Knowing how to prepare your home for winter will help you avoid costly long-term damage while also reducing your utility bills. Get these home maintenance tasks done early so you can set your worries aside and enjoy winter fun.
Did I say “fun”? You bet I did. I absolutely adore winter: the cozy sweaters, the crackling fire at night, the way the earth is muffled as snow falls, and how clean everything looks right after that snow, too.
One thing I don’t like? Finding out the hard way that I forgot to do some important piece of home maintenance and have to pay a small fortune to fix it. Fortunately, a few years ago I started keeping a list of winterizing tasks, so I don’t forget.
How To Prepare Your Home For Winter
It’s best to get these tasks done before winter sets in, so mark them down on your calendar. Ideally, you want to have these tasks tended to a couple of weeks before your first snow or hard freeze. Find your area’s average first freeze dates here then schedule these chores in the weeks leading up to it.
1. Schedule this. Have your furnace inspected and cleaned by a licensed professional. Annual inspections aren’t just about keeping your unit functioning well — they’re also essential to protecting your family.
Every year when the weather turns cold, we flip on our furnaces without thinking about what could go wrong. And every year the news carries a story about a family who didn’t have a carbon monoxide detector to warn them that their furnace was leaking. Don’t be a headline: get your furnace checked for leaks! A proper inspection (which costs less than $100) will also involve changing the filter and inspecting hoses and belts for signs of wear.
2. Turn these off. Uninsulated outdoor pipes can freeze and crack due to the expansion of water in them. Even a tiny 1/8-inch hole can spew hundreds of gallons of water a day. As we learned one year, that doesn’t always happen at a convenient time: our pipe had leaked all night long before we discovered it, turning our back patio into an ice rink and running our water bill up three times higher than normal!
If your area gets hard freezes, turn off outdoor spigots and sprinklers then drain them to prevent such problems. To keep indoor pipes from bursting, insulate the ones in your basement, crawl space or attic, and keep your home thermostat above 55F even when you’re gone. (More ways to keep pipes from freezing here.)
3. Clean this. Dried leaves, dead birds and storm debris can build up in a chimney’s flue over without the homeowner knowing it. That buildup — along with soot and creosote — can block the vent and lead to a buildup of carbon monoxide in the home and fires in the walls of the chimney.
Whether you have a wood-burning or gas fireplace, it’s important to have your chimney professional cleaned, especially if you’ve recently had roofing work done or just bought your home. But don’t trust the job to just anyone — find a certified inspector at the Chimney Safety Institute of America.
4. Trim this. Before those gorgeous autumn leaves fall, give your trees a once-over to look for any dead or broken limbs. Those need to be removed before winter snow and ice weigh them down further, possibly leading to property damage and certainly harming the tree.
5. Stock up on these. If you live in an area with snowy winters, autumn and spring are the best times to buy ice melt and snow-removal equipment. Wait too long, and you’ll likely see stores run out when the forecast calls for the first storm of winter. Make sure you’ve got an ice scraper and blankets in your car, and that you’ve stocked up on batteries and candles, too.
PROCRASTINATION DOESN’T PAY
If it’s still warm where you live, it might seem silly to think about doing winter chores this early in the season. Putting them off can be a costly mistake, though. So put down that pumpkin spice whatever and prepare your home for winter, then rest easy knowing you’re ready to face whatever Mother Nature throws your way.
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