If you’re a warm weather fan like Laura is, the thought of the coming winter months can be a bit depressing. The knowledge that these bright sunny days will soon transform into those cold windy nights, is enough to make anyone want to find a warm cozy corner of their home to hunker down in hibernation. Unfortunately, if you’re homeowners like we are, you know there are way too many things that need to be done around the house in preparation for those icy rain storms and heavy snow. Winter can be very damaging to your home. Ice and snow can build up on roofs leading to leaks or structural damage, water pipes can freeze, and heavy snow can wreak havoc on plants and trees. So before you grab your homemade quilt and hot cup of cocoa, take these simple steps for winter home prep.
10 Winter Home Prep Tips
Winter Home Prep Tip 1: Winter Window Preparation
The first step in preparing your widows for winter is to give them a good cleaning. Be sure to clean the glass, frame, and windowsill area. Dirt and debris on the window frame can lead to leaks and drafts.
The next step is to install the storm windows. Storm windows are especially important to have if the windows in your home are older and not very well insulated.
Next check for any visual defects to the window – obviously any broken glass should be replaced, but also look for any cracks or holes around the window frame both inside and outside the house. These should be filled in with putty or caulk. Also, check for dried out or missing chalking and weather stripping. Replace any that is worn, cracked or broken.
Now would also be a good time to remove any screens that will be exposed to the elements. Remember, if a screen is damaged, winter is a great time to repair them before they are needed for spring.
Replacing a worn out or torn screen is simple. Just follow these easy steps:
- Purchase a screen repair kit from your local hardware store, but ensure it will be big enough to fit the window
- Remove the rubber gasket holding the screen in the frame. Once the gasket is removed the screen will pop right out.
- Place the new screen over the frame and rough cut it slightly bigger than the frame. You want some extra screen to work with.
- Using the wheel tool that came with the repair kit, use the rounded edge to push the new screen into the gasket channel, and then use the grooved end to push the new gasket tight into the channel all around the frame.
- Using a sharp utility knife or scissors, trim off any excess screen. You screen is now ready for springtime.
Winter Home Prep Tip 2: Winterize Outside Doors
Check that the weather stripping around doors is intact, and not brittle. Replace if necessary. Check that any caulking around doors is not dried out or cracking. If so, remove the old caulking and replace it.
To apply new caulk:
- Start with cutting the nozzle of the caulk tube at a 45-degree angle and placing it in a caulking gun. Remember that most tubes of caulk have a patch at the base of the nozzle that needs to be punctured prior to use (I find a long nail is the easiest way to do this).
- As you apply the caulk, remember to always keep the gun at a 45º angle and pull the gun toward you, never push it as this will leave a poor bead.
- Only apply a few feet of caulk at a time.
- Use your finger to smooth out the caulk and ensure it fills any cracks and holes.
- Now just let it dry and the job is complete.
Winter Home Prep Tip 3: Check and Clean your Heating System
Your heating system is the most important part of your home during the winter months. It is critical that no matter how you heat your home, you ensure that you properly maintain your equipment, so that when the cold sets in, you can stay warm.
- Start by having your heating system tuned up by a qualified technician if required. The last thing you need is to have your system breakdown in the middle of a cold spell.
- Before the cold weather sets in, top off your oil or propane tanks. If you have a fireplace, prepare the wood you’ll need to burn.
- Vacuum any dust and dirt out of heating ducts and cold air returns. Remember to replace furnace filters every 30 days.
- Check to ensure all heating registers and radiators are unblocked and clear of furniture and drapes.
Winter Home Prep Tip 4: Insulating Your Home
Seal up any cracks in your home around:
- window frames,
- dryer exhausts,
- bath and kitchen vents,
- and electrical outlets.
Check the exterior of your house for cracks or holes and seal them up. Seal brick exteriors with a high-quality masonry sealer to prevent damage from freezing.
