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How to winterize a house

Published June 6, 2024| minute read

    They say that, “Prevention is better than cure,” which is why seasonal checks may be a good way to ensure your house is in tip-top condition.

    Cold, winter weather can really put your house through its paces, so you may want to  learn how to winterize a house and prepare it for the cold season. Let’s look into what winterizing is, why it’s recommended for homeowners and how to winterize your house to ensure it’s ready for temperature drops and extreme weather conditions.

    What is winterizing a house?

    Ice, snow and low temperatures all have the potential to negatively affect various systems and installations around your property, as well as increase the chance of maintenance issues. Winterizing a house is simply a set of procedures to help prepare your place for winter to protect it against freezing temperatures and harsh weather.

    While winterizing your primary residence seems somewhat obvious, it may also be good to consider doing the same for any vacation home or secondary residence that you may have. This way, you can help lower the risk of weather-related property issues when you’re not there.

    Why winterize a home?

    Winterizing your home might be beneficial for a few reasons. For one, it helps you prevent problems that might occur due to abrupt temperature changes, heavy snowfalls or any other issues winter might bring. Some common winter nuisances include burst pipes, roof leaks or collapses, water damage from clogged gutters and damage from falling ice — many of which could be rather costly to fix later on.

    One of the main focuses of home winterization is to ensure your place has good insulation and no cracks. This helps make your home more energy efficient, which, in turn, could help save on energy bills over time.

    Finally, winterizing a house might also help you live more sustainably, as you’ll likely need to spend fewer resources to stay warm during the winter.

    When to winterize your home

    Since winterizing is about getting ready before winter weather hits, you might not want to wait till the first freeze to start winterizing your property. Some homeowners begin winter preparations in October, in the early days of fall, while others may start even earlier.

    That being said, some of these activities involve working at heights or require extra tools and skills. If you want to get the help of a professional, you may want to book their services earlier, so they’re available at your convenience.

    8 steps to winterize your home

    Sadly, there’s no standardized checklist for winterizing a home. Still, there are some common things to consider when trying to protect a house against cold weather and winter precipitation. Examples include:

    1. Insulating the pipes

    If the temperature in your area gets below freezing during the winter, you may want to inspect pipes in the house before the first frost. If the water in the pipe freezes and expands, it could lead to a burst pipe. This, in turn, could lead to water damage and costly emergency repairs. To help prevent pipes from bursting, consider insulating pipes at risk of freezing, particularly exterior pipes and those in the basement or attic. There are multiple approaches and materials used for insulation, and you can contact a professional if you don’t feel comfortable with the DIY approach.

    Pro tip: Even if you're gone from home for a few days (or weeks), consider leaving your thermostat at 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit. This is another tactic to help protect pipes from freezing.

    2. Inspecting the roof

    The roof of your house takes a hit every winter, bearing the weight of all the snow and sleet that falls throughout the season. On top of that, roof repairs can cost homeowners a pretty penny, depending on the complexity of the project and the scope of work. To keep the situation in check, you may want to have your roof inspected before the beginning of the winter. The inspector should check for any missing or damaged shingles, that the shingles are tightly attached and also check to ensure that the roof is not sinking.

    3. Keeping the gutters clean

    Every autumn comes with falling leaves, which often clog your gutters. During winter, clogged gutters are more prone to ice and snow buildup (ice dam), which prevents melting snow from draining properly. This may result in water damage and indoor leaks, so it’s essential to give the gutters a thorough cleaning before each winter. You could also look into installing gutter guards to hopefully reduce the amount of debris getting inside.

    4. Inspecting your HVAC system

    Another area to pay attention to when winterizing your home is the HVAC system and its filter, in particular. It’s usually recommended to change the HVAC filter every few months, so you might want to include this step in your annual winter preparation routine. A clean filter will function more efficiently, as dust and other particles will not block the airflow. This may help you heat the house quicker, lower the energy costs and prolong the life of your HVAC system.

    5. Checking your windows

    Windows that are not insulated properly could be one of the most significant causes of heat loss during the cooler season. Start by looking for gaps around your window frames; you could use caulk to repair minor cracks. If your windows are in less-than-great condition, you may want to consider replacing them with a newer, energy-efficient model. You could also hang curtains or drapes if you don't have any, as they might provide some additional insulation and help keep heat inside.

    6. Searching for air leaks

    If you noticed some drafts in your house last winter, you could try installing weather stripping and seals around your doors and window frames. There are many different kinds to choose from, depending on the place of installation and the primary goal.

    7. Preparing handy tools and equipment

    Even though winter inevitably comes every year in some parts of the country, the first snow or sleet takes many people by surprise. Double-checking to make sure you have essential tools ready and easy to access is a helpful way to not get caught off-guard. Some basics include a snow shovel, ice melt, ice scraper and a roof rake.

    8. Examining your homeowners insurance policy

    Although many lenders ask for homeowners insurance when financing a home, it’s not legally required to insure your house. However, having homeowners insurance could save you a lot of trouble year-round (including winter months). The exact coverage will depend on your policy, but many standard policies may cover winter storms and ice-related damage.

    In summary

    Learning how to winterize a house is a practice every homeowner might benefit from. Winterizing helps protect your place from cold temperatures and harsh weather and may even help potentially cut down your energy usage. While many of these processes may be generally DIY-friendly, you might also want to consider enlisting some professional help for certain areas like the roof, in particular. Learning to reduce the risk of weather-related maintenance issues through proper winterization may just provide you with some extra peace of mind as you stay warm and cozy during the holiday season.

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