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Checklist to Help Winterize Your Home

Author: ServiceMaster Restore

The holiday season can be busy, with so much to do – from cleaning and cooking to holiday shopping and entertaining – it’s easy to forget about winter weather safety and home maintenance. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Follow these easy cold-weather preparation tips from the experts at ServiceMaster Restore. Below you’ll find a selection of checklists and tips to winterize your home and help keep everyone safe.

Outdoor Winter Weather Tips

Use these tips to protect the exterior of your home from harsh winter conditions:

Turn Off All Exterior Faucets. To help prevent undrained water in your pipes from freezing, disconnect all the garden, pool, and hot tub hoses. Drain any remaining water in the faucets. Then, turn off the water flow to all outdoor faucets from the main shut-off valve, especially if your attachments aren’t weatherproof. Frozen faucets and burst pipes can lead to plenty of damage and hefty repair costs.

Close Crawl Space Vents. If you keep your crawl space vents open during warmer months, close them before temperatures drop. That way, you can help keep cold air from entering your home and save money in heating bills.

Inspect The Roof. Look for damaged or loose shingles that can lead to leaks. Leaks contribute to mold growth, which can pose a health risk to your family and any holiday visitors. While you’re inspecting your roof, check to ensure that the gutters aren’t blocked by debris, and that all the downspouts direct water away from the home. If snow or rain has a chance to pool near your home’s foundation, it can cause cracks that may allow moisture to seep into your basement or crawl space, putting your home at risk for water damage and mold growth.

Prevent Ice Dams. A combination of air leaks and poor insulation can contribute to the formation of ice dams on the roof. Not only is it extremely dangerous to have a heavy collection of sharp icicles hanging from your roof, but ice dams can also damage gutters and downspouts. They can also trap meltwater on your roof, which can seep under your shingles and potentially cause water damage or mold growth.

Indoor Cold-Weather Preparation Tips

Winterize your home from the inside to help keep your house safe this season:

Make An Emergency Kit. Winter weather can be severe. Sometimes, the power may go out. Other times, you may be stranded for hours or days at a time until winter storms pass. To help you through these instances, make an emergency kit stocked with all the essentials you’d need if you have to bunker down and stay put for a few days. Some items you may want to include are flashlights, batteries, emergency radios, nonperishable food, and water.

Test Your Smoke Alarms. According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), home fires occur more in winter than any other season. To help ensure that you and your family can react quickly if a fire breaks out in your home, double check your fire alarms and smoke detectors. Use the test buttons to ensure everything is working properly and change out the batteries if you haven’t already done so within the past 12 months.

Call A Chimney Sweep. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), an average of 22,300 fires occurred between 2012 and 2014 due to fireplaces, chimneys, and chimney connectors alone, resulting in an average of millions of dollars’ worth of property damage and loss. To help reduce your risk, follow chimney fire safety by having your chimney inspected by the professionals before you use your fireplace or wood burning stove for the first time this year. A chimney sweep can remove any flammable creosote build-up, as well as ensure that the structural integrity of your chimney is still sound.

Inspect Your HVAC. Before you start using your heater this year, have your HVAC unit inspected. A professional inspection includes an assessment of your ducts, equipment, and indoor air quality, as well as testing for deadly carbon monoxide leaks or air circulation issues. Depending on the results of your HVAC inspection, the professionals may ask you to take more preventative steps, like improving the air quality, to help winterize your home.

Change The HVAC Filters. In general, air filters should be replaced every 6 to 12 months – more often if your home has pets or other allergens. Regularly switching out the filters helps reduce the spread of dust, dirt, and allergens around the home, helping your loved ones breathe clean, healthy air throughout the season.

