As winter approaches, are you ready for it? Probably not. But knowing how to prepare your home for winter brings peace of mind.
The harsh winter elements can put our homes at risk of damage. So when you are preparing for snow or bitterly cold winds use this winter checklist to help keep you, your family, and your property safe. Whatever the winter weather brings your way.
Ok, let’s get on with it, here’s my how-to winterize your home checklist.
Getting Your House Ready For Winter: The Ultimate Checklist
Initially, I advise that you walk around your property and look for any general maintenance required. When preparing your home for winter, by doing a few basic general maintenance tasks you can save money on expensive repairs and your heating bill.
Make sure you’re ready before freezing cold weather and the first freeze arrives.
1. Turn Off Outdoor / Exterior Faucets
First on my list has to be winterizing your plumbing. Whether you are covered on your homeowners’ insurance or not, the fact is, burst pipes can be catastrophic. Even if you receive compensation, this doesn’t replace sentimental items or dry every out for you.
Protect exterior faucets:
- Remove any hoses that may be connected to the exterior faucets and store them somewhere safe for winter
- Isolate the faucet from the water supply using the mains supply valve
- If you can’t isolate the supply, use a thermal jacket to cover the faucet and insulate the pipes until the freezing weather passes (pre-formed insulating foam is readily available online or in your local hardware store)
- Open the faucet to drain water, no water, no frozen pipes! (leave the faucet open once drained)
For internal faucets:
By far the quickest and easiest way to stop pipes from freezing is to ‘drip the faucet’. The expression ‘dripping a faucet’ means exactly what it says, you let the faucet drip.
What do you need to do to ‘drip a faucet’?
- Before the freezing temperatures arrive, locate any pipework that may be prone to freezing. (Generally, this pipework will be on an exterior wall, in the basement, crawl space, or in garages and utility rooms, etc.).
- Locate the faucet that the pipe feeds and turn it on to a slow drip. (Between 5-10 drips per minute should do the job).
So, at what temperature do you need to ‘drip a faucet’? Personally, I say if the temperature is going to drop below 30 degrees. However, you will find that that varies slightly depending on who you speak to.
If you would like more information on this subject check out this blog from the Red Cross.
2. Clean Out Your Gutters, Gutter Guards & Downpipes
Gutterings can take quite a bashing through winter so it’s important to check them before periods of heavy snow or rain.
- Check that your guttering is not sagging or damaged
- Inspect the supports for rusty screws or broken plastic clips
- Clear obstructions and remove leaves and twigs etc
- Make sure downspouts are also in good repair and that any soakaways are clear
It’s worth noting here, it’s not just the weight of snow on your gutter that you need to worry about. With the right conditions, there is also the added threat of ice dam formations.
What is an ice dam? Ice dams are formed when snow regularly melts and then refreezes before making it off of the edge of the roof and along the gutter. You can help prevent this from happening by reducing heat loss through your roof and by using a snow roof rake to remove excess snow from a roof.
3. Reseal & Caulk Around Exterior Windows & Doors
Resealing and replacing any cracked or damaged rope caulk around your doors and windows prevents cold air from getting in. Not only will this keep you warmer it will keep your energy bills down as well.
- Walk around the exterior of your home and check that the caulking or glazing putty is in good condition. Caulking is easily replaced and a job that most homeowners can do themselves.
- Check all your windows and doors for cold air leaks inside, try to do this when the wind is blowing. (I’ve found the easiest way to find cold drafts is by running a lit candle carefully around all door and window frames).
- Seal gaps using weatherstripping or inexpensive rope caulk to create a good seal. Both are easy to use and readily available online and in hardware stores.
- If you have fly screens fitted on your and windows now is the time to replace them with storm windows.
- Check the caulking around all external door frames for damage or cracking and replace where necessary. Again this is a job that is easy for homeowners to do.
- Check exterior door floor seals are in good working order, they play a big part in keeping rain and snow runoff out of your home.
- Replace fly screen doors with storm doors for added protection.
Remember by keeping warm air in and cooler air out you will be saving money on heating bills, and reducing your carbon footprint. If you would like to look into this further Energy.gov has a lot of great information and advice.
4. Have Your Heating / Furnace Inspected
Obviously, heating systems play a huge role during this cold period and it’s important to check yours is in good working order and safe.
