16 Top Tips for Winterizing Your Home

By Monte Burch

With the beginning of fall weather comes that much dreaded annual chore—winterizing your home. Many of these chores are ignored, but a little time spent before the football season can be extremely important, not only in conserving fuel and money, but in effectively maintaining a comfortable and safe environment. Following are some tips that can help regardless of where you live. You might want to keep this list and check off the chores as you do them.

1. Have an HVAC professional inspect and make sure the furnace is working properly. If your furnace has old-fashioned sheet metal ductwork, replace with insulated ducts, including the plenum. Clean out all ducts and clean the registers, checking to make sure they work properly. Replace furnace filters, changing them once a month or more if needed. If you have an older thermostat you can often save money by installing a new programmable thermostat. If you use propane, make sure the tank is filled.

2. Check all doors and windows for cracks, openings, cracked or loose window panes. Replace old inefficient windows, or replace old storm windows with newer, more energy-efficient models. Caulk and weather strip to seal off all openings. Switch summer screens with storms.

Check the caulking around all windows and doors, repairing and replacing as necessary with a quality exterior-grade sealant.
Check the caulking around all windows and doors, repairing and replacing as necessary with a quality exterior-grade sealant.

3. Repair and winterize lawn and garden tools. If you have major small engine or lawnmower problems, have them fixed now rather than waiting for spring when all repair shops are busy. Sharpen or replace lawnmower blades. Drain the oil and replace along with the filter. Do any minor repairs. Again it’s often quicker and easier to get parts during the off season. Replace line in string trimmers ready for spring. Drain gas from lawnmowers, or add a fuel additive to all engines. Make sure the snow blower is working properly. Clean and sharpen all gardening equipment such as rakes, hoes, shovels, shears and so forth. Give wooden handles a coating of linseed oil.

4. Inspect the roof and replace any worn or damaged shingles. Inspect flashing and replace or reseal any problem areas.

5. Clean and inspect the gutters, make sure all downspouts are working. You may wish to add leaf guards to the guttering.

Gutter covers prevent debris accumulation that can lead to ice dams during winter.
Gutter covers prevent debris accumulation that can lead to ice dams during winter.

6. Inspect the exterior of the house for cracked, broken or loose siding. Replace or repair, again to keep out pests as well as to protect the construction from moisture. If residing, add a house wrap for even more protection.

7. Add or replace old insulation in attics, install under-floor insulation in crawl spaces. Use foam insulation to further insulate basements, uninsulated garage doors and other areas.

8. Have a professional chimney sweep inspect, clean and repair any fireplaces, flues or wood stoves. Add chimney or flue caps to keep out birds and pests. Tuck-point or repair any loose masonry. Make sure dampers work on fireplaces and stoves. Lay in a winter’s supply of firewood and kindling and cover it for protection. Do not store firewood against or inside your house. Install or replace batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Check to make sure fire extinguishers are working and replace any older than 10 years.

9. Inspect plumbing and maintain or repair to prevent plumbing freezes. Insulate all exposed pipes, including those in unheated crawl spaces. Install pipe insulation on water heaters. Trailers and houses with open undersides should be well insulated with skirting. Check exterior drain-back faucets and make sure they work properly. Drain all garden hoses, and store inside a garage or garden shed. Drain air-conditioner pipes and shut off the AC if it has a shut-off valve. Remove window air conditioners or cover them with the appropriate covers. Drain pool plumbing and winterize the pool.

10. Winterize your landscape by removing any bulbs that won’t overwinter. Plant spring-blooming bulbs. Clean out all old annual flower beds. Remove all old vegetation from the garden and dispose or place in a compost bin. Rake all lawn leaves and add to the compost pile. Prune trees and shrubs that may be injured during the winter.

11. Inspect the basement or foundation and seal off any pipe or other openings with foam sealant. Install covers over crawlspace ventilation openings. Cover basement windows with plastic shields. Rake leaves and debris away from the foundation. Tuck-point or seal foundation cracks and other openings to keep out mice and other pests. Inspect the sill plate and joists for signs of dry rot or other damage.

12. Inspect to make sure tree limbs do not overhang or are too close to the house, or are overhanging power lines. Trim or have a professional trim any that may be a problem in ice or other winter storms.

13. Inspect and repair or recoat decks. Repair patios.

14. Clean and store deck and lawn furniture and cushions. Take down or remove flower pots, clean and store. Bring plants inside that you wish to overwinter.

15. Check automobile antifreeze and add as needed. Make up a winter travel kit including blankets, bottled water, spare clothing, snack foods, tools for roadside repairs, flares and anything specific to your area.

16. If you don’t already have a home winter-emergency kit, make one up and store it in a readily accessible area. It should contain bottled water, canned or nonperishable foods (along with a can opener), flashlights with spare batteries, fire extinguishers, candles, matches, a well supplied first-aid kit, and a weather radio that operates on a battery and is kept charged. Propane stoves and lanterns can also be a great help when the electricity goes out, but remember proper ventilation. Battery powered camp lanterns can also be used, as well as your grandmother’s oil lamp. If you already have an emergency kit, check all and replace as needed.

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