7 Tips to Get Your Home Ready for Cold Weather

As cold weather approaches, there are several things you can do around the house to make sure you and your family stay warm and safe all winter. These seven steps can ensure your house will be in top shape for whatever winter brings.

  1. Protect Your Pipes: We all know water expands as it freezes. If water inside your pipes freezes, it will expand, too, which can cause your pipes to crack and burst. Pipes also can burst when pressure builds up behind a chunk of ice, which is why it’s a good idea to leave faucets dripping in very cold weather. Take a few steps to winterize your pipes and avoid a potentially catastrophic claim.
    • Drain water from outdoor faucets and sprinkler systems to keep those pipes from freezing.
    • Disconnect and store outdoor hoses; cover outdoor faucets with foam insulators.
    • Protect water pipes that run through unheated areas of your home with insulation.
  2. Check the Heat: The time to be sure you’re going to stay warm all winter is before the weather gets too cold. Check your furnace by turning on the heat and the blower to be sure they’re operating as they should.
    • Change your furnace filter at the start of the season and then every two to four months.
    • Consider installing a programmable thermostat if you don’t have one.
  3. Prevent Ice Dams: Ice dams form when heat escapes through the roof and melts snow that’s settled there. That snowmelt flows to your roof’s edge and refreezes, usually at the eaves. Those pretty icicles can signal an ugly ice dam underneath. The problem with an ice dam is that snow that later melts can’t properly drain, so it has to go somewhere… and that might be through a leak in your roof, causing water damage in your home.
    • Clogged gutters and downspouts are the No. 1 cause of ice dams. Clean them out to keep water flowing during the winter.
    • Seal places that may allow warm air to leak from your home to your attic.
    • Be sure soffit vents, which are along the eaves of the house and allow air to flow into the attic, are clear.
    • If you’ve had problems with ice dams before or have reason to suspect you might this year, you can take these additional steps:
      • Install snow and ice slides to prevent ice and snow from “bonding” to your roof.
      • Install a rubberized ice and water shield beneath the roof shingles, going 3 to 6 feet back from the eaves.
      • Hire a roofer to install heat cable along the eaves to melt ice.
      • Add additional insulation to your attic floor.
  4. Clean and Store Lawn Equipment: After a summer of yard work, gas-powered equipment such as mowers, trimmers, tillers, and chippers can all benefit from service before being stored for the winter.
    • Empty all of the fuel. Gas can degrade all the time, and the ethanol in E10 gas can damage fuel lines and other components while sitting unused.
    • Clean the machine of oil and yard debris, and sharpen the blades.
    • Store them for winter in a basement, garage, or covered storage shed where they’re safe from the weather.
  5. Inspect the Fireplace and Chimney: There’s nothing like the glow of a fire to warm up a winter evening. But before you light up that first log, make sure your fireplace and chimney are clean and critter-free.
  6. Seal Windows and Doors: Gaps around windows and doors can make it tough to keep your house warm in winter. Caulk around windows and install weather stripping around doors as needed. This minor and inexpensive task can help you save on heating costs. Another option is to add storm windows and doors. Remove, wash and store screens for the spring before you have them installed.
  7. Stock Up on Cold-weather Essentials: When winter storms hit, they often come with power outages. To ensure you and your family are prepared for anything Mother Nature throws at you this winter, you will want to have an emergency kit ready. Consider having these cold-weather specific items on hand:
    • A working, fully charged fire extinguisher.
    • An alternative heat source such as a generator, wood-burning stove, or fireplace.
    • Sand, ice melt, and a shovel if where you live is prone to ice and snow (avoid using kitty litter, as it doesn’t provide good traction and can make a mess).
    • You should also develop a plan for communicating or meeting up with family in case you aren’t together when a winter storm hits.

*AUCP does not own the rights to this document. Adapted from articles posted by Liberty Mutual.