The days are getting shorter and there’s a chill in the air. While the idea of cozying up inside as the snow falls can be appealing, if your home isn’t ready for the cold weather you’ll end up feeling more stressed than snug.
Don’t get caught with your furnace down and pipes frozen — prepare your place now for the winter ahead. We’ve put together a list of 12 must-do tasks to get your home in shape for the season. By tackling these essential pre-winter chores, you’ll be sitting pretty when the temperatures really start to drop.
Inspect Your Roof and Gutters
Leaves, twigs, and other debris can build up in your gutters and downspouts, preventing water from properly draining. This can lead to water damage in your attic, leaks in the basement and damage to the roof. Get up there and give your gutters a good cleaning. While you’re at it, check that downspouts are secure and direct water away from the foundation of your home.
Check for Roof Damage
On a sunny day, take a walk around the entire perimeter of your home, paying attention to your roof and looking for any visible damage like missing or curling shingles, leaks or water stains. Look in the attic for water marks as well, as this can indicate a leak you can’t see from outside. Then, repair or replace any damaged shingles to prevent further issues.
Ensure Proper Ventilation
Inspect your home’s ventilation, including any attic vents, fans and crawlspace vents, to confirm they are clear of any blockages. Proper ventilation prevents the buildup of moisture which can lead to mold growth. It also helps maintain the temperature in your attic, which impacts your heating costs.
Service Your Furnace and Change Filters
Make sure your furnace is ready to keep you cozy. If you haven’t had it serviced recently, call your HVAC technician to inspect and tune it up. They’ll check things like filters, burners, thermostats and exhaust vents to ensure maximum efficiency and safety.
Be sure to replace your furnace filters. Clogged filters reduce airflow and force the furnace to work harder, wasting energy. For the best indoor air quality, use pleated filters with a high MERV rating. Swap them out monthly during peak heating season.
Check Other Heat Sources
Inspect any wood-burning stoves, fireplaces or space heaters you use to ensure proper venting and to make sure seals and gaskets are intact. Have chimneys swept and cleaned, if needed. And do make sure you have a working carbon monoxide detector on every level of your home.
Seal to Prevent Drafts
Look for any cracks or gaps leading to the outside and caulk, seal or weatherstrip them to prevent drafts. Add weatherstripping around doors and windows, attic access doors, pipes and wires. For doors you don’t use often, you can also install a storm door for an added layer of protection.
Given windows are a major source of heat loss, install storm windows or heavy-duty plastic sheeting over the windows. For doors and windows you open, apply removable caulk or weatherstripping. Thermal curtains can also help.
Insulate Pipes, Doors and Windows
To prepare your home for the winter chill, insulating your pipes, doors and windows is key. Neglecting these areas is asking for trouble in the form of burst pipes, drafts and high heating bills.
Any pipes in unheated areas like the basement, attic or garage are vulnerable to freezing. Wrap them in pipe insulation or heat tape to protect them. For outdoor pipes, consider installing UL-approved heat cables. Also, let water trickle from the faucet served by exposed pipes when it’s especially cold. Moving water is less likely to freeze.
Remember that your attic is like a lid on your home — if it’s not properly insulated, a lot of heat will escape through the ceiling. Add more insulation to your attic to bring it up to the recommended R-30 to R-60 range for most areas. Seal up any leaks or cracks leading to the attic as well.
Prepare for Power Outages
Stock up on emergency gear like flashlights, batteries, a battery-powered radio, blankets, a first aid kit and non-perishable food. Have an emergency plan in place in case the power goes out.
Consider a Programmable Thermostat
A programmable thermostat can automatically lower the temperature when you’re away from home or sleeping to avoid heating an empty house. Then, it will turn the heat back up before you wake so you stay comfortable while also saving energy. Your heating system won’t have to work as hard, so you’ll save money and avoid potential disasters like burst pipes.
Prune Trees and Shrubs
Pruning trees and shrubs around your home before winter is crucial for safety and preventing damage. As the cold weather sets in, branches become weaker and more prone to breaking under the weight of snow and ice.
Start by doing an inspection, looking for branches and foliage that’s touching or overhanging the roof, gutters, power lines or walkways. These should be trimmed back. Also check for any dead, damaged or dangling branches that could fall and cause injury or property damage. It’s best to do this when the weather is still mild and the plants are actively growing.
It’s also a good idea to thin out dense shrubs by cutting some older branches back to the ground to improve air circulation. This can help prevent disease and make the shrub stronger. The key is not to remove more than 1/3 of the shrub at a time. Pruning in the fall not only helps protect your property over winter, but also promotes new healthy growth in spring.
Winterize Your Lawn and Garden
To prepare your home for the winter, you’ll also want to winterize your lawn and garden. Before the first frost, bring outdoor potted plants inside. Tropical plants won’t survive the cold, so find a spot inside for them. Trim perennial plants back to a few inches above the ground after they die back in fall to prevent heavy snow and ice damage over winter. This includes plants like hostas, asters, sedum and coneflowers. This also makes spring cleanup easier since there will be less dead foliage to remove.
Perennials that are out of your zone can sometimes be overwintered in a garage or shed. Dig them up, trim foliage back and store in a cool spot where they won’t freeze.
Rake up autumn leaves to add to your compost or municipal yard waste pickup. Leaving them on the lawn over winter can kill the grass. If you have too many to rake, use a mulching mower to shred them into small pieces that can remain on the lawn.
Once your yard is clear, give your lawn one last feeding before winter. Fertilizer applied in late fall nourishes grass roots over the winter so your lawn is ready to green up in spring. Look for a winterizer or late-season lawn fertilizer.
Disconnect Drain Hoses
Disconnect garden hoses from spigots and drain them so they don’t crack over winter. Coil them up and store them in a garage or shed until spring. Additionally, installing freeze-proof hose bib covers can prevent spigots from freezing and bursting.
Tackling these essential chores now will help ensure you stay cozy and comfortable all season long. Just think of it as a fun weekend project — pour yourself a warm drink, turn on some tunes and get to work. Before you know it, you’ll be kicking back and enjoying the cold weather season in full.
Looking for more ideas to care for your home? Tips for decorating and settling in? Our blog is full of ideas to help you make the most of your abode.
By performing these critical inspections now, you can address any issues before the harsh weather arrives and avoid potentially costly damage to your home. When the first snow starts falling and the temperatures plummet, you’ll rest easy knowing your home is ready for winter.