Prepare your home for winter: a checklist

prepare your home for winter

No season puts more wear and tear on a home than winter. Freezing temperatures, snow and ice take their toll on the exterior. Drafts or issues with heating systems can make life inside uncomfortable. Many problems can be avoided with this simple annual checklist for how to prepare your home for winter.

Check your heating system

It’s a good idea to get your HVAC system or boiler serviced once a year. Some companies offer discounts for annual servicing, making it a no-brainer. Getting your heating system checked out and maintaining your components well can make your heating system last longer and avoid emergency repairs when you least expect it.

Take care of your exterior with paint, caulk and grout

Any place there is uncovered wood, due to paint chipping, or caulk or grout missing is an invitation for water damage. Exposed wood that gets warped or soft can be very expensive to replace. Issues with caulk or grout missing or degraded can let moisture into the home, inviting mold or water damage issues.

Painting, caulking and grouting are things that are well within a homeowner’s ability to do it yourself – DIY, saving you money.

Drain your exterior pipes

As you know if you’ve ever had a pipe burst, water expands when it freezes. It’s best to drain you pipes early enough to avoid the first freezing temperatures, which can come on suddenly. The way to drain your pipes is to find the shut off valve inside your home, and then open up any faucets outside. Water will not be able to flow to the outside, and no water will remain in pipes that are outside the home.

Call in the pest inspector

When the weather turns, animals like mice try to find a nice warm place to live. Other animals like squirrels or raccoons can try to gain entry to a warm spot, too. While you can check for entry spots yourself and seal them, often it’s better for a professional to inspect. Some spots, like on a roof, might be difficult or dangerous to access. For mice, a professional inspector will know what to look for as holes that mice fit through can be quite tiny, even undetectable.

Consider scheduling tree pruning

While trees with dead branches can be a hazard year round, they are particularly dangerous with the extra load of freezing rain or snow. Also, the best time to prune a tree is in the winter, around December, when trees become more dormant. You can learn how to prune a tree yourself, but for large trees, it can be quite dangerous, and you’ll want to have some help. Professional tree pruning can run anywhere from $400 to $1500 for particularly large trees.

Protect your outdoor furniture

Depending on where you live and what material your furniture is made of, you’ll want to either cover your furniture or bring it inside. Cushions should ideally be brought inside as fabric can become compromised from freezing. Metal or wood furniture should be covered or brought in, as it can rust or warp. Wicker or any type of more delicate materials would be best to be brought inside for the winter.

Get those gutters cleaned

All the leaves coming off the trees can cause real problems for proper drainage. Leaves and other tree debris can clog gutters, sending water down unexpected routes, like the side of the house. If your gutters are accessible easily either from a ladder or roof hatch, you might consider cleaning them both in late October and late to early November, depending where you live, as leaves can build up quickly, especially if you live in an area with a lot of trees. Otherwise, you can have a professional come and clean the troughs after the bulk of leaves have fallen.

Take in your garden tools and protect your lawn equipment

It’s sad when the first warm weather comes and you realize your favorite pruning shears are ruined from rust, having been left out over the winter. Or, if you have a weed wacker or lawn mower left to the elements, chances are its lifespan will be shorter than if it had been properly covered.

Do an energy audit

There are many simple things you can do to make the inside of your home more comfortable during the winter months that also lower your energy costs. Consider having a professional energy audit, or use these tips to shave 20% off your energy bills simply by identifying drafts and leaks. This way, you can prepare your home for winter AND save money!

For an annual home maintenance checklist, check out our downloadable schedule.