Winter Home Prep Tip 5: Protect Pipes and Faucets
Water supplies to outside faucets, ponds, waterfalls, etc. should be shut off and drained before the temperature drops to below freezing. Any water pipes that are directly exposed to the cold should be insulated to protect them from freezing. Insulate your pipes with foam rubber sleeves or fiberglass insulation. If pipes are located in areas of your home that are not heated, special heating strips may be required to prevent the pipes from freezing.
If the worst happens, and a pipe does freeze, here is what you can do:
- Start by shutting off the water supply to the problem pipe. If this is not possible, you may need to shut the main water supply to the house off.
- Next you need to defrost the pipe. Just remember not to heat up the pipes to quickly, or allow the water in the pipes to get hot enough to boil, or this could cause additional damage. Also remember to work from the faucet (or valve) toward the frozen area.
Here are some simple methods to use on frozen pipes:
- Use a hairdryer to heat up the frozen section of pipe.
- Wrap a rag around the pipe and pour boiling water over it.
- Use a small space heater to warm the pipe until all the ice inside melts.
- If all else fails, a small propane torch can be used, but be extremely careful not to melt and solder joints. Never use a torch on plastic pipes.
Winter Home Prep Tip 6: Winterize your Water Heater
Just like a furnace, a water heater requires routine maintenance.
The following steps should be performed to ensure you could still take those long hot showers, even in the dead of winter:
- Any shutoff valves on the heater should be opened and closed a few times to prevent seizing.
- Drain the sediment from the tank:
- Shut off the water supply to the tank.
- Attach one end of a garden hose to the drain valve located at the bottom of the water tank.
- Open the valve and allow it to drain until only clean water comes out.
- This will remove any sediment in the tank.
Winter Home Prep Tip 7: Prepare the Gutters and Roof
Gutters can become clogged with leaves and debris, resulting in water not draining properly. This water can freeze and expand causing damage.
- Clean out your gutters and downspouts, and make sure the downspouts are not discharging water at the base of your home’s foundation.
- Install wire or plastic mesh over your gutters to prevent future clogs from happening.
- Check your roof for missing or damaged shingles and replace them if necessary.
- Check that all metal flashing along the roof is properly sealed and any heating and fireplace vents are free from blockage.
Winter Home Prep Tip 8: Lawn and Garden
Preparing your yard for winter is just as important as preparing your house. Here are some easy steps to ensure you yard is in tip top shape for next summer’s cookouts.
- Trim any trees that could come in contact with your house during heavy wind gusts, or that could break off and cause damage.
- Fix any cracks or holes in driveways or walkways. These could fill with water and freeze, resulting in more damage.
- Put yard and garden furniture inside or cover it with protective tarps.
- If you have a snow blower, make sure it is ready to go – check the oil, tire pressure, etc. Be sure to have a fresh supply of gas on hand.
- Winterize pools and cover them with strong tarps to keep out leaves, twigs and animals. Drain the water from the pool if possible.
- Drain all fuel from lawn equipment that will not be used during the winter. This includes lawn mowers, tractors, weed whackers, hedge trimmers, etc.
Winter Home Prep Tip 9: Prepare for Blackouts
Winter brings heavy snow that can knock out power and telephone lines, so be prepared. Stock up on emergency items such as candles, flashlights, batteries, etc. Have these items where they can easily be accessible. A flashlight does you know good if you can’t find it in the dark. If you know a bad storm is coming, be prepared. Keep plenty of food and water around, especially if you live in an area where a winter storm can leave you home bound for a day or two.
Winter Home Prep Tip 10: Seal the Basement
During the winter months, ice and snow can build up along your foundation. As the snow and ice melts, it can seep into your basement through any cracks or crevasses. Seal basement walls and floors with a high quality water sealant to prevent this. If you know your basement leaks, take adequate precautions to protect anything stored down there. Keep valuables off the floor by storing them on shelf’s or pallets.
Ok fellow urban homesteaders, so there you have it. My top 10 tips for maintaining your home this winter. Winter is always right around the corner, and although we can’t stop it from coming, we can be prepared for it.
What tips do you have for winter home prep?