How to Winterize Your Home

How to Winterize Your Home

How to Winterize Your Home

As Minnesota real estate agents, we’ve seen what happens when homes aren’t prepared to handle the subfreezing winter temps we get here. We want to help you make sure your home is ready to go this winter! Here’s what you need to do to make sure your home is ready:

Protect Your Pipes

A burst pipe can cause a lot of (very expensive) damage to your home! If you’re taking a winter vacation to escape the cold, there are a few things you’ll need to do to prevent frozen pipes:
  • Keep your house warm (above 55°F) to keep things from freezing.
  • Insulate your pipes. You can get pipe insulation from your local hardware store. They’re easy to install and can go a long way toward preventing frozen lines.
  • Keep your garage doors closed.
  • Open the cabinet doors when going on a trip. This makes it easier for the warm air to reach the pipes that may be in the walls behind the cabinets.
  • Open the interior doors to make sure the warm air is circulating throughout the house.
  • Let your faucets drip. This is primarily for the faucets that are supplied by pipes that are exposed or out in the open (like the ones in your utility room) and that isn’t protected by walls and insulation. For those faucets, keep the water running – even if it’s just a tiny flow.
This helps to prevent the water from freezing and the pressure from building from ice blockages that lead to burst pipes.

If both the hot and cold lines are exposed, open them both slightly on the faucet to make sure the pressure doesn’t build up for either line.

Seal Cracks and Openings That Cause Drafts

Check your home for cracks, holes, or any openings that may be exposing your home to drafts. Pay close attention to windows, door frames, cable and internet holes in your walls and floors, the sill plates where your home rests on its foundation, and any piping (interior or exterior) where there may be holes or cracks.
Use caulk to seal holes in the walls around piping or cables. You can also use caulk around the window frame and trim as well. Foam outlet protectors can also help increase insulation against cold air entering your home.
Use weatherstripping to prevent drafts around your windows and doors.
You may also want to install a storm door on your exterior entryways to add an extra layer to prevent cold air from entering your home or letting excess heat out. This can also help reduce your heat bill.
Check your attic and crawl spaces to make sure they’re properly insulated as well.

Check Your Fireplace

If you have a wood-burning fireplace, you’ll need to make sure it’s clear of any nests animals may have built or creosote buildup before firing things up this winter. Having an annual inspection before you light things up is highly recommended.
Call a chimney sweep to clear out any soot or debris before the first winter use and be sure to clean out any accumulated ash from the firebox before using your fireplace as well.

Get Your Furnace Ready

Your furnace will work much better with a clean filter. Be sure to replace your filter before the winter hits, have an HVAC professional do a tune-up and continue to replace your filter at least every 3 months.

Clean the Gutters

This is a chore no one likes to do but it’s an important part of winterizing your home. Typically, you’ll want to clean your gutters as soon as the last leaves have fallen to prevent clogging so melting snow can drain the way it needs to throughout the winter and in the spring.


Bring Your Plants Inside

To keep your green thumb from turning brown, you’ll want to bring your plants inside before the first cold snap, or before the temps drop below 45°F.

Bring in Your Outdoor Furniture and Grills

While your patio furniture and your grill were made to sustain what comes with being in the great outdoors, cold temps, snow, and ice can still damage them.
When the temperature starts to drop, it’s time to store your outdoor furniture and grills in the garage, basement, or storage facility.
If your grill uses propane, close the tank valve and then disconnect the tank before moving it to storage. The tank must be stored outside your home or a vehicle, however, it will need to be kept in an area that remains above -40°F in colder months so a shed or storage unit may be the best option in those cases.
If you don’t have storage space for your outdoor items, you’ll need to purchase covers to protect them from the elements. You’ll also want to deep clean and maintain your grill before covering it for the winter.

Get Your Outdoor Equipment Ready to Go

Your outdoor tools and equipment from the warmer months (i.e. your mower, trimmers, etc) will need to be cleaned and maintained before going into storage for the season.
As for your snowblower, it’s gone time! Inspect your snowblower and make sure it’s been maintained properly and is ready to go before the first winter storm.

Check Your Roof

Weathering the elements throughout the year can be rough on your roof. Handling freezing rains, hail, snow, ice, and high winds can be a challenge if your roof’s integrity is compromised. Here’s what you need to look for and do to make sure your roof is ready:
  • Inspect your roof for broken, frayed, curling, missing shingles, damaged flashing, or general signs of deterioration. Also, look closely for any signs of damage at clogged valleys on your roof. These areas where sections of your roof meet at a low point can hold a lot of debris and moisture which can compromise the integrity of your roof.
  • Clear your roof of dirt and debris.
  • Cut back overhanging branches and limbs that may cause damage to your roof.
  • Check the attic and ceiling for staining and signs of water leaks. Make sure the attic is well-ventilated to prevent mold and mildew from growing.
  • Install snow guards and consider investing in a snow rake to keep your roof from taking on damage from ice and snow.

Get Winter Supplies

Here are a few things you’ll want ahead of time to make sure you’re not scrambling when winter’s in full swing:
  • Snow shovel. In addition to having shovels for digging out your walk and driveway, you’ll want a collapsible shovel for each vehicle you own in the event your car needs to be dug out of a ditch.
  • Ice scraper.
  • Ice Melt. Again, not just for the sidewalk. This can come in handy if your car is having a hard time getting traction on the road after hitting an icy patch.
  • Flashlights and extra batteries
  • Weather radio that doesn’t rely on electricity
  • Emergency car kit. This should include extra blankets, a weather radio, an ice scraper, a car charger, a portable phone charger, a first aid kit, cat litter (for traction), an Ice Melt, a few road flares, a collapsible shovel, jumper cables, bottled water, and food that doesn’t need to be cooked such as dried fruit, granola bars, etc. Include some pet food as well if you take your fur baby with you on car rides.

Bonus Ways to Be Prepared:

Swap Your Window Coverings

As the months get colder, we switch up our clothes and start wearing things that help us stay warm. Your windows need the same consideration.
To keep drafts and cold air at bay, switch your curtains from lightweight window treatments to heavier, lined curtains or drapes. 
Keep the curtains closed on windows that aren’t getting direct sunlight. This keeps the warm air in and the cold air out. It also goes a long way to help you stay warm while keeping the cost of heating your home lower.

Invest in a Programmable Thermostat

If keeping the cost of heating your home lower is near the top of your priority list, you may want to consider getting a programmable thermostat. This will allow you to lower the heat a few degrees (still keeping the temp above 55°F) while you’re at the office or sleeping and bring the heat back up before your return so the furnace isn’t running non-stop to maintain a temperature you won’t be there (or awake) to appreciate.
Customizing the temperature and time your furnace needs to be active is a great way to keep your home comfortable while keeping your costs down.

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