Winter is coming, and it’s time to prepare. Switching out wardrobes, getting winter tires swapped on, and readying your property all lead to an easier season. Here’s what I think about when winterizing my home.
1.) Start from the top
The roof and gutters are a first line of defense for your home against harsh winter weather. Heavy snow and ice buildup, falling tree limbs, standing water with rapid freeze/thaw cycles, and even unwelcome wildlife can strain these defenses. Spending time before the first snows to ensure your roof is sound can limit the likelihood of a mid-storm disaster.
Climb onto the roof, safely, to begin the process. Then, clear off any debris while inspecting the roof shingles or tiles. If you notice any damage or discoloration, it’s easier to repair before the winter storms arrive. If you live in an area with enough expected snowfall to have snow breaks over walkways and entrances, this would be the time to ensure they’re still firmly installed, clear any debris, and sharpen any prongs that are growing dull. From this rooftop perspective, it’s easy to inspect the gutters and clear clogs.
2.) Work your way down
Research shows that a significant amount of heating costs are associated with drafty windows. Spending time to transition your windows into winter mode saves money while creating a cozier environment through those dank winter months. While modern window technology has dramatically increased the efficiency of insulation, all windows benefit from winterizing.
Remove any screens and install storm windows, if applicable. Many more modern windows do not include storm windows, but still should have their screens brought in from the wind and cold. Clean out the window wells to foster a healthy environment while taking the opportunity to check for structural damage or gaps in the insulation. Minor damage can be repaired, but more serious damage should be assessed by a professional. There are many products on the market for window insulation. Any windows that are not expected to be opened until the spring benefit from such additional insulation.
3.) Landscape close to the home
After the roof, gutters, and windows have been cleaned out and winterized, it’s the perfect time to prepare the area immediately outside your home. Just as the seasons change and we make warm homes for the winter, all sorts of wildlife seek shelter from the cold and snow. Cleaning out gardens immediately around any buildings goes a long way to deterring wildlife trying to make their home in a way that is damaging to yours.
When preparing outdoor spaces immediately around any buildings, clearing potential harborage is a great time to simultaneously look for burrows, washouts, and ensure the grade is properly sloped away from the building. Safely store any lawn decorations that could be damaged by winter conditions or could get in the way of snow removal. If you have pets that will need to go outside throughout the season, keep that in mind while you clear an area. Preparing for how and where to clear snow is a lot easier before the storms.
4.) In-home pest control
Pest control starts outside but is just as important inside. Wildlife forages for shelter and food, disregarding any sense of ownership or human boundaries. Inspect the walls, ceilings, floors, and baseboards for gaps or damage. An opening as small as 1/8 inch is all that’s needed for the outside to start making its way in.
Sometimes insects and animals have already made their way into the home and need to be removed for the health and safety of anyone living in the home. There are a wide range of indoor pest control measures on the market to choose from, depending on the severity of the situation and your comfort level. Any empty nests or scraps also should be removed with equal care and safety.
As with outdoor preparation, keep pets in mind through this whole process. Indoor pest control measures can be as harmful to pets as to pests, while others could be rendered entirely ineffectual by a curios pet.
5.) Landscape further out
Outside of the immediate area around any structures, and areas you may be bringing pets, landscaping considerations for winter preparation are a lot more about preparing for spring than preparing for winter. Clearing now-dead gardens, planting for early-spring, and brush clearing all make springtime’s landscaping efforts both easier and more efficient. For brush removal, it may even be possible in your municipality to have controlled fires during this time of year. (guidelines)
Even with all the spring prep, there are a few winterizing landscaping tasks that can help take the bite out of winter storms. Check all the trees for dangling branches and try to identify weak points that may be impacted by heavy snows with high winds. If there are potentially dangerous branches that could impact a structure or person, it’s usually best to bring those limbs down in a controlled environment.
6.) Shovels and Salt
Just as there are steps to prepare outside for snow and ice removal, there are a few indoor tasks which go a long way to alleviating winter weather woes. Packed snow, whether from footsteps or vehicles, is more difficult to remove than fresh powder. Rather than tromp through the snow to get a shovel, invariably making the job more difficult, keep a snow shovel in the mudroom or wet-friendly entryway. Attached garages with interior access are also a great place to keep snow and ice removal handy.
Ice is an equally problematic concern with winter weather. Depending on your local ordinances, using snowmelt, sand, or rock salt safely can reduce the risk of a slip and fall. Just as with snow removal, keeping ice removal on-hand inside during winter months is an easy bit of preparation that can save time and stress later.
7.) Automobile Accessories
Getting your vehicles ready for winter is an entire topic itself, though there are a few related tips to keep your home safe. Fluids improperly stored can become a vapor hazard. Read all safety warnings and consider the airflow, temperature, humidity, and other environmental factors when looking for a place to store fluids for the winter.
Summer tires take up a lot of space and bring with them harborage concerns. Likewise, roof and bike racks take up space, offer harborage for unwanted wildlife, and can be vulnerable to temperature changes. Storing these peripherals up high or in a designated cleared space helps to both keep them out of the way during winter activities and to keep them ready for the next season of fun.
8.) Heating Maintenance
With even the best insulation, it’s important to have a heater in working order. Before turning on whatever you use to keep the house warm, clean and check it over for damage and wear. Many full-house heating systems have regular maintenance schedules and checklists to help make sure every vital component is covered.
While maintaining your heating unit, also ensure there is enough fuel to last until the next opportunity to refill reserves. Homes that rely on electricity for their heat are particularly susceptible to winter storms interrupting heating service and preparing now can save a bitter night later. A backup generator or fuel-based local heater, likewise maintained, can help warm up those power outages.
9.) Use a Professional
Sometimes, there simply isn’t the time to accomplish all these tasks. Sometimes, you don’t have the equipment or experience to do a particular bit of preparation. Sometimes, hiring a professional is the best way to get everything done right. In today’s high-tech world, there are numerous resources for finding a professional for any situation.
Even with new technology, old advice still holds true when it comes to finding a handyman. Hearing from people you know, your neighbors, and past customers leads to finding a pro you can trust. Checking credentials and trade affiliations helps narrow the field to a pro who can get the job done right. Websites like Angi and the Better Business Bureau offer lists and reviews of professional handy helpers, using technology to enhance time-tested wisdom.
10.) Sufficient Supplies
My final tip for getting your home ready for winter is more about taking care of yourself than taking care of your house or property. Snowfall can block us in for hours, days, or even weeks at a time. Winter bugs can find us isolated inside for days as well. If it’s possible, stock enough water, dry food, and other essentials for a few days. There is a fine line between stockpiling and having enough, with stockpiling often leading to waste and space problems.
Medications, especially, should be planned for before any winter weather becomes a problem. Depending on your situation, it may be possible to speak with any prescribing doctors to get a “just in case” supply for vital medications.
Winter is coming, and it’s better to be ready than unprepared. For your property and your house, these 10 steps work from the top down to winterize in preparation. Feel free to contact me to learn more about how I winterize my home, or otherwise take care of the investment that is my property.
Is there a topic you’d like to hear my take on? Email me any suggestions for future blogs!