Winter is coming. Well, maybe not today, but the season that can be the hardest on our homes is nonetheless approaching. Winterizing your house might seem complicated, especially if you’ve never done it before. But if you follow these tips, you’ll be ready for snow, sleet, or hail before you know it.
It’s a smart move to start thinking about your winterizing needs and working on them right now. By the time the first cold snap hits, everyone realizes that they need to get moving on the winterizing, and that’s not a good time to book appointments to replace insulation or manage any repairs that might be needed.
Inspect Your Roof
Your roof gets a lot of battering from Mother Nature, whether that’s in the form of precipitation, intense sunlight, or a mixture of both. And fixing any issues with your roof (or replacing it entirely) is much, much easier and cheaper to do in the summertime than in the wintertime, when you’ll be battling the elements to get the job done. Instead, get your roof inspected as soon as possible, and ask the roofing expert for specific suggestions about what needs to be done (if anything) before winter truly hits. It’s always a good idea to choose an inspector you trust, so talk to your neighbors and your real estate agent to get referrals for a good roof inspector.
Check Windows, Doors, and Vents For Air Leaks
When a house feels drafty or too cold in the winter, it’s almost always because the windows, doors, or air vents aren’t well-sealed and are leaking all your warm air outside while allowing cold air inside. Check all your openings to the outside for leaks and seal them up. Replacing doors and windows especially can be pretty expensive. If you’ve got an older house with a lot of drafty windows, hanging plastic sheeting over those windows can seal them up and prevent leaks without sacrificing any sunlight in the process. You can buy kits to plastic-seal your windows at home improvement and hardware stores.
Clean (and Consider Sealing) Your Chimney
If you have a chimney connected to a fireplace, then cleaning it out can really improve the air flow throughout your entire home, especially if it’s a chimney for a wood fireplace. Of course, improving the air flow might make the chimney more useful on a day-to-day basis, but it also is another way for drafts to enter your house. To prevent this, if you aren’t going to use your fireplace in the winter, use a chimney balloon to seal the leak.
Clear Your Gutters
Full gutters and a rain or snowstorm add up to a really great way to damage your roof. After most of the leaves have fallen off any nearby trees, but before winter really sets in, grab a ladder and spend a weekend afternoon clearing out any debris from your gutters so that rain and snowmelt will have an exit path from your roof. You can also hire contractors that will do this job for you – and their ladders may reach higher than yours, so it’s definitely worth considering if you’re uncomfortable with heights or don’t have the equipment.
Protect Your Plants
Depending on the local climate, some plants are going to fare better outside in the wintertime than others. Even some perennial bulbs are so sensitive to the cold that you need to dig them up and bring them inside in the wintertime or they’ll die.
Change Your Furnace Filters
When was the last time you replaced your furnace filter? Depending on how many animals you have in the house, it’s probably been two long – most furnace filters should be replaced at least twice a year, and some of them as often as six times a year. The arrival of winter is always a good time to make sure your furnace is operating at peak capacity, so it’s especially important to remember to change your filter.
Drain and Store Garden Hoses
Like pipes, garden hoses with water inside them can freeze and burst. When you’re finished with the garden hoses for the season, disconnect them, drain them, and store them somewhere safe until you’re ready to break them out again in the springtime.
Flush Your Water Heater
Water heaters can accumulate sediment over time, and the sediment can interfere with the heater’s operation. If you haven’t flushed your water heater, think about doing so before winter hits so that your heater is operating at peak condition once the cold is here and you really want a hot bath.
Increase Your Insulation
If you’re starting the winterizing process early enough, it might be a good idea to assess your current level of insulation and beef it up if you think it’s inadequate. Depending on when your house was built and what kind of insulation was used, this can make a big difference in how warm it stays during the winter; well-insulated houses won’t let warm air escape, keeping things nice and cozy inside.
Add Storm Doors
A storm door provides a buffer from the cold outside in a couple of ways – first, by serving as an additional barrier between the front door and Mother Nature, and second, by allowing less warm air to escape when you enter or leave the house. These can be expensive, depending on your needs, but they are very effective at eliminating drafts and air seepage from your home’s main entry.
Check Your Toolbox
Before you settle in to enjoy winter, check to make sure you have everything you’ll need when it arrives. Is your snow shovel in good shape? How about snow brushes or ice scrapers for your cars? Are there gloves, hats, and scarves easily accessible so you can grab them before you go? What else might you need to deal with the weather ahead? By taking an inventory of your tools before you need them, you won’t be unpleasantly surprised by a shovel handle snapping off right when you need it most, or trying to scrape ice off your windshield with a credit card.
Winterizing isn’t as challenging as it might seem; one of the hardest parts is figuring out what to do (and skip) for your own home. If you aren’t sure whether one of these tips is worth it, talk to your neighbors or ask your real estate agent what they do and what’s typical for the area, so you don’t miss anything critical.