Late Autumn: Winterize Your Home

Home is shelter! If you live in a place where you’re not likely to die from exposure if you sleep outside, you probably feel less invested in the process of winterizing your home, but you should do it anyway. Freak snow storms are only becoming more common as climate change ravages our sense of weather security. In the winter season, the biggest pain points or health concerns you’ll face as a homeowner include poor energy efficiency, carbon monoxide poisoning, and freezing temperatures that might put your home’s structural integrity at risk. To winterize your home before the first snowfall, you’ll want to complete these tasks by mid to late Fall.

Exterior Preparedness

Do This Maintenance Every Year Before Winter

Inspect all windows for gaps that can cause energy leaks. This is a quarterly task, especially if you live in an area that experiences extreme storms or temperatures. The constant exposure to changing temperatures or weather events can cause cracks and damage to caulking. If needed, replace any caulking that might be damaged.

If you’re not sure if your home is energy efficient, you can ask your electric utility company to perform an energy audit. Most providers will do this free of charge and it can help you identify areas for improvement. Check all seals for energy leaks, focusing on entry doors, windows, and exterior walls. If needed, recaulk seals to prevent leaks. 

Rule of Thumb

If your windows are the main cause of energy loss, consider installing storm windows. Not only are they more durable for storm season, but they’re also better at preventing energy leaks.

Don’t forget to have your roof inspected for leaks or signs of damage such as loose or missing shingles. General wear and tear and all types of weather events can cause damage. Prevent leaks before they cause significant water damage in your home. Water infiltration can also occur after blizzards as the snow begins to melt, so ensure your doors, windows, and roofs are covered from all angles.

After the bulk of autumn leaves have fallen, have your gutters cleaned to prevent buildup. Left unchecked in a cold weather region, in the winter your gutters could freeze or split from the mix of ice and clogged debris. Look for areas that might be loose or crooked and have them repaired. If you live in a warmer climate, it’s still wise to clean your gutters each year before rains begin during the winter. Clear gutters, full heart, can’t lose.

Don’t forget to winterize your hose bibs and sprinkler systems. This will ensure that exterior faucets, irrigation lines, and sprinkler heads won’t get damaged during cold weather. Anything that can freeze should be a big concern when you are completing home maintenance for disaster preparedness.

Interior Preparedness

Do This Interior Maintenance Every Year Before Winter

Have your chimney or fireplace cleaned by a professional — especially if you use it regularly. Carbon monoxide poisoning deaths increase in winter months; people are at greatest risk when windows are closed and heat sources are on. If you rarely use your fireplace, you can have it cleaned less frequently. Note: this also applies to electric fireplaces.

Check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to ensure that the batteries are fresh and the devices are working properly. Also, make sure you have a fire safety plan in place and that all household members know more than one escape route.

Replace your furnace filters. This will improve furnace efficiency and indoor air quality which can be a source of irritation for people with allergies and respiratory conditions. Check your HVAC connections to make sure your system is tight.

Just in case the power goes out because of freezing weather or downed power lines, plan ahead by stocking up on some winterizing emergency essentials like duct tape, removable caulk, and weather stripping. If power outages are a known concern, think about getting a generator and other emergency devices that minimize disruption to daily life.

Rule of Thumb

On extremely cold days, let faucets drip to prevent freezing pipes — especially when temperatures dip dangerously low overnight. And that’s a home maintenance for disaster preparedness tip you can take to the bank.

Do This Interior Maintenance Every Few Years Before Winter

Check on your water pipes! Insulate them if you live in a cold area, and check your work every few years. You’ll improve your energy efficiency and make it less likely for your pipes to freeze, which could prevent bursting and damage.

Check your home’s insulation for leaks or damage and have it replaced or installed as needed. Many homes don’t have enough insulation, which contributes to energy leaks. Again, a home energy audit can help identify if you have sufficient insulation. The EPA advises homeowners to ensure that attics should have a minimum of R-38 insulation which is 10-14 inches deep. If there are any cracks in your walls or seals, caulk around them to prevent energy leaks.

Spend some time making sure your forbidden cotton candy is ready for anything.

About the Author

It takes a village! We are researching, writing and fact checking as a family. Collaboration is the name of the game, whether we’re running from a zombie horde or finding the best way to turn a complex concept into a deliciously digestible set of bullet points.