water drops from stainless steel faucet

10 Tips to Prep your Home for Winter

…If you haven’t done so already.


Winterizing your home is no fun when it is already 20 degrees Fahrenheit outdoors, and sleet is already falling. Even worse is having your sprinkler system burst from frozen lines because you didn’t get around to purging the system before freezing weather set in. 

1. SUPPLIES

Like a seasonal turning of a closet, push what you won’t need to the back and bring any winter necessities to the front. Bring all seasonal tools inside and spray them with a coating of oil to prevent rust. Go through your supplies and make sure you have an ample supply of salt, sand and shovels on hand for steps, walkways, and the driveway. If you have a snow blower, change the oil and replace the spark plug so that it is ready for use.

Always have a fully-stocked emergency kit at hand. Store at least three days worth of supplies for everyone in your household. Include batteries, a flashlight, candles, matches and a lighter; warm clothes and blankets; a battery-powered radio; non-perishable food items and water (two litres per adult per day); and a first-aid kit.

2.GUTTERS

withered leaves photo


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Clogged gutters can lead to damage, floods and corrosion. They block the drainage of rain and snow so clean gutters of all debris before winter hits. Check the gutters and downspouts for proper fastening, and re-secure if loose or sagging. The weight of snow and ice can pull gutters off the house. Be sure that the downspouts are clear of obstruction and then ensure the entire system is unclogged and leak-free. Make sure downspouts extend away from the house by at least 5 feet to prevent flooding of the foundation and water damage from snowmelt. The dirt grade — around the exterior of your home — should slope away from the house. Add extra dirt to low areas, as necessary.

3.WEATHER STRIPPING/WINDOWS

unrecognizable workman installing window in house during renovation process
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Seal Doors and Windows: Check all the weather stripping around windows and door frames for leaks to prevent heat loss and replace, if necessary. Check for drafts around windows and doors. Caulk inside and out, where necessary, to keep heat from escaping. Cover your windows in a thin plastic film (available at any hardware store) and tape it down with waterproof double-sided tape, heating the edges and pressing the protective layer into place.

4.PLUMBING/PIPES/OUTSIDE TAPS

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Winterize Water Pipes: Cover all exposed pipes in unheated areas with insulation sleeves. A frozen pipe can cause large damage if it bursts and this is a simple task that prevents floods and conserves energy. The pipe sleeves are easy to apply and can be cut to fit. Cover all exposed parts, including bends and joints, and seal the seams with duct tape. Make sure to shut off all exterior faucets and drain the water from outdoor pipes, valves, and sprinkler heads.

  • Insulate exposed piping: If you have any exposed water pipes in uninsulated spaces, such as in a crawlspace, attic, exterior walls, etc., make sure to insulate them—at a minimum with foam insulating sleeves. Ideally, you should wrap them with electrical heating tape first, then insulate them.
  • Exterior faucets: Known as hose bibs or sill-cocks, the exterior faucets need to have their water supply turned off inside the house, and you also need to drain water from them by opening up the exterior faucets. You may also want to consider an insulated cover for the hose bib. And remember to disconnect your garden hoses from the sill-cocks or outside faucets, and drain them.

5.FURNACE/HEATING

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Winterize the Heating System: Have a professional check your heating system and ensure it’s in good working order before you turn it on. Don’t forget to replace the batteries on smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, in case any of your heating systems are overworking. If you have an older thermostat, replacing it with a programmable unit will help to save on heating costs.

Cleaning and/or replacing the air filter in your furnace will allow for maximum efficiency and improved indoor air quality. Switch fans to the reverse or clockwise position, which will blow warm air down to the floor.

Grab a flashlight and look inside your fireplace for build-up, bird’s nests or obvious cracks. From the outside, check for broken bricks and crumbling mortar. Ensure that your damper opens and closes and seals tightly. Have a chimney sweep clean the chimney to eliminate build-up and prevent a fire.

Give your system a test run through and make sure all systems are operating.

– Heating System Checklist.

