) Get the Fireplace Ready

  • Cap or screen the top of the chimney to keep out rodents and birds.
  • If the chimney hasn't been cleaned for a while, call a chimney sweep to remove soot and creosote.
  • Buy firewood or chop wood. Store it in a dry place away from the exterior of your home.
  • Inspect the fireplace damper for proper opening and closing.

3) Check the Exterior, Doors and Windows

  • Inspect the exterior of your home for cracks and exposed entry points, especially around pipes; seal them.
  • Use weather-stripping around doors to prevent cold air from entering the home and caulk windows.
  • Replace cracked glass in windows and, if you end up replacing the entire window, prime and paint exposed wood.
  • If your home has a basement, consider protecting its window wells by covering them with plastic shields. 
  • Install storm windows.

4) Inspect Roof, Gutters & Downspouts

  • If your weather temperature will fall below 32 degrees in the winter, adding extra insulation to the attic will prevent warm air from escaping to the roof, which can cause ice dams.
  • Check flashing to ensure water cannot enter the home.
  • Replace worn roof shingles or tiles.
  • Clean out the gutters and use a hose to spray water down the downspouts to clear away debris.
  • Consider installing leaf guards on the gutters or extensions on the downspouts to direct water away from the home.

5) Service Weather-Specific Equipment

  • Drain gas from lawnmowers. Service or tune-up snow blowers.
  • Replace worn rakes and snow shovels.
  • Clean, dry and store summer gardening equipment.
  • Sharpen ice chippers and buy bags of ice-melt / sand. 

6) Check Foundations

  • Rake away all debris and edible vegetation from the foundation.
  • Seal up entry points to keep small animals from crawling under the house.
  • Tuckpoint or seal foundation cracks. 
  • Inspect sill plates for dry rot or pest infestation.
  • Secure crawlspace entrances. 

7) Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors 

  • Purchase extra batteries for your smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector
  • Test both the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors monthly to ensure that they work.
  • Replace both your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors if they are older than 10 years. 
  • Purchase a fire extinguisher if your home does not already have one, or replace your current extinguisher if it is older than 10 years. 
  • Store the fire extinguisher someplace easily accessible, and make sure all family members know where it is located. 

8) Prevent Plumbing Freezes

  • Locate your water main in the event you need to shut it off in an emergency.
  • Drain all garden hoses.
  • Insulate exposed plumbing pipes.
  • Drain air conditioner pipes and turn off your AC's water shut-off valve if it has one.
  • If you go on vacation, leave the heat set to at least 55 degrees. 

9) Prepare Landscaping & Outdoor Surfaces

  • Trim trees if branches hang too close to the house or electrical wires.
  • Ask a gardener when your trees should be pruned to prevent winter injury.
  • Plant spring flower bulbs and lift bulbs that cannot winter over such as dahlias in areas where the ground freezes.
  • Seal driveways, brick patios and wood decks.
  • Clean up plant debris and mulch or sow cover crops on empty garden beds to protect the soil. 
  • Move sensitive potted plants indoors or to a sheltered area. 

10) Prepare an Emergency Kit

  • Buy indoor candles and matches or a lighter for use during a power shortage.
  • Find the phone numbers for your utility companies and put them in your cellphone contacts.
  • Buy a battery back-up to protect your computer and sensitive electronic equipment.
  • Store extra bottled water and non-perishable food supplies (including pet food, if you have a pet), blankets and a first-aid kit in a dry and easy-to-access location.
  • Prepare an evacuation plan in the event of an emergency.

This article was contributed by The Balance and edited by Eccotemp