11 Essential Ways to Ready Your Home for Winter

The time between Labor Day and the first snowfall all-but flies by. Rather than hunker down when the first chill hits the air, though, it’s important to prepare your home for the months ahead.

Routine maintenance and winter readiness both protect your home and help keep you cozy, warm and worry-free. Read on to see what needs to be done and why.


  1. Clean the gutters and downspouts. Think gutter cleaning is just a spring thing? Guess again. When chilling temperatures arrive, your gutters are likely to experience increased water flow during downpours and heavy snowstorms. Keep them clean and free of ice dam-forming leaves and debris so your gutters direct the water or melting snow away from your home. Left filled with gunk, gutters freeze and water from the melted snow has nowhere to go. As a result, water can seep through your roof, causing leaks and significant damage to your home.


  1. Weatherproof your house. Installing storm doors and weather-stripping prevents cold air from entering your home, while helping to keep heat inside where it belongs. If you see cracks or gaps around windows and doors, caulk them. In addition to keeping your heating bill in check, keeping cold air out plays an important role in guarding your pipes from freezing, bursting and causing major, expensive damage.


  1. Schedule an annual tune-up for your furnace, fireplace and hot water heater. This essential service clears them of build-up and helps them run safely and efficiently. Also, be sure to change your furnace filter monthly so it doesn’t have to work so hard.


  1. If you just bought your home, check if the seller included a home warranty in the sale (or try to build it into the purchase). Otherwise, consider independently purchasing one from a company like American Home Shield. Depending on the policy you select, it can even cover appliances, garage door openers and sump pumps, the latter an item that takes a beating during major downpours and snowstorms. (We cannot recommend purchasing home warranty enough— they have saved the Handled crew thousands of dollars in replacement costs — and repairs — over the years.)


  1. Check your detectors. Change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and test them to ensure they’re in working order. With your home closed up for the winter and no fresh air flowing in, this is more important than ever. Plus, it’s routine maintenance that’s just good sense. Pro tip: newer detectors from Nest and Ring attach to your smartphone.


  1. Do a final yard clean-up. Trim trees and remove dead branches in preparation for the months ahead. Heavy ice and wind can weaken branches and cause them to break, potentially injuring  you, or damaging your property or your vehicle.


  1. Ditch the hose. Detach and drain your garden hoses and put them away. Then, be sure to shut off the water valves and insulate the spigot with an outdoor faucet cover.


  1. Protect your pipes. When water freezes, it expands. Pipes located in unheated interior spaces — or located within exterior walls — are especially prone to ice blockage. That includes the ones in often forgotten-about garages, attics and basements. Not to be overlooked are pipes situated near cracks or openings that let in cold air — even in a heated space. To avoid costly frozen and burst pipes during cold weather, insulate them with fiberglass, polyethylene or foam insulation. In a pinch, wadded-up newspaper and duct tape is a short-term solution. Don’t forget to drip water from your faucets on particularly cold days. Running water through pipes — even at a trickle — helps prevent them from freezing. Finally, consider insulating all of your hot-water pipes to reduce heat loss and save energy and money.


  1. Inspect the roof for damaged or missing shingles. Depending on the grade of your roof, you may need to enlist a contractor to do an inspection. In the event repairs are needed, it’s important to address them in a timely manner to avoid leaks that lead to property damage. Note that the shape of your roof — especially if it’s metal — determines where (and how fast) water and snow fall off your roof. Check for steep sections of your roof and make sure runoff is directed off the roof and away from your house. Left unchecked, your roof slope may act as a funnel for snowmelt, possibly causing water damage down-path. 


  1. Turn your ceiling fans clockwise. During winter, ceiling fans need to spin clockwise to create an updraft that circulates tapped, warm air back out and around the room. This is especially impactful in rooms with vaulted ceilings.


  1. Make your home unattractive to pests. It’s not just people who want to avoid the cold — animals do, too. Tidy up your home and close any gaps where critters might burrow inside. You should also make sure things like pet food and birdseed are stored in airtight containers.

Looking for more ways to maintain, update or cozy up your home? Be sure to check out our blog for ideas to help you make your house feel like a home.

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