Personally, I recommend that you have an HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) professional do a thorough inspection and service on your heating system at least every other year, if not yearly.
This can cost you anything from $250 to $400 depending on your system but it will ensure you and your family are both warm and safe. Check out this guide on what a heating technician will do.
However, should you not be using a professional here are some simple maintenance tasks you can do yourself to prepare your furnace for winter.
- Before firing up your furnace, check the ducts and the furnace air filter are free of dust and dirt, you’ll be surprised how quickly it builds up. Note: Furnace filters need to be cleaned regularly when in use.
- Check all vents and vent pipes. Make sure internal vents are clean and clear and that there are no obstructions, such as leaves and twigs, covering the external vents.
- Now you’re ready to check your heating system is working by turning the thermostat up. Note: Modern thermostats often use batteries, make sure they are still good.
- Make sure you have enough fuel to see you through, the last thing you want is to run out in frigid weather conditions.
- Carbon monoxide leaks are the quiet killer, so now is the time to check that your carbon monoxide detectors are working.
- House fires occur more frequently during these cold months so check your smoke detectors are in good working order. If you would like more guidance on fire safety and precautions check out this article from the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association).
- Get your hot water heater serviced. If your water heater has not been serviced recently, now is a good time to get it done.
5. Have Your Attic Inspected
Good insulation and ventilation are essential for any attic space, so be sure that you have both. And, by inspecting your attic regularly you can stop small problems from becoming major repairs.
Here are a few things you can check out yourself. However, your attic is a very important part of your home so it is well worth getting a professional to give it a once over.
- Look for condensation or mold. These can be signs that there is not enough ventilation.
- Check your insulation is adequate. Good insulation stops heat loss so saves you money, keeps you warmer, and will help prevent an ice dam from forming from melting snow.
- Check for water stains or damp patches as this can be a sign you have a leak and should be addressed immediately. Leaks are not just caused by loose or damaged shingles and are not always easily found. Call the experts in if you have any doubts.
- Check for signs of any pests that have made your attic their home. They can do a lot of damage so your need to ensure your attic is pest resistant and move them on.
- Ensure that all vents and exhausts finish on the outside of the roof. It’s not unheard of for bathroom vents to finish in the attic area, this is a certain no-no.
6. Inspect Your Roof For Obvious Damage
Never attempt to climb onto a roof without appropriate safety equipment and training. Stand away from your home and take a good look at your roof, using binoculars if you have some will help.
Look for obvious signs of wear or damage such as curled, missing, or broken shingles. Check that the shingles are still in good condition, and can you see any moss or algae growing in some areas?
Pay attention to any tree branches that may cause damage either by constant scratching and rubbing or breaking under the weight of any heavy snow and in high winds.
Remember, your roof is an integral part of your home, so once again I recommend that you call in a roofing contractor if you have any concerns about its condition.
7. Inspect Your Chimney & Fireplace
If you have a wood-burning fireplace it is important that you get it checked. Personally, when it comes to fires I recommend that you bring in professionals.
Note: Never attempt to climb on a roof without the appropriate training and safety equipment.
- Use binoculars to check the chimney stack is in good order and the mortar isn’t crumbling and falling away
- Make sure that the flue or chimney is not sooted up or obstructed in any way
- Is the chimney cap is secure and clear of debris?
- Check the fireplace damper is opening and closely fully
- Inspect the interior firebox is not cracked or damaged
- If you are unsure about any of the above then get your chimney inspected by a certified sweep and swept when necessary.
Remember chimneys should be inspected annually, even if you rarely have yours lit you need to ensure it is clear of obstructions such as birds nests etc. Want some more advice then check out this article on Fire Safety Tips by Direct Energy
8. Drain Your Irrigation Systems
The worst thing you can do is leave water sitting in your irrigation systems. If the sprinkler system freezes with water in them it is highly likely to cause damage and leaks.
Check your instruction manual or contact the installer for the best way to achieve a full drain.
9. Protect Your Lawn & Flowerbeds With Mulch In Autumn
To protect your lawn and garden beds from harsher weather conditions there are several things you can do. Firstly, put mulch on your flower beds, doing this you will help maintain a more even temperature and avoid root damage from a freeze/thaw cycle. A leaf mulch will also put nutrients back into the soil throughout the colder months.
