snow capped red building

Winterizing Your Home

There’s nothing quite like the despair you feel when you’re woken up in the middle of a snowstorm to find icy water leaking straight into your bedroom. Winter can be hard on both you and your home, but fortunately, this and many other home disasters are avoidable with the right preparations.

Here are two main things you should keep in mind when winterizing your home: 

  • Prepping the infrastructure
  • Buying the right equipment

Read on for some helpful homeowner tips on how to winterize your home and set yourself up for a cozy season.

Infrastructure: Keeping Cold Out and Heat In

Doors and Windows
The most basic step to winterizing your home is stopping drafts. Door drafts and window drafts are an endless source of problems, from allowing warmth to escape to causing ice buildup inside your home. Weatherstrip tape is often the quickest fix for gaps. Just measure, cut, and stick. You’ll have a snug seal all winter long! An additional challenge with windows is the glass itself. Even with weather stripping in place, window panes are a major source of heat loss. One easy fix is window shrink film. This is a clear, thin sheet of plastic that will hold tight to your window frame when heat is applied. A hairdryer is all you need to get the job done.

But what if you’d rather not have all your windows look like they’ve been Saran wrapped? Thermal curtains can be a stylish and cozy alternative. It’s important to note, however, that the tradeoff is a higher cost. A pair of thermal curtains will run you anywhere from $30 to $150, depending on size. On the other hand, a shrink film kit averages less than $3 a window.

Fireplaces
A roaring fire is the classic focal point of winter socializing. As such, ensuring your fireplace is operating correctly before the snow hits is essential. Check if the chimney is drawing smoke up and out, not letting it collect indoors. If the smoke isn’t being drawn up, try opening a window in your fireplace room. The pressure change can assist in correcting the airflow. If this doesn’t do the job, you can try using a hairdryer or heat gun to pre-heat the chimney, which can also help direct airflow.

Furnaces
Another fundamental step to winterizing your home is tuning up your furnace. Experts recommend getting a furnace inspection at least once a year. Such inspections will help you get ahead of any major problems. However, there are some small things you can do on your own to help guarantee smooth operation. Completing these basic steps before turning on your heat for the first time will help ensure that your furnace keeps you warm from the first frost to the first day of spring. Prior to winter’s arrival, you can:

  • Replace the filter
  • Dust and vacuum the interior
  • Check for loose connections

Insulation
Something which can save you a lot of money, if you are proactive about it, is ensuring your roof is well insulated. Besides being an expensive source of heat loss, if the underside of your roof gets too warm, the snow outside can melt and run towards the eaves. This melt will re-freeze at the colder eaves, creating an ice dam. Subsequent water is then trapped, and its only point of drainage is into your home.Check your insulation depth in your attic. Ideally, there should be 12 to 14 inches. If you need to add more, blown-in insulation will fill nooks and crannies better than insulation batting. Doing it yourself can save quite a bit of money, usually costing around one third the price of hiring a professional. Make sure you do your research before you get started, though. Blowing insulation can be a pretty messy process, and you don’t want to do it more than once.

Equipment: Things to Keep On Hand

Besides the basics, there are some additional pieces of equipment you’ll want to have on hand, however, that might not immediately come to mind. Stock up on these gadgets and tools to make your transition into winter seamless.

Boot Draining Tray
Boots are meant to keep your feet warm and dry, but sometimes they can end up doing just the opposite. Wet boots left on the carpet or hard floors create massive puddles of cold water. One distracted step and your cozy evening is ruined. Buy or make a boot draining tray to keep your floors clean and dry. A fairly simple DIY option is to take a plastic or metal tray, such as a cookie tray, and cover it with small rocks or tiles. The space between the rocks will allow your boots to drain into the tray, drying them out nicely by the time you need to brave the outdoors once more.

Roof Rake
These fabulous devices look kind of like big squeegees on a very long handle. They’re designed to allow a homeowner to remove ice and snow from the roof while standing safely on the ground. The biggest benefit of owning and using a roof rake is the same benefit of improving your insulation: no snow on the roof means no opportunity for ice dams.

Carbon Monoxide Alarm
Finally, an important safety addition when winterizing is installing carbon monoxide alarms in your home. With the house sealed up to prevent heat escaping, and with heating devices running 24/7, the risk is much higher for a buildup of this lethal gas. There are a variety of device options, including combination smoke/carbon monoxide detectors—and you can get hardwired or plug-in versions of these—so there’s an option out there to fit your needs.

Every season comes with its own unique set of home maintenance requirements. However, with winter’s destructive potential, protecting your home is vital, it pays to be prepared. Much of the equipment you should have for winter house maintenance is pretty straightforward. Sidewalk salt, a sturdy shovel or snowblower, and something to safely remove icicles are all necessities. It only takes a small amount of planning ahead and a little bit of your own labor to ensure you’ve taken every precaution against unpleasant surprises.

Best of luck to you and stay warm!

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