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Winterizing Your House: A Complete Guide

Andrew DehanNovember 09, 2020

If you live anywhere that gets near freezing in the winter, you need to winterize your house. The colder it gets, the worse it could be for your home if you don’t take the right precautions. Even homes barely flirting with frost benefit from winterizing care.

Keep your home your home warm and dry by learning the process of winterizing a house.

How To Winterize Your House

Winterizing your home is an important process. Follow these eight steps to keep your home safe and running efficiently, and your property protected from the elements.

1. Prevent Frozen Pipes

Temperatures below freezing can cause the water in your pipes to freeze. When water freezes, it expands. This will make your pipes burst, usually causing water to spray everywhere.

You’ll have to replace the pipes and clean up the mess. The good news is you can prevent frozen pipes with little effort. A small amount of work to prep for cold weather will save you money and the headache of a mess.

First, maintain at least 60 degrees in your home. Most home insurance companies won’t cover burst pipes in the home if the temperature is set too low. With your thermostat set at 60 or above, you’re guaranteed even the coldest parts of your home won’t get to freezing.

Pipes on the exterior of your home, going to something like a garden hose or a sprinkler system, can freeze much faster when temps dip. To prevent this:

  • Disconnect and store any connected hoses.
  • Open the outside valve to allow any remaining water to drain out.
  • Turn off the shutoff valve inside your home that supplies water to the outside pipes.
  • Many homes have an indoor drain valve near the shutoff valve. Use this to drain any remaining water out of the line.

While some homes have a heated basement, others are built on top of crawl spaces. If your home has one, you’ll have to take extra steps to prevent the pipes in the crawl space from freezing during the winter season. Here’s what you can do:

  • On the coldest days, close the crawl space vents. Make sure to open them when it warms back up, as these vents keep your crawl space dry.
  • Insulate the crawl space and seal up any cracks or holes that allow cold air in.
  • When it gets especially cold, wrap pipes along outer walls in heat tape to keep them warm.

2. Get A Furnace Inspection (And Replace The Filter)

Your home needs a properly running heat source to stay comfortable in the winter. Whether you have a furnace, boiler or some other form of heater, regular maintenance will help your HVAC system run efficiently and last longer.

If you have a furnace or heat pump, by the appropriate filter for your home. Filters can range in quality, price and length of time they last, from 3 months to a year. In the event you have pets or a particularly dusty home, you may be better off changing the filter more frequently.

3. Install Storm Windows And Doors

If you have storm windows and doors, now is the time to install them. Storm doors and windows have replaceable screens and glass pane. Either switch out the screen for the glass or place a glass pane in front of the screen.

This extra layer of glass adds way more insulation. Now your windows have twice as much glass between them and the outside. Same goes for your storm doors. By taking the screen out and adding glass, you’re making another barrier against the cold. All it takes is a little effort and simple tools, like a screwdriver.

Replacing an old screen door with one that can handle a storm door is a nice upgrade to a home entrance. The labor should only take you a few hours and the savings you experience on your heating bill could pay for the new door in a season.

Replacing windows is a much more expensive job and should be left to pros. Storm windows will greatly increase the efficiency of your home.

4. Seal Potential Leaks 

If your home lacks proper sealing, cold air can infiltrate your living spaces, create cold drafts and force your heating equipment to run longer. Fortunately, there are easy and affordable ways to improve the sealing of your doors and windows and avoid these issues.

One main pathway for air coming into your house is between the door and the frame. Reduce the air leakage through your exterior doors by following these tips:

  • Seal the gap between the door and frame by adding or replacing weather stripping.
  • Install a door sweep at the bottom of your door to block the cold air.

Another air leakage path is around your windows. Improving the air tightness of your windows will lower your heating bills and reduce drafts in your home. To do so, follow these steps:

  • Determine which windows are leaking. On a cold day, run the back of your hand along the interior frame of the window. If you feel cold air, the window is drafty and a perfect candidate for improvement.
  • After locating any leaky windows, use an exterior-rated caulk to seal around the exterior perimeter of the window. You can also use caulk to seal the cracks between the interior window trim and the wall.
  • Install window film. This is an inexpensive and effective method to improve the insulation of your windows. You can purchase a window film kit at your local home improvement store.

5. Set Your Thermostat

If you have an older thermostat, upgrade to a 7-day programmable thermostat or a smart thermostat. Most older thermostats do not have a programmable schedule, making it more difficult to dial back the temperature and save on heating costs.

A programmable thermostat allows you to preprogram your thermostat based on your schedule. You can program your thermostat to drop the heat when you leave for work and kick it up before you get home. Or program it to drop a few degrees at bedtime for better sleep. These small cutbacks can save you plenty over time.

A smart thermostat is a programmable one with advanced features, including the ability to control it from your phone, and get alerts if the temperature is too low or high.

6. Call A Chimney Expert

If you use a wood-burning fireplace or stove during the winter, have it inspected and cleaned by a professional chimney sweeping service. This may reduce the risk of a house fire, extend the life of your fireplace and chimney, and help prevent smoke damage in your home.

7. Clean Your Gutters

Clean gutters are important as they direct melting snow and water away from your home. If your gutters are clogged with leaves and other debris, they won’t be able to perform their intended function. It’s essential to clean your gutters before the winter hits.

If you’d rather not get on a ladder to do the job yourself, you can hire a professional gutter cleaning company.

8. Protect Outdoor Items

The last step is to protect outdoor fixtures. This means bringing in what won’t survive the cold, covering furniture and other things. Here’s a list of things you may need to do:

  • Cover your grill and, if it’s propane-fueled, disconnect it from the propane tanks, storing them for the winter.
  • Bring in patio furniture cushions.
  • Cover patio furniture.
  • Prep your fire pit by removing ashes, if wood-fueled, or disconnecting it from gas.
  • Clean your deck, removing dirt, mildew, leaves and other debris.

The Benefits Of Winterizing A House

Winterizing your house will save you money on your heating bills, but that’s just the start of it. By winterizing your home, you’re prolonging its life. Your furnace won’t work as hard. Your pipes won’t burst. Your outdoor furniture will last for years to come.

Take the steps to winterize your home and enjoy the coziness of winter.

Learn more homeownership tips at the Rocket HomesSM blog.

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    Andrew Dehan

    Andrew Dehan is a professional writer who writes about real estate and homeownership. He is also a published poet, musician and nature-lover. He lives in metro Detroit with his wife, daughter and dogs.