Winter Tasks to Tackle Before Temperatures Plummet
Use this checklist to keep your home and yard protected from harsh weather this winter.
While snow and icicles can make for a picturesque view, they also can cause some major damage, including frozen pipes, fallen trees and ice dams. The good news? A little preventive maintenance goes a long way.
- Safeguard entryway flooring. Entryway floors can get worked hard during the winter months when snow, ice, salt and sand get tracked inside. Consider using heavy-duty floor mats inside and outside of every entrance to help protect your flooring, thereby increasing its longevity. In addition, a brush or boot scraper placed outside helps eliminate excess snow, and a waterproof tray on the floor inside makes a great place for stashing wet boots and shoes.
- Update emergency supplies. Power outages often accompany winter storms, so it’s important to be prepared with necessities like bottled water, emergency food, first-aid supplies, flashlights, batteries, as well as a hand-crank smartphone charger and radio.
- Check smoke and carbon monoxide detector batteries. This task is especially important during the winter months due to homes being closed up, and fireplaces and wood-burning stoves being used. Be sure the kitchen, every bedroom, and each floor of the house all have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Check your detectors monthly, changing batteries as necessary.
- Ice dam prevention. Ice dams develop when the edges of the roof are colder than the upper areas, allowing ice to build up around the eaves. Snow then melts higher up on the roof, rolls down and backs up behind the “dam” of ice on the edge. Ice dams are very serious, causing leaks and permanent damage to homes. Prevention is much easier than treating an existing ice dam, so be sure to follow these steps before winter’s storms hit:
- Clean out your gutters, removing all debris. Clogged gutters can back up, causing ice dams and leaks, which can damage siding and the roof.
- Assess and upgrade insulation and ventilation in the attic.
- Invest in a roof rake.
- Get snow off of your roof as quickly as possible after storms. Use your roof rake or hire a professional.
- Watch the trees near your home. Snow on tree limbs can weigh them down and make them more apt to break — something that can be quite dangerous when trees are in close proximity to your home. After each snowfall, consider brushing off heavily laden branches. Avoid shaking trees to remove snow, as this can cause unnecessary breakage. When appropriate tree maintenance is performed in the fall and consistent snow removal is taken care of in the winter, limb breakage can be prevented. If a tree limb does come down during winter, be sure to have it removed as soon as the weather allows.
- Take out window screens. A simple thing like removing screens from your windows can not only increase natural light, but also boost solar heat gain inside your home. In addition, leaving screens in over the winter can result in snow being caught between the screen and window during storms, which can cause damage to window sills and frames.
- Maintain clear pathways. The best way to maintain safe and ice-free sidewalks, walkways and driveways this winter is through regular snow removal, either by shoveling or snow blowing. Also, stow away some plant- and pet-safe salt or sand to sprinkle on stairways and other slick surfaces to provide traction. Consider marking the edges of your sidewalk and driveway so you know where to stop shoveling.
- Block cold air from getting inside. As soon as you notice a draft, it’s time to take action. Use these tips to increase your home’s energy efficiency and stop those pesky cold air leaks:
- Inspect the caulking around windows and doors, as well as anywhere something goes through a wall, such as air vents and outside faucets. Repair any damaged or missing caulking.
- Inspect the weatherstripping on windows and doors. Replace as needed.
- Seal any cracks found in foundation walls.
- Avoid frozen pipes. Water expands as it freezes, which can lead to burst pipes, substantial water damage and expensive repairs. Use these steps to prevent frozen pipes in the winter:
- Insulate pipes — especially those located near doors and windows, and in areas of the house that are unheated.
- Disconnect the hose from the outside faucet.
- If your pipes are susceptible to freezing, let your faucets drip when temperatures are below freezing. Running water doesn’t freeze.
- When you are away from home, set the thermostat at a minimum of 55 degrees Fahrenheit.