45 Actionable Tips To Winterize Your Home and Prevent Winter Worries
We hope that this winter will surprise everyone with mild, sunny days. As proud and strong Americans, we know better. We throw our shoulders back, drag out the blankets and keep the snow shovel handy. We know what to expect – and still – the list isn’t pretty:
• High heating costs
• Failed heating systems
• Downed tree branches
• Snow-collapsed roofs
• Frozen plumbing and burst pipes
• Danger from compromised electrical systems
• Furnace-related carbon monoxide incidents
At ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba, we are always here for you with water damage cleanup services Chicago homeowners count on when winter does its worst, and we’re committed to helping you head off problems that can make this time of year so hard to deal with.
That’s why we’ve put together this Ultimate DIY Home Winterizing Guide.
Promise #1: All of our tips are SUPER ACTIONABLE, so you can put them to use right away. Some are common sense but oftentimes overlooked, while others address difficult situations that we’ve encountered in our line of service.
Promise #2: All tips are worth your TIME & MONEY. Some solutions can be more expensive, but we’ll let you know if this is the case.
Are you ready to jump right in? Keep scrolling, or simply click on one of the icons below to jump to the section that interests you most.
Prevent Storm Damage by Starting Outside (While You Can)
Your home’s exterior is your first line of defense against frigid temperatures, so give it a good inspection before it’s too chilly to enjoy being outside. A few DIY chores now will prevent expensive bills to recover from storm damage later.
2. Inspect the roof for missing or worn shingles, and don’t forget flashing around chimneys and vents. Save time by taking care of this job when you check the gutters.
3. Trim overgrown tree branches that threaten your home’s exterior. They can give the insurance company an excuse to deny your claim in case of storm damage. As you trim back trees and shrubs, be very careful around electrical wiring. Take the time to make sure all outside connections are secure and properly enclosed.
4. Clear debris away from your foundation so that it can breathe during heavy downpours. This protects basements from flooding and can save the expense of water damage restoration.
5. If you don’t have a snow rake, this is the year to get one. The weight of snow on a roof can quickly accumulate to 25 dangerous pounds per square foot or more, so be prepared.
6. We’ve seen rain barrels split open due to the pressure of water freezing. So while you’re outside, drain your rain barrels. Although you might not save a whole lot on your water bill, a new rain barrel can be costly.
Save on Your Energy Bill by Sealing the House Up
When your heating systems put out their best in a home that isn’t properly sealed against the cold, you’re throwing money out windows and doors and up into the attic. Check on essential winter outdoor supplies too.
7. Start at the top with an attic inspection. Why? Insulation packs down over time, and mice love to turn it into nesting material or as National Home Improvement Expert Danny Lipford puts it:
He explains: “If you can see the joists in the attic, you don’t have enough insulation. Adding insulation will keep the warm air in your home in the winter (and cool air in the summer)”. A great way to get started is by insulating the attic entrance with a stair/door cover. See Danny’s video in which he demonstrates the various options.
8. Check windows and doors for leaks around caulking and weather-stripping and fill those up. Freezing winds are relentless, so seal everything tight, and save on those expensive heating bills.
9. Storage rooms and laundry areas get cold, but you can keep their chill at bay by making sure they close up tightly. Add rubber sweeps to the bottom of seldom-used interior doors.
10. Patch cracks in siding to keep out winter winds. You’ll stay warmer, hold down heating bills and protect interior plumbing from freezing temperatures.
11. Check supplies for thawing outside steps and sidewalks. Salt is a reliable standby, but don’t forget sand for the driveway, and consider stocking up on ice melt.
12. Don’t let the garage turn into a parking lane between outside cold and inside warmth. Add wind-busting strips to the bottom of doors, and install insulated panels.
13. Invest in thermal drapes to improve the energy efficiency of your home and seal heat in. As DIY expert Aimee from The Stylish Nest advises: “Even regular drapes can help keep drafts out, but the thermal drapes really help.”
Dodge Frozen Pipe Bursts with Winter Insulation
When water freezes it expands in volume by 9 percent and – although this doesn’t seem to be a whole lot – the pressure in the pipes can rise from 40 pounds per square inch to 40,000 psi! Eventually the pipe breaks or bursts open at the weakest spot, which sometimes can be feet away from the frozen area.
14. DIY Home Improvement Expert Tom Silva – known from This Old House – told us that his single best way to prevent pipes from freezing is to seal up the house.
He notes: “Cold air will blow through the crack and freeze the pipe.”
So if you haven’t covered all points in the previous section, take another look.
15. Don’t just plan on throwing old blankets over outside pipes when it starts to freeze. Go out there now, and get to know the lay of your plumbing.
16. Measure pipe diameters so that you’ll know what you need before you buy supplies. Insulating sleeves come in different sizes, and this strategy saves return trips to the store.
17. Old newspapers add extra layers of protection under pipe sleeves, and the crumpled paper is perfect for plugging up openings around faucets. It’s cheap and easy to use.
18. Heating cables and tape can be real – but expensive – pipe savers. Make sure you have safe connections for these systems. Cold rain, running water and electricity don’t play well together.
19. When you know the deep freeze is on its way, disconnect garden hoses from faucets, and drain them before storing in the garage. Protect the spigots with insulated outdoor covers.
20. Take care of pipe insulation duties now. Don’t wait until you’re cursing the cold while you try to beat dropping temperatures to avoid frozen pipe bursts and water damage repair. If you don’t really know where to start, this post can help you get started with pipe insulation.
Before we move on to the next section, here’s another effective tip from The Stylish Nest.
