11 Quick and Easy Ways to Prepare Your Home for Winter
As colder weather season approaches, it can be easy to forget about putting together a cold season home maintenance checklist. After all, there are holiday plans to make, and with all of the delicious food to eat and good times to be had with friends and family, who wants to worry about keeping up with housework? Well, you do if you value your largest investment.
The fact is that cold weather can destroy a home’s value and leave you shivering in the dark when disaster strikes. Thankfully, there are some easy, quick and cost-effective ways to prepare for the winter months and this page of Costimates will help you get your house ready for the winter ahead.
1. Trim Your Trees
If you have trees anywhere near your home, now is the time to have an arborist or landscaper inspect and trim potential hazards. When snow or ice builds up, it can cause some serious extra weight to be put on branches, potentially causing them to crash down and lead to home damage or even injuries. An arborist will be able to provide you with an accurate report of any weak branches or trees and safely trim them to create a safe outdoor space.
Cost: $75-$100 depending on the number of trees, tree size and tree type
2. Have Your Furnace Serviced
Heat during the winter is possibly the most important comfort element, and a heating system malfunction might lead to not only cold nights, but also the possibility for a fire. As a result, your fall and winter home maintenance checklist needs to include having your heating system inspected and serviced. A professional HVAC technician can ensure that all parts of your system are working properly, including any coils, springs, fans and blowers.
You can also take preventative steps now to ensure your heating system will work properly by getting enough filters to last through the winter and replacing any old filters before turning on your system for the winter.
Cost: $3-$5 for each filter, $100-$125 for furnace inspection and maintenance
3. Protect Your Plumbing
You may think that your home’s plumbing is protected because it is not exposed to the elements, but remember that plumbing pipes are filled with water coming from miles away, meaning they are susceptible to very cold moisture that can freeze. When this happens, the material that your pipes are made out of can experience changes in size and strength, leading to cracks and even completely burst pipes.
To prepare your plumbing, wrap exposed plumbing pipes, including those from your water heater, with foam insulation and check for tightness on all fittings. You might also need to have a plumber check for leaks and proper water pressure to avoid water disasters during the winter.
Cost: $50-$250 depending on your plumbing
4. Check Your Windows and Door Seals
Windows and doors are the primary ways air enters and exits your home, so if they leak, you’re likely losing not only heat, but also money. As a result, you should put window and door inspections on your fall home maintenance list to head off problems before the real cold air arrives. You can inspect windows and doors simply by visually checking for cracks and gaps, but unless you have an obvious problem, doing this likely won’t give you a detailed picture.
Instead, place your hand around each door and window to feel for drafts. You can also hire someone to use thermal imaging to see where heat may be escaping. To resolve leaks, you could try adding some weather stripping to your door and window frames. Caulking may be a more permanent option if you have leaks that don’t respond well to weatherstripping.
Cost: Free-$50 for weatherstripping and caulking
5. Time for a Roof Inspection
Although it’s easy to take the roof for granted, it’s important to add roofing inspection to your annual house checklist. Over time, roofs can develop all kinds of problems, including moisture and wind damage, loose shingles, cracks and gaps as well as holes caused by rodents or animals.
A roofing inspection is something that is best left to a professional as he or she will have the right tools to safely check for problems. A roof inspection should also be on your home maintenance checklist after any type of severe winter storm as these events can cause damage even after an initial inspection.
Cost: $200-$700 depending on the size and type of roof
6. Reverse Indoor Fans
If you have ceiling fans in your home, reverse the direction of each for the colder months. For added warmth and heating efficiency during the winter, make sure each ceiling fan is rotating clockwise. This motion will cause an updraft and circulate warm air throughout the room. To do this, look for a bi-directional switch on the ceiling fan unit. Make sure the fan is off, flip the switch and then turn the fan on to check the direction. As the weather warms up, reverse the process to circulate cool air.
7. Test Smoke Detectors
Checking your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should be a part of your house checklist multiple times per year, but with the busy pace of life, it can be easy to overlook this important task. Thankfully, you can remember to test your detectors and change batteries twice a year when you change your clocks. Use the manual test button on each detector to ensure the alert signal is working properly, and always change your batteries, even if you aren’t getting a low-battery alert.
Another option to consider if you’re using wireless Internet in your home is to install smart detectors. These smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are a bit more expensive in initial cost, but they can monitor your home and send alerts to your phone or email when the battery is getting low, when danger has been detected or when a device is malfunctioning.
Cost: $2-$5 for each battery, $35-120 per smart detector
8. Clean Your Gutters
Cleaning your gutters on a regular basis can protect the value of your home by channeling away moisture, but clean gutters are extra important during the winter. If you have leaves and other debris in your gutters and moisture accumulates during icy conditions, the added weight can lead to siding damage, internal water damage and even cause your gutters to pull away from your home.
All of this means more cost in the long run from things like room damage or structural repairs, so make sure cleaning gutters is on your list of winter home maintenance preparations.
If you choose to clean your own gutters, always do so in safe conditions. Use a sturdy ladder and slip-resistant shoes, and make sure you have someone with you to monitor the situation. You could also hire someone to clean your gutters if you don’t feel comfortable doing so or if you can not do so safely.
Cost: Free-$300 depending on home size
9. Gather Emergency Supplies
Emergency preparedness is important all year long, but during extremes in temperature, it is especially vital in protecting your health and safety. One of the most common emergencies experienced during the colder months is a total loss of power. During a total loss, your heating system will not function and you will also not have access to lighting, possibly leading to slips, falls and injuries. Likewise, communications services and devices may not work during a total loss of power.
It’s a good idea to have at least a week’s worth of emergency supplies available at any given time. These supplies may include food and clean drinking water, extra clothing and heavy blankets, flashlights and spare batteries, propane canisters and a propane stove as well as portable power chargers for things like cellphone batteries. You might also consider purchasing a generator and having a fresh supply of gas to keep it running.
Cost: $100-$2,000 depending on family size, needs and whether a generator is purchased
10. Call a Chimney Sweep
If you heat your home with any type of wood-burning fireplace or stove, now is the time to prep these areas. If you use a fireplace, have a chimney sweep inspect and clean your chimney, firebox and ash pit if applicable. You may also consider using creosote cleaning products to reduce the buildup of harmful compounds that can lead to fires.
Now is also the time to gather and properly store firewood. Always use seasoned wood that has been stored in a dry area. Fresh wood will still contain moisture, and moisture in your firewood leads to difficulty burning and more smoke production that can cause creosote buildup and dangerous carbon monoxide to enter your home.
Cost: $125-$250 depending on chimney type
11. Protect Outdoor Equipment
Any type of equipment that is left outdoors during the winter needs to be properly protected from the elements. This includes grills, snowblowers, lawn equipment and tools. If you live in a climate that is prone to excessive moisture during the colder months, water can seep into small crevices and cause rust and other damage to occur within outdoor equipment. Additionally, you don’t want to be out digging through the snow looking for a particular tool in the dead middle of winter.
When possible, store outdoor equipment and tools in a shed, garage or under a carport. If these options are not available, cover or wrap items in tarps or custom weatherproof linings to protect them from the elements.
Cost: Free-$150 depending on storage space and tarps needed