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Preparing your Home for Winter

snow covered house in winterWith winter just around the corner, and fall storms already rolling in, it’s time to get your home ready for the coldest days of the season. Preparing your home for winter can seem like a daunting endeavor, winter home maintenance is worth it to avoid major crises when things go wrong. Here are some tips to make sure your home is ready for winter from the inside out.

Keeping the Cold Out

In order to avoid sky-high heating bills, you’ll want to make sure your furnace isn’t waging a constant battle against cold air making its way inside. Performing routine winter home maintenance to ensure it is properly insulated is cheap and can be done on your own. Follow these steps to prepare your home for winter winds blowing through your home:

  • Inspect caulking around windows and doors, and repair where necessary. If you don’t already have weather-stripping around doors and windows, buy a weather-stripping kit from your local hardware store. They’re inexpensive and provide an extra layer of protection.
  • Inspect windows for cracks or gaps and replace window panes if necessary. You can also install storm windows or window film to keep cold from coming in through single-pane glass.
  • Check your fireplace for drafts — if the damper is closed and it’s still drafty, the damper may need replaced.
  • If you worry about cold air coming up from the basement or down from the attic, you can always insulate more. Also, be sure to double check these areas for drafts and caulk any cracks or gaps to properly prepare your home for winter.
  • Remove window A/C units or put covers over them.

Performing Winter Home Maintenance to Warm the Inside

Now that you’ve made sure your heating efforts aren’t going to be thwarted by drafts, it’s time to pay some attention to the heating. To stay warm, prepare your home for winter by doing the following:

  • Have a professional inspect and clean your heating pump or furnace. This is step one to winter home maintenance, and should run around $80-$100, and they will also vacuum the vents and other heating components, tell you whether your filter needs replaced, and check for carbon monoxide leaks.
  • Hire a chimney sweep to inspect and clean your fireplace and flue or do so yourself by inspecting the flue system and firebox and making sure they’re clean of soot and creosote and checking for cracks or voids that could pose a fire hazard. The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends having your chimney inspected annually and cleaned as needed. It can run $150-200 for an inspection but is a worthwhile investment as a safety precaution alone.
  • Reverse your ceiling fan, if possible. Hot air rises, and this might be able to save you a degree or two on your thermostat, especially in rooms with high ceilings.
  • If you have an older thermostat, consider replacing it with a new, programmable one. You should always keep the temp above 50, and ideally over 55, but this way if you like it a toasty 70 degrees when you’re home and awake, you don’t always need to remember to reset it when you leave.

Prepare Your Home for Winter by Checking Your Pipes and Insulation

One of the most expensive and frustrating things that can come from not preparing your home for winter is flooding from a burst pipe. Do everything you can to make sure the water in your pipes stays in its liquid form and avoid a great deal of trouble.

  • Insulate pipes in unheated parts of your home or on exterior walls. You can purchase pipe sleeves at your local hardware store, or even add heat tape to particularly vulnerable pipes.
  • Keep your thermostat at or above 50 degrees Fahrenheit at all times (ideally 55), even when you’re on vacation. This keeps less-insulated indoor pipes safer from freezing and bursting.
  • Keep cabinet doors open, along with doors to the basement and other cold areas of house, to protect pipes.
  • Always leave faucets running at a low level. Even cold water is warmer than ice, and keeping it running helps keep pipes from freezing.
  • Shut off exterior faucets, drain outdoor pipes, valves, and sprinkler heads, and hire someone to blow out your sprinkler system.
  • Empty water out of all hoses and store them.

Prepare Your Yard, Roof, and Gutters

Your indoor winter home maintenance has all been completed — time to take care of the outside! From fallen tree limbs to ice dams, there are plenty of outdoor issues you want to avoid and can do so with some preparation.

  • Trim overgrown branches or hire someone to prune trees near exterior of home or power lines that could cause problems in a major storm.
  • Inspect your roof for weak spots and/or missing shingles.
  • Clean your gutters and check them for proper fastening. Clogged gutters can cause your roof to leak and lead to ice dams. You can hire someone to do this outdoor winter home maintenance for you or do it on your own. Make sure to wait until the leaves fall, or you’ll just have to do it again.
  • Redirect water from gutters to drain away from house by at least 5 feet, to avoid ice dams, mold, and other damage from pooled water. The dirt around your home should also slope away from the foundation. You can add extra dirt if it doesn’t.
  • Mulch fallen leaves with your mower. Piles of fallen leaves in your yard can lead to damp areas, and eventually, mold. Avoid this by mulching the leaves and using them as fertilizer. You can also bag the mulched leaves if you prefer — the volume will be significantly less than had you not mulched them.

Winter Home Maintenance Also Means Taking Care of Your Tools

Now that you’re done mulching, it’s time to get that mower stowed away for winter and get the snow blower ready.

  • Bring seasonal tools inside and coat them in a layer of lightweight oil to prevent rust.
  • Clean leaves, mud, grass, and other debris off of your lawn mower.
  • Prep your snow blower by changing the oil and replacing the spark plug.

Stay Safe!

Winter can be a treacherous season for a number of reasons. From heating implements causing fires to icy sidewalks leading to bad falls, there are a variety of risks you can mitigate with proper planning.

  • Check all of your exterior lighting and replace any dim bulbs. You want to be able to see slippery areas to avoid falls when it’s icy.
  • Inspect hand and guard rails.
  • Keep ice melt or sand on hand.
  • Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, as we’re entering a season with more indoor fire hazards, and heavier use of heating and ovens that might leak carbon monoxide.

Winter home maintenance can make all the difference between having a warm, safe winter and dealing with problem after problem. If you miss any of these steps and end up needing a professional to help clean up the mess, we here at Abbotts are available 24/7 and ready to help.


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