Checklist to Prepare Your Home for Winter

  • Check your heating system. Make sure your heat source is in solid working condition now so you can stay warm when the cold weather hits.
  • Reduce the risk of chimney fires by cleaning out fireplaces and wood stoves before you use them this year. If it's been a long time since you fired up, have your chimney inspected and cleaned by professionals to ensure your safety.
  • Reverse your ceiling fans. Your ceiling fans should turn counterclockwise in the summer and clockwise in the winter. When they rotate clockwise, cold air will be pulled up to the top of the room and warm air will be drawn downward. Your home will stay warmer this winter, and you'll save money on energy bills.
  • Inspect your roof. Check for existing leaks, and make sure your roof can handle the weight of accumulating snow. Remember that when a layer of ice or snow builds up on your top, radiant heat from your home can melt it, along with direct sunlight and warming temperatures outside. The resulting water will run into your gutters, which can refreeze, build up and block fresh melting water from running off your roof. This can cause future leaks and even affect the structural integrity of your roof altogether. If you don't take care of roof issues in advance of a storm, you'll face more extensive damages and repairs when a storm does happen.
  • Clean your gutters before freezing temperatures hit to prevent clogs and ice dams from forming, which can put your home at risk for severe damage. While at it, check that the water flows down and away from your home, so standing water doesn't create a slipping hazard or cause foundational problems.
  • Check for air leaks. If you have any air leaks in your walls, windows, or doors, the warm air you're using to heat your home will quickly escape, making your system work harder and costing you more money in bills. If you notice any air leaks, use caulk, foam, and weatherstripping to secure your home.
  • Insulate your pipes. If you live in freezing climates, it's crucial to ensure your pipes don't freeze and burst, causing severe water damage. Read our post on how to prevent and fix frozen pipes.
  • Buy new or replacement winter essentials. Be sure to grab your cold-weather gear and equipment, including salt to melt ice or snow shovels to tackle your front walk. You should have all your snow gear on hand to take care of a slippery situation as soon as it hits and don't get stuck in your home.

How To Winterize Your Home

Winterizing your home helps keep the heat in and the cold out. In turn, your home may be more equipped to handle harsh winters or endless freezing temperatures, as preparing your home for winter can help prevent property damage and reduce the risk of injury to you, your family, and any guests. You may even experience significantly lower energy bills. Overall, there are many benefits to winterizing your home before the season strikes.

If you aren’t sure how to start preparing your home for winter weather, we’re here to help. Use this checklist from the experts at ServiceMaster Restore® to learn how you can effectively winterize your home before the cold weather hits.

Winterize Your Home Checklist

Protect Your Pipes. Prevent your pipes from freezing, cracking, and bursting this winter by doing the following:

  1. Drain outdoor water lines from swimming pools and sprinkler systems.
  2. Detach garden hoses from spigots and drain the hoses before storing them in a protected area.
  3. Insulate pipes in any unheated interior spaces like the attic, basement, crawl space, garage and under the kitchen and bathroom sinks.
  4. If temperatures drop dramatically, let the faucet drip.

Protect Your Home’s Exterior. Keep the cold weather out by doing the following:

  1. Clean out your gutters to keep snowmelt running freely and prevent the formation of ice dams.
  2. Inspect your home for air leaks and caulk any windows or doors that need it.

Protect Your Home’s Interior. Keep the warmth in by doing the following:

  1. Add interior weatherstripping around windows and doors.
  2. Apply insulation film to windows to cut down on heat loss through the glass.
  3. Consider adding a storm door to entryways that lead outside.
  4. Use draft guards in front of doors that lead to an attached garage.
  5. Ensure your ceiling fans are rotating clockwise to push warm air back down into the room.
  6. Have your fireplace and chimney inspected and cleaned.

Check Your Insulation & HVAC System. The following can also help keep the warmth inside your home this winter:

  1. Make sure your home has adequate insulation, including the crawl space, above the garage, in the basement and in the attic.
  2. Change your air filters and have your HVAC system professionally inspected before you turn on the heat this year.

With the above winter weather safety tips in mind, you and your home will be better equipped to handle whatever the season throws at you. In the unfortunate event that the unthinkable does occur, contact the experts at ServiceMaster Restore. Available 24/7/365 call us at 1-800-RESPOND, we can help guide you from crisis to resolution as quickly as possible.

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