How to prepare your home for winter in 10 easy steps

how to prepare your house for winter

Bjorn Wallander by Kylee Shintaffer

Whether you’re a long-time homeowner, first-time homeowner, or rental, it’s time to start preparing your space for winter weather. No matter where you live, fall is the ideal time to prepare before temperatures, rain, and snow make it too difficult (and miserable!) to complete these tasks outdoors. “Winterizing your home not only helps your home systems last longer, but it can also prevent problems like leaks from occurring,” says Keith Busch, Mr. Handyman’s vice president of operations. “There are a lot of things that people don’t think about, but are very easy to do to protect your investment.”

Before we get into our handy checklist, let’s start with the pre-prep step: Before you do anything, go outside and take a walk to familiarize yourself with your home’s exterior and identify potential problems, Busch says. Look closely around windows and doors, garage doors, and hallways, and look for anything that’s obvious, like loose dryer vents, fallen blinds, or damaged siding. Also, if this is your first winter in your home, locate the gas and water shutoff valves in your home. It’s better to know ahead of time than to be struggling to find a shut-off if you have a leak or smell gas.

And now that you know the basics, read on for a complete checklist on how to winterize your home.

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Check the weather stripping on windows and doors.

Cold air seeps in through the smallest cracks. Check the rubber or felt strip or the adhesive foam tape that is placed around the doors or window frames to make sure it is in good condition. If it’s cracked or missing pieces or you can see light gaps through the weather stripping, it’s time to replace it, Busch says. Please check which type you have before purchasing.



Prepare lawn and garden equipment for winter.

After the last mowing, prepare your equipment for long-term storage. Clean it out and drain the gas or use a gas stabilizer that allows you to keep the gas in the machine all winter long and disconnect the batteries. Store any garden items, such as non-frost-resistant pots, such as terracotta ones, in the shed, garage or basement. And don’t forget to put away the garden furniture! Or, if you choose to leave it outside, be sure not to push it against any exhaust pipes or vents on the outside of your home, Busch says.



Turn off water to outside faucets.

Make sure underground irrigation systems have been turned off so there is no water left to freeze. Drain garden hoses and store them in the shed or garage. Turn off outside faucets, which often have a shutoff valve in the basement. Once you have turned off the water, open the faucet and let the remaining water drip out. If you have an older home that may not have frost-free outdoor faucets, buy a small outdoor faucet cover to insulate them from frost, Busch says.



Have your chimney checked.

If it’s been a few years, or if you never have, it’s probably time to inspect and clean your chimney. Cracks can occur in drywall, and birds and other animals can nest in chimneys, causing blockages that could allow carbon monoxide to flow back into your home. Check with the National Chimney Sweep Guild or the Chimney Sweep Institute for certified chimney sweeps.


Make sure the gutters are clean.

Gutters keep water moving away from your home, without collecting next to the foundation. Gutters clogged by leaves and sticks also allow water and ice to back up under the shingles, creating what’s known as an ice dam that pushes water under the shingles, Busch says. The weight of icicles can also topple gutters that don’t drain properly. Be sure to clean all the gutters before the winter rain and snow starts.



Plug the large outer holes.

Rodents can fit through a hole as small as a pencil (ick!). Walk around your home and look for obvious cracks or holes that allow rodent infestations to enter. Check places like around windows and doors, around the chimney, at the foundation where it meets the ground, around the hot water tank or furnace pipes leading out of the house, and dryer vents. It’s not always easy to spot a small hole, but you may discover some obvious gaps that can be filled with caulk or spray foam.



Change the direction of rotation of your ceiling fan.

Heat rises, so make sure your fan is turning clockwise to help move hot air into the living room. In the summer, reverse the fan counterclockwise to create a cooling downdraft. There is usually a small button on the side of the fan to make the change.



Change your furnace filter.

A clogged filter makes your furnace work harder and can shorten its life. If you’re not already changing filters regularly, stick to a schedule, Busch says. While the general recommendation is to change it at least every three months, you may need to do it more often if you live up north where your furnace runs all day, every day. Other factors also play a role, such as whether you have pets, are working on a remodeling project, or whether someone in your home is sensitive to indoor allergens such as dust mites; in this case, it is not a bad idea to change it monthly. Also, if your home is equipped with a whole house humidifier, now is the time to turn it on.


Prepare for winter storms.

Don’t wait for a big storm to come! Get out your snow shovels now and make sure your snow blower is working, Busch says. Stock up on melted ice, too.



Change batteries in smoke detectors.

Now is the ideal time to replace the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they are working properly, Busch says.


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