Make sure you give your lawn a good feed with fertilizer a couple of times before the snow arrives, the stronger the grass the less damage you are likely to suffer. However, if you are using a mulching mower throughout the autumn months the mulch will be replacing nutrients as it decomposes.
10. Check All Exterior Lighting
Don’t get left in the dark, take time to walk around your property and check your exterior light fittings. Are they waterproof and working? While checking, make a note of the bulb sizes, and be sure you have spare bulbs.
11. Have Snow Removal Equipment Ready
Don’t wait until you have 3 feet of snow sitting on your driveway before checking over your snow removal equipment.
Whether you own a small electric snow shovel, great for clearing snow 6 to 8 inches deep quickly and easily or you live in a snow zone and use a gas powered two-stage snowblower to clear your snow now is the time to bring them out of storage and check they are running as they should be.
Clearing snow can be hard back-breaking work at the best of times, but having the wrong tool can make it even worse do you need to upgrade yours? By using the correct snow shoveling techniques and using an ergonomic snow shovel designed for the job, you will make your life a little easier.
12. Store & Protect Any Outside Tools & Furniture
When summer is over garden tools need to be cleaned, oiled or serviced before putting away and stored in a clean and dry environment. If you have any toys or outdoor furniture ideally cover it up with a tarp or similar and where possible put in the shed or garage.
Try to avoid leaving items on your lawn as this may cause damage to the grass.
13. Emergency Supplies & Communications
Have you got a snow storm preperation checklist that will have you covered for the worst of snow storms. No? Then read on and find my list of emergency must haves.
- Battery powered LED lights in case of power outages (candles are also good to have, but please use with extreme care)
- LED flashlights, fully charged (don’t forget, LED bulbs use far less energy and will last longer than a standard flashlight).
- A USB charging hub to recharge phones in case of emergency
- Have an emergency medical kit in case EMS can’t reach your home. Here are the recommended contents for your first aid kit from RedCross.org
- Make sure you have plenty of blankets or sleeping bags available in case the heating fails
- Stock up on ready-to-eat, long-life foods, i.e ready to eat canned food, etc. For a more detailed list check out this article on disasters and emergencies from Ready.Gov
- Plenty of bottled water
14. Entertainment For You & The Family
Last but not least, be sure to have some home entertainment that doesn’t need electricity.
In the event that the power goes off, be sure to have some games to hand (here are some new, popular ones if you’re bored of Monopoly). After all playing board games or cards is great as a family, and something most of us probably don’t do enough of in this age of technology. Jigsaws and books are another great way to keep occupied on long winter nights.
Well there you have it guys, my home winterization checklist. I hope I have helped you get through this winter warm and comfortably.
Remember, peace of mind is all about being safe and prepared for when extreme weather warnings are issued. And, if in doubt don’t put your family or property at risk, call in the professionals. Have a safe winter all.
Other Questions Related To Getting Ready For Winter
Ok, to finish off here are a few answers to some of the questions that are most commonly asked.
What temperature do pipes freeze in a house?
When outside temperatures drop to 20 degrees Fahrenheit and below you may find pipes in a house start to freeze. However, having said that this will depend on how well, if at all, the pipes are insulated.
How to insulate my water meter pit in winter?
In extreme conditions, you need to insulate a water meter pit. Firstly, ensure that the meter itself is not exposed to wind and drafts and make sure the top or lid is secure. If you still feel your meter is at risk of freezing place insulation material both around the meter and the pipe.
Should you leave the heating on in an empty house in winter?
You should leave your heating on while your house is empty in the winter to avoid damage from freezing pipes etc. However, it doesn’t need to be set high, about 55 degrees Fahrenheit should do the trick fine.
What are the 5 essentials for an emergency kit?
There are many items that may come in useful for a snowstorm emergency kit. However, the essentials are, plenty of water, extra food, a flashlight or other battery-powered lighting, spare batteries or power pack, and first aid supplies.
How can I keep my home warm in extreme cold?
When you need to keep your home warm in extreme cold you need to take some steps before it hits. Check that your home is well insulated, and that doors and windows are draft-free. Use heavy curtains and move furniture away from vents and radiators etc.