You can prevent frozen pipes in your garden sprinkling system, by simply removing water from it.
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How? “Turn off your garden sprinkling system at the source. Run each station to push out any excess water and blow air out of pipes,” Aimee states.
Stay Safe & Sound by Giving the Furnace a Solid Support Team
Some jobs are best left to the pros, so call in an HVAC specialist to check your furnace for winter duty. His inspection makes sure all systems are in good shape and ready to operate safely. The furnace plays a starring role in keeping the house cozy, but don’t forget its supporting cast.
21. Regularly changing out filters impresses your HVAC tech and helps your furnace handle high-volume house warming. Keep furniture and snoozing pets away from vents too.
22. Your fireplace should be a source of comfort, not a potential fire hazard. Have the chimney cleaned and inspected for leaks, and make sure the flue closes snugly against cold drafts. Needless to say, calling in an expert will lead to out-of-pocket costs.
23. Keep firewood stored in a dry spot in the shed or garage. You may need it in a hurry if the power goes out, so bundle small stacks that stay easy to handle.
24. Reversing the flow of ceiling fans to clockwise (when you look up at the fan) helps spread warm air throughout the house. This will pull warm air down into the room and keep it recirculating.
Prevent a Fire by Being Extra Careful with Space Heaters
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, space heaters are responsible for fires in an estimated 25,000 homes annually causing more than 140 deaths. These electric appliances can make a warm difference on freezing winter days, but please use them with extra care.
25. Before firing up your space heaters to fight the first winter blast, inspect them for frayed wiring and worn-out insulation. If you have any doubt about any units, replace them with new models.
26. When you purchase a new space heater, check the packaging for UL certification. This is your assurance that the appliance is manufactured according to established safety standards.
27. Don’t try to stretch a space heater‘s talent from room to room. Plug it directly into the wall, never use an extension cord, and always turn it off when you go to bed.
28. These appliances are designed to work on the floor, not table tops. Place them a safe distance from furniture and drapes making sure that they’re not in the way of busy family foot traffic.
29. Don’t ever let the kids move a space heater. Little helpers mean well, but make sure children understand that this appliance should only be handled by adults.
Stay Safe by Practicing Smart Wintertime Vigilance
Once you’ve winterized the house, pipes and heating system, congratulate yourself on a big job well done. You can relax now, but keep your cold weather strategies focused on maintaining a safe, warm home. A few periodic checks go a long way towards heading off winter weather problems.
30. When was the last time you replaced batteries in smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms? If you can’t remember, take care of this important chore immediately.
31. Test those critical alarm systems to make sure they’re working properly. It’s a noisy job, but it can save lives.
32. Give gutters and downspouts a good inspection after stormy weather. It doesn’t take much to fill them up and send heavy rains down outside walls and into the basement.
33. After the snow falls, go outside, and check the roof for accumulation. You stashed the snow rake in a handy spot, so put it to work, and lighten the load on that roof over your head.
34. Look in on the furnace periodically so that you can rest easy at the sight of a steady, blue flame. If it doesn’t look right or you smell gas, call a professional immediately.
35. A simple, yet very effective tip if you’re running out of options:
36. Don’t let things pile up around the water heater. The area can turn into a catchall for cold-weather gear, so don’t let casually stored stuff turn into a winter fire hazard.
Protect Your Loved Ones by Making Plans before Disaster Strikes
Severe weather can shut down the entire city, and you know from experience how unsettling it is to wait out everything inside a dark, cold home. Figure out pre-blizzard plans now, and give yourself the gift of strategic peace of mind.
37. Locate your home’s water supply cutoff valves, and test them to verify that they’re working properly. By shutting off the plumbing during a hard freeze, you avoid the expense of burst pipes and water damage restoration.
38. Prevent a fire and ruptured pipes by keeping this tip in mind:
39. If you don’t have a home fire extinguisher, add it to your list of emergency must-haves. Keep it handy, and make sure everyone knows where it is and how to use it.
40. Stock up the cabinets with canned and packaged foods that don’t need stovetop or microwave prep. While it doesn’t sound appetizing now, you’ll appreciate that backup supply when the power goes out.
41. Candles make canned dinners a little easier to enjoy, but be careful with emergency illumination. Instead, keep battery-powered lanterns handy along with extra flashlights.
42. Emergency lights shine longer with a big assortment of battery backups stored in one location. Batteries last for years, so you’ll eventually use them all.
43. Include furry, four-legged family members in your emergency plans. Make sure pets have extra food in the pantry and warm spots to nap away from vents and space heaters.
44. Consider purchasing home warranty insurance to insulate your budget against costly repairs. This type of protection plan is a good investment all year regardless of the weather.
45. Keep our number handy so that you always have access to emergency restoration and cleaning services Chicago homeowners rely on. We’re here for you 24/7 at 773-647-1985.
If you put to use even a few of these DIY Winterizing tips, you can significantly reduce the risk of property damage or even worse, which is huge.
Whether you live in Chicago, on the East Coast, or areas where frigid weather strikes, we sincerely invite you to leave your comments and share your advice.
We will periodically update this guide so your contributions to our Ultimate DIY Home Winterizing Guide can help minimize property damage, prevent personal loss and – yes – even save lives. We believe that’s worth “writing” for, and we hope you do too.
Make a list of which of these tips you’d like to try out in and around your house so that you don’t forget. We’d love it if you come back and let us know how it went.
But first, one more thing:
We’d be really interested to find out which of these tips is the most useful or surprising for you. Please let us know in the comments below.
We sincerely wish you and your family a very safe 2019 winter.