Grey two story house with dormers and cedar shake covered in snow with shoveled stairway and driveway leading to entrance.

Winterizing Your House: A Complete Guide

Andrew Dehan6 minute read
UPDATED: November 09, 2022

If you live in a place where the temperature drops to freezing, you’ll 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 if your area barely hits freezing, your home can benefit from winterizing.

How To Winterize Your House

Winterizing your home is important to keep your home safe and save you money in the process. These nine steps will keep your home running efficiently, and your property protected from the elements.

1. Prevent Burst Pipes

Burst pipes are one of the most common and expensive winter headaches for homeowners. The good news is you can prevent frozen pipes with little effort. A small amount of work to prepare for cold weather will save you money and avoid a mess.

First, always maintain a temperature of at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit in your home. This will help keep the water in your pipes from freezing and expanding when temperatures drop too low.

Most home insurance companies won’t cover burst pipes in the home if the temperature is set too low. Setting your thermostat at 60 or above helps guarantee even the coldest parts of your home won’t drop below freezing.

Prevent Exterior Burst Pipes

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
  • 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. Consider installing a valve to release pressure if your home doesn’t have one.

Monitor Your Crawl Space

While some homes have heated basements, others are built on top of crawl spaces. If you’re a homeowner with a crawl space, you’ll have to take extra steps to prevent the pipes 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 and prevent mold and mildew.
  • Insulate the crawl space and seal any cracks or holes that allow cold air in.
  • Insulate crawl space pipes and include heat wiring under the insulation.

2. Get Your Heating System Inspected

Your heating system needs to run properly for your house 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.

Buy the appropriate filter for your home if you have a furnace or heat pump. Filters can range in quality, price and the length of time they last, usually 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, install them before temperatures drop. Storm doors and windows have replaceable screens and glass panes. Either switch out the screen for the glass or place a glass pane in front of the screen.

This layer of glass adds extra insulation. Now your windows have twice as much glass to protect your home from the outside. The same thing 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.

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

Replacing windows is a much more expensive job and should be left to pros. Still, replacing storm windows could be worth the cost since they greatly increase the energy efficiency of your home.

Need extra cash for home improvement?

Use your home equity for a cash-out refinance.

NMLS #3030

4. Seal Leaks With Caulk And Weather Stripping 

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.

Keep Cold Air Outside Your Door

One main pathway for air coming into your house is between the door and the frame. You can 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.

Protect Windows From Heat Loss

Another place to insulate is around your windows. Improving air tightness by winterizing 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 candidate for improvement.
  • Seal the leaks with caulk. 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. Program Your Thermostat

If you have an older thermostat, consider upgrading to a smart thermostat. Most older thermostats aren’t programmable, making it more difficult to dial back the temperature and save on heating costs.

Smart thermostats allow you to adjust the temperature in your home 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 the temperature to drop a few degrees at bedtime for better sleep. These small cutbacks can save you plenty over time.

A smart thermostat is programmable through a convenient app so you can change or check your thermostat from anywhere. There are tons of bonus features like receiving alerts if the temperature is too low or high.

6. Check Your Flues and Chimneys

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.

Likewise, if your home uses a flue to vent exhaust from your furnace, you’ll want to have an expert examine it. You’ll need to clear blockages, replace eroded or loose parts and check for missing flue caps. A heating system professional can help ensure everything is working properly. 

7. Insulate Your Attic

If your home’s attic doesn’t have sufficient insulation, a large percentage of the heat in your home will simply escape in cold temperatures. Since hot air naturally rises, this can mean warm air is pulled up and away from your living space, wasting energy and increasing your energy bill.

The good news is that you can winterize your attic by adding one of the following types of insulation in your attic and enjoy the subsequent savings year after year. Consider trying one of the following types of insulation:

  • Loose fill insulation
  • Batt insulation
  • Cellulose insulation
  • Spray foam
  • Rigid foam panels

Be sure to avoid placing insulation directly against chimneys, flues from gas-fired appliances, or lights in the ceiling that are not rated for contact with insulation, as doing so can create a fire hazard.

8. 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. Blocked gutters can cause ice build-up that can damage your gutters or your property if they fall. 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.

9. Protect Outdoor Items From Winter Storms

The last step is to protect outdoor fixtures. This means bringing in anything that won’t survive the cold, covering furniture and fixtures and securing other equipment for winter. 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.
  • Cover and winterize your pool.
  • 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 Bottom Line: 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 and preserving its function and value. Take the steps to winterize your home and enjoy the coziness of winter.

Looking to upgrade your property for winter or repair a previous winter mishap? Apply for a cash-out refinance so you can make repairs and restore your home’s value.

Need extra cash for home improvement?

Use your home equity for a cash-out refinance.

NMLS #3030

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.