  • Test run: Turn the thermostat to heat mode and set it to 80 degrees, just for testing. You should hear the furnace turn on, and warm air should begin to blow within a few minutes. If the furnace is running fine, turn the thermostat back to its normal setting. If the furnace not running properly, you can try to diagnose it yourself.  Depending on what’s wrong, you may be able to fix it yourself, or you may need to call a qualified service technician.
  • Seasonal maintenance: Either have the furnace checked by a service technician or do this work yourself. Most seasonal maintenance tasks are well within a homeowner’s skill range. 
  • Replace the air filter: Put in a new, clean air filter. It’s easy, and doing so will ensure a free flow of air and a cleaner environment. Each furnace has its own requirements for air filters, so follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. A monthly replacement of the air filter is usually recommended. 
  • Check fuel supply:  If you have a propane or fuel oil furnace, make sure to have your fuel storage tank is topped off and ready to go.
  • Inspect and clean heating vents: Clear obstacles to heating vents, so air can freely flow. Many experts recommend having a service technician come in and clean the vents every year or two. 
  • Check for carbon monoxide leaks: This silent killer can easily be detected with either an inexpensive test badge or battery-operated alarm. If you discover problems, call in a professional to identify and correct the cause of the CO leak. Usually, this involves leakage in the exhaust system of a furnace or other fuel-burning appliance, such as a water heater. Don’t put this work off; a CO leak is a very dangerous situation. 
  • Check exhaust vents: Some furnaces and boilers, as well as gas water heaters, vent through a chimney, while newer high-efficiency models may vent through plastic pipes running through a side wall. Make sure these vents are open and free of obstructions. A vent that hasn’t been used all summer may have become home to birds or other animals, which can block the vent pipes and interfere with the furnace’s ability to burn efficiently and properly vent exhaust gases.

6.Humidity

Heated indoor air can cause uncomfortably dry skin and increase your susceptibility to colds. Humidifiers can be purchased to add moisture to single rooms or to a whole house. They need to be regularly cleaned and often need filter changes to guard against mold and mildew.

Winterize the Air Conditioning System:

Often neglected is one of the most important components of a cooling system—the condensing unit outside that churns away in the heat of summer. This component needs a little attention, too, as winter approaches:

  • Clean the condensing unit of debris: Using a hose with the spray-head set to the highest pressure, clean the fan blades and condensing coils clear of debris and dirt. Let the unit dry completely before covering it for the season. 
  • Cover the condensing unit: Left unprotected, the condensing unit can be damaged by wet leaves and debris that contribute to rusting and freezing of internal components. Although these units are designed for outdoor use, covering them with a breathable waterproof cover made for that purpose goes a long way to extending the life and efficient performance of the unit.
  • Winterize window air conditioners: As for window air conditioners, remove them if possible and store for winter. Left in windows, these appliances are very hard to seal effectively against winter drafts. If they can’t be removed, then close the vents and make sure to get an air conditioning cover similar to the condensing unit cover described above.

7. ROOF

facade of aged residential cottage located in autumn forest against cloudy sky
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Inspect the Roof:

Moving to the outside of the home, you should do a quick check of the roof. Either hire someone to inspect the roof if you are not comfortable doing this yourself, or inspect it yourself, wearing well-fastened shoes with non-skid soles.

  • Check the roof for missing or damaged shingles, and have them replaced.
  • Check flashings around chimneys and other roof projections, which are often the source of leaks. Have repairs made, if necessary. 
  • Make sure gutters and downspouts are clean, with no leaves or debris clogging them. Wet leaves remaining in the gutters over winter add significant weight and volume to the gutter when frozen, increasing the risk of damage. Make sure downspouts are solidly attached. 

8.POOLS

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Winterize the Pool and Spa:

How you winterize a pool and spa will depend on what type you have since an above-ground pool can require much different procedures than an in-ground pool. Whatever water features you have, make sure to have a pool maintenance person perform all necessary winterization procedures. If you do this work yourself, make sure to carefully follow the pool or spa manufacturer’s recommendations for winterizing it. 

9. Clean and Store Landscape and Store Outdoor Accessories

blooming great bougainvillea growing in garden near arched alley
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Make sure to follow standard lawn and garden care winterizing procedures, which entails proper fall care for the lawn, the flower beds and other planting areas, and particular attention to making sure trees and shrubs are properly pruned and well-watered for winter. After this work is completed, deal with outdoor furniture and other accessories: 

  • Cover patio furniture or bring it indoors to store for the winter.
  • Seal or stain a wooden deck if it needs it before winter. A properly sealed deck will be more resistance to winter damage.
  • Clean and seal any concrete or brick paver surfaces, as needed. Now is a good time to patch any cracks or damage to concrete steps or walkways. 
  • Drain the gas from your lawn mower, or just let the mower run until it is out of gas. Store the mower somewhere dry and safe for the winter. 
  • Drain any water fountains, unplug the pumps, and prepare for winter.
  • Clean and store away shovels, pruners, and other garden tools. 
  • Clean, repair, and cover up (or store) barbecue grill equipment. It is much easier to do this in the fall than in the spring when you are eager to get grilling again. 

10. Winterize Sprinkler Systems

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The sprinkler system should not be overlooked when preparing your home for winter. Have your sprinkler system winterized no later than the end of October. 

If you have a lawn service that handles this, have them come to drain and winterize the irrigation system. Winterizing a sprinkler system is also fairly easy to do yourself. It involves shutting off the water, draining the pipes and blowing them free of water, then opening test cocks on the vacuum breaker to allow air into the system—this prevents trapped water from freezing and cracking the plastic water lines.