Winterizing Your Home for Safety

As some of us wake up to fresh snow on the ground, it may seem like it’s too late to winterize your home. However, the heaviest, coldest parts of winter are still to come, and it’s not too late to prepare your home for the impending ‘bomb cyclones’ and blizzards ahead.

To help you make sure your house is winterized from a safety perspective, we’ve put together some tips to keep your family warm, dry, and safe at home this blistery season.

Prepare the Fireplace

Before you light the yule log, have a chimney sweep come by to clean out the chimney. Animals sometimes roost there to stay warm and protected from weather, and may have left nests behind, which could catch on fire. Similarly, previous fires could have left a coating, called creosote, in the interior of the chimney. Creosote is highly flammable, and can pose a fire hazard.

Make sure your flue is working too! You’ll need to be sure it’s open before lighting the fire, but it’s a good idea to close the flue when the chimney isn’t in use. This helps stop warmth from escaping, keeping your energy bills low.

Insulate, Insulate, Insulate

Everything you can do to keep the cold OUT will help you stay warm without overworking your furnace and driving up energy costs. You can go to your local hardware store and buy weatherstripping materials, which are inserted around the edges of doors and windows for an extra seal. Caulking and using regular insulation work as well for this purpose. For extra protection, install storm windows!

For doors with space at the bottom, try getting some draft stoppers. These basically look like long pillows that lay in front of your door. If you’re still feeling a draft, it’s time to call in a professional. Have your contractor check the exterior of your house for any cracks in walls, and your roof for any leaks.

Double Check Your Detectors

Fires are more common in the winter, not only because of fireplace fires, but because boilers and furnaces are running at their highest during this time of the year. Before you start cranking the heat be sure that the carbon monoxide and smoke detectors in your home are all in working order.

Keep Out Water & Moisture

During the winter, any water that gets into your home can be a huge hazard, so you’ll want to do everything you can to redirect it. One big thing you can do is clean out your gutters. Clogged gutters can fill with ice, creating an ice dam. Ice dams allow water to pool on your roof and around the sides of your home, where it can seep in and create water damage. You’ll want to do this after the last leaves fall; cleaning too early can be a waste of time, since you’ll just have to do it again!

If you’re worried about ice and water buildup around your foundation, you can also buy extensions for your drainage pipes. Experts recommend directing melted snow at least 3-4 feet away from your house.

Protect Your Pipes

A burst pipe in winter is something nobody wants to deal with. Luckily, there are a few ways to prevent this from happening:

  • Turn off outdoor faucets, and have sprinkler systems blown out by a professional.
  • Drain outdoor hoses.
  • Remove and drain window A/C units.
  • Insulate pipes in exposed or unheated areas.
  • Keep your thermostat above 55 degrees.
  • On especially cold days, open cabinets to let warm air reach sink pipes.

You can also call in a professional to check on your pipes ahead of time. They’ll be able to tell you if there are any problems, or old pipes that are more likely to burst and need to be replaced.

Bring the Outdoors In

Winter weather can cause damage to patio furniture, while freezing temperatures can kill potted plants. Bring plants indoors before the first cold snap to preserve them. Store outdoor furniture in a basement or storage unit to keep it in good shape. Remember to keep cushions in a dry area!

If you can bring your grill inside, you should. However, some grills are built to remain outdoors, especially those that run on propane. For these, it’s smart to purchase an insulated cover to protect the grill from damage.

Trim those Trees

Before your first big storm, have an arborist come to your home and check on your trees. If there are dead or dying limbs on your trees, you may want to cut them, as these would be the most likely to fall during a storm. Be sure to check on trees near your neighbors too – if your tree damages their house, you may be liable.

Tune Up Your Winter Appliances

Your furnace should be checked every year in the fall. This helps to ensure that it is running at its best, and helps you prevent problems before they happen. Preventive care can be annoying and seem costly, but it’s nothing in comparison to the expense of items that break down and cause damage.

You should also take time to check on your other winter appliances.

  • If you have a snowblower, make sure it is properly gassed up, and that all the parts are in working order.
  • If you have a generator, turn it on for a bit to ensure that its working properly.
  • You’ll also want to buy extra fuel for both, in case of an emergency.

Assemble a Storm Kit

No matter how prepared you are, some storms can be devastatingly cold, with mountains of snow and icy roads that trap you at home, sometimes for days. We recommend creating a safety kit to help you get through at least 3 days without leaving home. This means food and water, as well as lamps and flashlights- and batteries!- in the case of an outage.

Remember that a power outage means no fridge, no oven, and for those of you with an electric one, no stove. So stock up on semi- and non-perishable foods with a high nutrient content. You should have enough water for one gallon per person per day. If you have a kit from last year, swap out expired semi-perishable food for fresh items.

In addition, it’s important to have a first aid kit, in case someone has an injury. You can buy one or make one for yourself, but be sure to have plenty of band-aids and and antibacterial cream for cuts and scrapes. You should also pack some basic tools, which can come in handy in a variety of situations. If the temperature drops down low, you may also want to have an alternative source for heat. You can all huddle by the fireplace, or try a kerosene heater to stay warm.

Stay Safe

The most important thing to do this winter is put safety first. If you are ever worried about the safety of your home contact a professional right away. You can also reach out to your local police or fire station if you need immediate help. But if you’re well prepared and your house is read, it’s time to enjoy a wonderful winter, full of snowball fights, warm fires and hot chocolate.