Prepare Your Home for Winter
Check your home’s exterior and roof
Snow and icicles may be pretty to look at, but they can trigger serious damage to your home. Accumulating snow and ice can cause tree branches to break and fall, form ice dams by clogging your gutters, and even destroy your roof or force it to collapse. Here are steps you can take now before winter begins to prevent these issues from occurring on your property:
- Inspect the outside of your home
Examine your exterior for loose or missing shutters and siding, and repair items in poor condition.
- Examine the condition of your roof
Check your roof’s shingles, flashing and gutters, and replace anything damaged.
- Clean out your gutters
Are your gutters filled with leaves? Now’s the time to clean them out before ice has a chance to accumulate and back up under your shingles.
- Check out your chimney
If you notice your chimney is leaning or the mortar has chipped, get it repaired as quickly as possible.
- Trim the trees surrounding your home
Get rid of any weak and dead branches before they have a chance to fall on your house, garage or power lines.
- Consider buying a roof rake
Roof rakes allow you to push snow off your roof while you’re safely standing on the ground.
Take steps to prevent ice dams
An ice dam forms when snow melts, drains down your roof and refreezes at the edge. These can cause major destruction to your house by damaging gutters, ripping shingles and forcing water to back up into your home, ruining ceilings, walls and insulation. By keeping your roof consistently cool and taking other preventative steps, you can stop ice dams from forming.
Stop frozen pipes from happening
When temperatures drop, pipes get cold and the water inside them can freeze. This ice buildup can burst the pipes and cause costly damage, including ruined floors and walls, ceiling collapse and mold. Here are some things you can do to protect your home against frozen pipes:
- Drain and disconnect outdoor hoses and sprinkler supply lines
- Insulate pipes in unheated spaces like basements, garages and attics with pipe sleeves or heat tape
- Trickle cold water from faucets connected to pipes in unheated spaces when temperatures drop
- Keep out cold drafts by adding weather stripping around doors or caulk around your windows
- Set your home’s thermostat at a minimum of 65 degrees. If you won’t be living there during the winter, keep the temperature at no lower than 55 degrees
- Keep garage doors closed
- Know where your home’s main water valve is located and how to turn it off. It’s typically found in the basement, on the side of the house that faces the street
Care for your landscape and outdoor items
Protect your plants before temperatures start to dip. Some shrubs need to be wrapped with burlap to protect them from frost. Layering mulch around the base of your plants will offer insulation and keep them protected. Cover your outdoor furniture so that snow and ice won’t seep in and ruin them. If you have the room, store these items in a shed or garage.
Put a freeze on fires
Cold weather increases the risk of a home fire. Heating equipment, fireplaces, holiday decorations and candles all contribute to more home fires occurring in the winter than any other time. Here are some tips to help you maintain a fire-safe home:
Inspect all fireplaces, chimneys, wood and coal stoves, furnaces and portable heating equipment to ensure all are in proper working order. Before the heating season begins, call a licensed technician to service your furnace or boiler and replace the filter. Check to be sure that nothing that can easily catch fire is located near your heat sources, like portable heaters. If you do use a portable heater, limit the length of time you run it. These have been known to cause fires when left on for long periods. Use your fireplace screen or door to control sparks, and be sure to properly dispose of ashes. Close the fireplace flue when you’re not using it.
When decorating your home for the holidays, test all lights and cords, and replace any items that don’t work. Don’t connect more than three strands of lights together or plug too many lights into one outlet. Be sure to use lights intended for outdoor use to decorate your home’s exterior, and lights meant for indoor use to adorn the inside of your home.
Keep burning candles out of reach of children and pets, and always extinguish them before you leave the room or go to sleep. Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything flammable, including wood floors.
Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
Test all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Replace the batteries twice a year, and make sure they’re all working properly. Smoke detectors should be installed inside each bedroom, outside the sleeping area and on every level of your home, including the basement.
Stock up on winter essentials
Now’s the time to buy the items you’ll need when it gets snowy and icy, like shovels, snow blowers and ice melt. For a pet-friendly ice melt, the ASPCA suggests using one that contains urea or magnesium chloride. If your walkway is concrete, sand is the best material to improve traction.