Preparing a home for the winter can sound overwhelming, but these tips can usually be done within a weekend, and you will be better prepared for whatever weather comes your way.
1. Clean Your Gutters
You should do this every season, but right before winter might be the most critical time. If your area gets a lot of snow, your home will have to bear that additional weight. If your gutters get too much weight on them, they could be pulled from your home.
But perhaps the most important reason is that if you don’t clean your gutters, your home could get water damage. As snow and ice melts and refreezes overnight, the devastation inflicted on your home could cost thousands of dollars. Make sure the water has somewhere to go when it melts so it is kept well away from your house.
2. Re-caulk Your Windows and Doors
Re-caulk your windows and doors each year to prevent water damage and heat loss. A caulk gun and tube exterior caulk will cost you around $20, and you can easily do it in an afternoon.
To be clear, you should only caulk the outside perimeter of your windows and doors’ molding. Use exterior silicone caulk because it is less affected by extreme temperatures—meaning it won’t shrink and expand as the seasons change.
To caulk your windows and doors, cut the exterior caulking tube at a small angle using your caulk gun (most caulking guns have an internal blade for this). Insert the tube into the gun and crank the handle until the circular pad is pressed tightly to the tube. Caulking should start to come out of the hole you cut once enough force is applied.
Next, apply a thin line of caulk across the window or door molding to your house. Using a latex-gloved finger, lightly press down on the caulk to spread it out so it fills all of the tiny cracks and crevices until it is smooth.
3. Get Your Roof Inspected
This step is probably the most ignored yet most important step when preparing a house for winter. If you are unable to access your home’s roof, you can get it inspected by a contractor to look for loose or broken shingles.
Any contractor you hire to do an inspection should also be able to do any minor repairs in an afternoon (replacing shingles is usually a quick process). It might cost you more than you would like to spend, but neglecting it for an entire winter could easily lead to even more repair bills down the road.
Summer rainstorms are notorious for wreaking havoc on a roof, so it’s important you repair any damage before your roof gets its toughest test: packed snow.
4. Reverse Your Ceiling Fans
As you learned in high school, warm air rises. Reversing the direction of each of your fans will create an updraft, which in turn will push down any heated air pressed against your room’s ceiling. By keeping warm air circulating, you’ll use heat more efficiently, which should cut down on energy costs. Even if you don’t have any rooms with high ceilings, do this one as soon as the weather turns.
To reverse your fan’s direction, make sure the fan is off, then click the switch above the blades. If you have a remote-controlled fan, you should see an option for reversing the fan’s direction on the remote.
5. Get Your Chimney Inspected
To keep your family and home safe, get your chimney inspected and cleaned before each burning season—even if wood is not your primary source of heat, and you only use your fireplace for aesthetic reasons.
When you burn wood, deposits of creosote build up on the inside of your chimney. Creosote is cancerous and highly flammable. When enough of it builds up in your chimney, the smoke from a fire can cause it to ignite, which in turn can cause a chimney fire. Many home fires are caused by chimneys.
If you want to go the extra mile, consider installing a steel liner, which will help protect your home in the event of a chimney fire.
6. Drain the Fuel From Your Small Gas-Powered Engines
Gasoline doesn’t last forever; in fact, it decomposes quickly. When this happens in a small engine (such as a lawn mower or weed eater), it can cause the engine’s carburetor to gunk up, which means you may not be able to get it started again when winter is over.
To prevent this, you can either add a fuel stabilizer or let the machine burn through all of the gas by using it one last time in late summer/early fall and letting it run until it turns off. If you do this, your machines will last longer and start much more easily in the spring.
7. Check Your Insurance Coverage
Right before winter is a good time to check your insurance coverage. If you have done any renovations over the summer that could add value to your home, make sure the added value is covered by your policy in case anything happens in the winter. You should also check what your provider offers for things like roof and ice damage to see if you may want to add additional coverage.
The Bottom Line
Preparing a home for winter isn’t a marathon, but it does take a little bit of forethought. However, if you take the seven simple steps above, you will likely spend far less on maintenance than you used to.