As the mercury dips toward the lower end of the thermometer, homeowners should be considering the stormy winter months ahead. There are things we can—and certainly should—do to protect our homes from the season’s icy fury, and this is typically called “winterization.”
Winterization also helps reduce the costs of maintenance and utilities; inventorying your projects for home maintenance and improvement will help you budget for maximum value and comfort. For some help with figuring out where to start—or where to look next—when it comes to winterization, here are some tips.
Keep in mind that not all of these will apply to your home, or there may be things not mentioned here that your home has that will need to be prepared for the cold. If you decide to carry out winterization on your own, it’s going to take your specialized knowledge of your home to make sure nothing is missed.
A basic tip for winterization is to check your heating system. It’s always a good idea to have a technician take a look to catch something that may be critical, and equally beneficial to have them check out related equipment such as air cleaners, humidifiers, and heat-exchanging ventilators. Checking your heating system is one of the best ways to save money in the colder months.
Winterization isn’t just about the areas of your home in which you spend the most time. You also need to ensure that your crawlspace is insulated. The gap will make floors colder, which will make your heating system work harder. If that’s too expensive, check to see that pipes and heating ducts that pass through unprotected crawlspaces or attics are insulated. This will prevent freezing and burst pipes.
Roof & Attic
Again, winterization isn’t just about bedrooms and living spaces. Ensure that attic insulation doesn’t cover vents in the eaves (also known as “soffits” or “overhangs”), otherwise ice dams could form; stoppered meltwater could get into the roof or walls and cause water damage. Check that any ridge vents located at the eaves are free of plants and other sorts of debris.
Birds and rodents will be looking for somewhere warm in the colder months, so make sure screens for attic vents are still in good shape. Replace if necessary. While rats have a suitably negative reputation it may seem like a kindness to “help” the local bird population, but that’s not a good idea. Bird dander can be trouble for anyone with allergies, and birds can carry parasites—particularly in their feces—that they may drop in, around, and on your home in far greater quantities than they do during the rest of the year.
Exterior & Siding
Walk around your home. Check for rotted/rotting wood and replace anything you find. Check mortar joints; repair cracks and crumbling to prevent more damage. Check for gaps around pipes and wires that pass through the exterior walls, and add caulk so that air can’t leak through. When it comes to winterization, no gap is too small to fill.
If you use firewood, make sure your woodpiles aren’t leaning against the house. Allowing this can cause damage to your siding. Woodpiles also become residences for critters seeking shelter from the cold. If they find a gap through which they can access your home, well, as far as they’re concerned they’ve won the woodpile jackpot.
Hoses & Pipes
An important task of winterization actually benefits your summer needs. Remove, drain, and coil garden hoses to prevent water from freezing in them. Close the interior cut-off valve for outdoor faucets and then open outdoor faucets to drain them, so that no water will freeze in the pipe between. Don’t forget to clear your gutters, too.
A vital part of winterization is to be sure that cracked or broken window panes or damaged screens are repaired or replaced. Make sure windows open and shut easily. Replace or repair broken window locks or latches. Not only is this safer for your family in the event of a fire, but windows and doors that don’t latch or lock also don’t seal properly against the weather. Check the putty around window panes. If chunks are coming off, apply more.
Chimneys & Safety Devices
The average fireplace fire doesn’t burn cleanly. Scorched particles rise with the hot air and stick to inner chimney walls. Buildups from past fires can catch fire again, leading to dangerous chimney fires. If you have a chimney, have it cleaned out and looked over by a chimney sweep, who will be able to spot any problems.
Now is also a great time to ensure that all smoke detectors are functioning and have fresh batteries. If you don’t have a carbon monoxide alarm near your furnace or any fireplaces that get used, it’s a good idea to invest in one. They aren’t terribly expensive and will detect the odorless, colorless poison gas that might threaten the lives inside your home.
Take Your Time
Winterization doesn’t have to be a big, stressful job. Plan a weekend and create a checklist of things that need to be done around the home, then schedule accordingly. For safety purposes, you should do any activities that require a ladder on a day when the weather is mild and the ground is dry.
Free yourself up to enjoy the season by taking time in advance to be prepared for any home and yard issues that could derail your winter plans.