The Comprehensive Guide to “Winterizing” Your Home

Tips on Winterizing Your Home
Photo used with permission from Amy Cahill

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! ‘Tis the season for making snow angels, ice skating, sledding, drinking hot chocolate and spending cozy nights by the fireside. Now if reading that sentence fills you with an impending sense of dread and all you can think is ‘Wait, I’m not ready! I have so much to do!” then fear not. Although winter seemed a little late this year, it is upon us now and it’s time to take steps to winterize your home for the time of snow and ice. Ideally, you would have your house prepared before the first freeze of the season, but we all have lives to lead and sometimes forget about the patio furniture and that drafty window upstairs.

We compiled a comprehensive list of ways to prepare for cold weather and divided it between indoor and outdoor care.

Winterizing Your Home Indoors

Even though the weather is outdoors, you can still winterize the inside of your home to make sure you conserve heat and energy this season and protect your floors from wet boots and salt that gets tracked in.

  • Insulate, insulate, insulate! Keep heat (and your money) inside the house by making sure you have proper insulation. Storm windows and plastic film help prevent heat loss through the windows. Wrap cold water pipes to prevent them from freezing. Use caulk to patch up drafty openings around doors and windows on outer walls.
  • Make sure your heating system works from start to finish. If you haven’t already had your furnace or heating system checked out, now is the time. If your furnace is more than 10 years old, you definitely want to make sure a technician checks it out to be sure it isn’t wasting fuel. You can also put an electric fireplace in the living space that you use the most as an efficient heating method.
  • Block off rooms that won’t be heated. Close any air vents in rooms without water pipes you don’t use (like the storage room in the basement) to keep heat flowing to the rooms you’re actually in. If you don’t use your fireplace, close the damper or use a chimney balloon to block it so valuable heat can’t escape.
  • Take extra care to protect your hardwood floors. Snow, salt and dirty boots can really do a number on hardwood (and even tile) floors. Put a box and mat by the door so everyone knows to wipe off shoes and boots and then take them off so snow and dirt aren’t tracked throughout the house. If you have a dog, towel them down before you let them back in the house. Consider keeping a hand vacuum by the door so you have it ready to go.
  • Clean your winter gear! When was the last time you cleaned your favorite winter coat? We all know winter is cold and flu season so wash your scarves, jackets, blankets, mittens and other cold-weather gear at least once a month.

Winterizing Your Home Outdoors

Although the Farmer’s Almanac predicts this winter will be mild and dry, it’s best to prepared for whatever weather may come.

  • Clean your gutters! Get rid of all the leaves, plant matter, dirt and anything else clogging them. Blocked gutters prevent water from draining away so when it freezes it creates ice dams. This stops melting snow from draining off your roof, which can lead to water damage. Not a good situation!
  • Trim back any trees that are close to your house or driveway. Snow and ice weigh down branches while winds from a winter storm will pull them down on your roof or car.
  • Prevent patio furniture from falling apart. How you protect your furniture depends on what it’s made from. Aluminum usually has a powder coating that makes it resistant to rust and you can always add a protective coating of automotive wax. Synthetic wicker is durable enough to stay outside and furniture made from polyethylene is resistant to warping and rotting. Steel and iron are susceptible to rust (especially if the finish is damaged or wearing off) while natural rattan should be stored away from the damp and sunshine. Plastic is low-maintenance but can become brittle in the cold so it should be stored. You can always use outdoor furniture covers for weather-resistant furniture but the fail-proof safe way to make sure it survives? Store it in the garage or basement until spring.
  • Protect your well from freezing up. This is Iowa; many people live in the country and use well systems for water. If you have an older well with the push-pump located aboveground then you’ll need to shelter it with a pump house if you have not done so already. If your pump is located in a cellar without heating, you can build something similar to the outdoor pump house and enclose the pump in an insulated box and keep it heated.
  • Take steps to protect your garden. Most likely you’ve already harvested your fall vegetables and prepared your flowerbeds for the oncoming season. If you are new to gardening, prepare your garden for plummeting temperatures. Trim back dead or diseased limbs from perennials and keep them protected with winter mulch (chopped leaves work) topped with evergreen boughs to preserve the soil. Shield rose bushes and other vulnerable plants from rain, snow and wind with burlap. Have a sheet or cloth on hand to cover annuals when frost is predicted.

Regardless of how much you may or may not enjoy winter, it’s time to take steps to keep your home and plants protected.

How are you getting ready for winter? Let us know in the comments!

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