You only need a weekend to finish these tasks that get your home ready for winter. From changes in decor to protecting your home’s exterior and preparing your heater, you’ll be ready when the cold weather arrives.
How Do You Get a Home Ready for Winter?
Getting your home ready for winter involves several tasks beyond a thorough Autumn deep-cleaning. When dealing with cold temperatures and icy or snowy conditions, you want to protect your home’s structure while also protecting your budget from unnecessary heating costs. So, set aside a weekend or two before the temperatures plunge and do these home maintenance tasks to safeguard your shelter.
Indoor Tasks to Get Ready for Winter
Preparing your home for winter is about more than hygge, that buzzword referring to the warm, cozy comfort and sense of secure contentment that Danish homes are known for. That sense of well-being is important, of course, but it’s the product of ensuring that your home’s interior is just as ready as the exterior to handle the elements.
Hang Heavier Drapes and Curtains
Hanging heavier drapes in the fall helps insulate your home and keeps your heated air inside. Darker colors absorb the sun’s heat through windows, so they can help draw warmth into your home, too. During colder months, make it a habit to open your curtains once the sun rises but close them before sunset to trap the warmth indoors. Don’t forget to clean your summer curtains before storing them, too, so they’re ready to rehang in the Spring.
Your living room’s fireplace is a natural focal point in colder months. So, part of getting your home ready for fall often means rearranging rooms. Moving seating areas away from drafty windows and doors also helps you stay warmer. And when you’re warm sitting in your favorite spot, you’re less likely to crank up the thermostat.
Rotate Area Rugs and Cushions
Once the heater gets turned on for the season, you’ll probably keep your windows shut, too. That can trap you indoors with dust mites, allergens, and odors that carpets and soft furnishings have picked up throughout the summer. So, before those temperatures dive, shampoo your carpet and clean your sofa to reduce irritants in your home’s air. Try to time it done for a warm day when you can open the windows to help your carpet dry faster.
Clean and Reverse Ceiling Fan Blades
If your ceiling fans have been running all summer, they’re probably coated in dust. To clean them, use an extension pole and a ceiling fan brush. (I use this one.) Then push the switch on the side of the motor housing to reverse the fan’s direction. When the blades rotate clockwise, they pull cool air up from the room toward the ceiling and send warm air that’s collected up there down to help keep you warm.
Clean Your Furnace and Change Filters
A quick service inspection keeps your furnace running well all winter. But you can also get your home’s furnace ready for fall by cleaning it yourself in minutes. All you need to do is shut off the system and remove the cover. Then, vacuum away dust, change the filter, and put the cover back on. Here’s how to clean your own air ducts while you’re at it.
Change Batteries in Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Some people change their smoke and carbon monoxide detector batteries during Spring Cleaning. Others wait until Daylight Saving Time ends in November. The important thing is to change them each year, so you know they’re working. Remember to dust your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, too, and never paint them so their sensors can do their job.
Reprogram Your Thermostat
The cost of home heating fuel is expected to soar this year. So, a good task to do before winter is to review your home’s thermostat settings. According to the Department of Energy, turning your thermostat down 7-8° per day will reduce your heating bill by 10% per year. If you work outside the home, set it to 60-65°F while you’re gone. Working from home? Set your thermostat that low during sleeping hours when you’ll be warm under the covers. You can even get one you can program for different times every day of the week. (I like this one.)
Clean Your Fireplace and Get Your Chimney Inspected
Give your fireplace some TLC when you get your home ready for winter. Sweep away dust and cobwebs, then use soapy water and a scrub brush to clean soot from your fireplace walls, too. If you have a wood-burning fireplace, have a professional chimney sweep inspect it annually to prevent hidden creosote buildup in your chimney that could lead to high carbon monoxide levels in your home. Have a gas fireplace? You should still get inspections every three to four years.
Check Your Emergency Supplies
As part of your tasks to get ready for winter, make sure you’ve got ample supplies in your home to get through at least three days without power or heat. You’ll need batteries for flashlights and other devices, canned food, a gallon of water per person per day, and cooking fuel. (We use Sterno Canned Heat for cooking and warmth in such emergencies.) During winter, it’s also important that you keep your car’s gas tank at least 1/4 full and have adequate medication on hand, in case of a sudden change in travel conditions.
Outdoor Tasks to Get Ready for Winter
While the indoor tasks to get ready for cold weather are about creating a safe and warm environment for your family, these outdoor tasks are about maintaining your home and keeping winter from damaging it.
Winterize Windows and Doors
The older your windows are, the more heat they’re likely to lose due to single panes or gaps — but even newer vinyl windows can warp so much that they no longer seal properly. The same goes for exterior doors: settling foundations, failing woodwork, and loose hinges can all lead to gaps around them. Where there are gaps, you’ll lose warm air and feel drafts as cold exterior air gets into your home.
To find gaps around your windows and doors, first close them and then slowly move a lit stick of incense or a candle around the edges. If the smoke or flame flutters, you’ve got a gap. Seal it with caulk or weatherstripping. Even without gaps, if you feel a noticeable difference in the temperature near your windows and doors, you should consider insulating them with a shrink-wrap kit. You’ll save your heating system extra work, and that will save you money, too.
Paint or Stain and Seal Wood
Rain, snow, and ice can permanently damage untreated wood surfaces. Once moisture gets into wood fences or decks, it expands in the cold so the wood develops cracks and splinters. The same process can turn a small space in your siding into a major fissure that allows pests and water into your home’s walls. That’s why inspecting your home’s exterior is an important task in preparing for winter. Replace rotting wood if you find any, then protect it with a layer of paint. For decks, fences, and other wood surfaces, make sure they’re sealed whether or not you decide to stain them.
Check Your Roof and Drainage
When it’s icy outside, you do not want to be climbing on the roof to find the source of a leak or eliminate ice dams in the gutters. So, an urgent task before winter involves cleaning gutters and downspouts to keep water draining away from your home’s foundation. While you’re up there on the ladder, take a look at your roof. If you find any loose or missing shingles or other damage, call a home roofing company to handle the task or replace it yourself before winter.
Before winter arrives, trim any tree branches that could allow animals access to your roof. Once the temperatures plunge, squirrels and other rodents will use that access to get into your warm attic through the gable vents. They won’t be content to remain in your attic, though, and will quickly get into other areas of your home. While you’re inspecting your trees, also remove any damaged branches or weak ones that are likely to break under the weight of snow.
Prep and Put Away Lawn Tools
Once you’ve finished your outdoor tasks to get your home ready for winter, gather up and prep your lawn and garden tools for storage. Sand wood handles and repaint them if they’re rough. Oil metal parts to protect them from rust and sharpen your lawnmower blades before storage. Be sure to empty all machinery fuel tanks, too, so they don’t seize up over the winter.
Get Your Firewood
If you have a wood-burning fireplace or fire pit, stock up on firewood before demand peaks. You might even be able to find free firewood near you. Don’t stack firewood against your home’s foundation or keep more than you need indoors: it’s a prime breeding spot for household pests. When winter sets in, you don’t want to discover that you’re sharing your home with some unexpected, wild housemates, so stack firewood at least five feet away from your home’s foundation.
Once you’ve completed these tasks to get your home ready for winter, you can feel good about enjoying the change of seasons knowing you’ve protected your home so it can protect you.
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