Though we might not all live in areas where winter weather means blizzards, most homeowners in the US will experience some form of intense winter weather and are tasked with the job of preparing their home for strong winds and potential snowfall. But where to start? Trying to imagine what could go wrong while it’s still autumn can be an overwhelming and daunting task, but it’s not impossible, especially with the help of a homeowner’s winterizing guide like this one.
The key to any preparation guide is to get started early and prioritize based on your home’s needs. Make sure to take care of the projects that will affect your family’s safety first, and don’t be scared to contact a professional if you have any uncertainties so you know your family will be safe and sound indoors this winter.
The 2015 Homeowner’s Guide
- Clear your lawn of leaves, either by raking and bagging or by mulching the leaves back into your lawn. Removing the leaves will keep them from damaging your lawn during the winter months, and mulching will help return nutrients as the leaf bits decompose.
- If you have trees on your property, be sure to contact an arborist to remove any dead, broken, or dangerous limbs. Heavy snow and increased winds can cause the branches to break off and damage your home or property.
- Turn off your irrigation system at the end of the season and drain the lines of any remaining water. Detach hoses from spigots and bring them indoors.
- Decks in disrepair often sustain more damage than well-kept decks due to winter weather. Focus on fixing loose railings and broken steps; ice can turn autumn inconveniences into winter hazards.
- Make a snow removal plan for your driveway and walkways, and stock up on Environmental Protection Agency-approved salt or sand before the first snow of the season.
- If your roof and/or siding have sustained damage in the past, contact a professional roofing contractor or siding expert ASAP. Snow can cause weak roofs to cave, and wind is much more likely to affect damaged siding. Don’t forget to clean out the gutters, too.
- Easily one of the most pressing concerns, homes lose a lot of heat during the cold months. Insulating your attic is one of the best steps you can take - not only will you save money, but attics without proper insulation can lead to (expensive) water damage on the roof, too.
- Windows and doors are culprits of drafts too, and often all they need is some fresh caulk to stop airflow between the warm indoors and the chilly outdoors.
- Autumn is the perfect time to tune up your HVAC system. Have a professional inspect your furnace now instead of waiting for it to break down during the big winter storm, and it’s a good time to do maintenance for your AC system too, so it’s in good shape for next summer.
- Switch ceiling fans to the clockwise (reverse) position while the heat is on.
- Pipes are liable to freeze and burst with the cold winter temperatures. Take care to replace any old or worn pipes to prevent water damage and expensive repairs. Drain any exterior pipes that can be empty through the season as an added precaution.
- Exposed pipes can also be a problem through cold months, but it’s easy and inexpensive to insulate them with pre-slit tubular pipe insulation. You can also insulate the water heater if you find it’s giving off too much heat - if it feels warm, it’s not a bad idea.
- If you plan to use a fireplace for heat during the winter (or if you plan to use it at all throughout the season), make sure you contact a Chimney Safety Institute of America-endorsed chimney sweep to perform an inspection and do any necessary cleaning. Without it, chimneys are responsible for house fires and carbon-monoxide poisoning during cold-weather months, so it’s important to make sure your family will be safe this winter.