Simple Tips to Help Prepare Your Home for Fall/Winter
Preparing your home for winter is key if you’re looking to retain its value over the long term. Follow these simple tips to winterize your home before the cold comes, and feel comfortable about cozying up during the fall and winter seasons!
So you’ve found your winter attire in the bottom of the closet and have stocked up on your favourite hot drinks and soups.
You are ready for below-zero temperatures, but what about your home? Have you taken the steps to winterize your home before the cold?
As a homeowner, you should take precautionary steps in winterizing your house not only to prevent damage and add winter comfort, but to maintain your property’s value over the long run.
Here are 25 ways you can winterize your home for the cold before it’s too late. Also see:
Winterize Your Home: 25 Tips
- Inspect your home for leaks and cracks
- Add insulation in the attic
- Test and maintain your furnace
- Get a furnace inspection and cleaning
- Consider replacing your old furnace
- Buy furnace filters in advance
- Apply window coverings
- Clear your eavestrough
- Inspect your roof for leaks
- Point drain pipes away from the foundation
- Drain your water pipes
- Turn up the heat a bit
- Wrap water pipes with insulation
- Know where the water shut-off is
- Install a programmable thermostat
- Install a car starter
- Insulate your garage
- Install a garage heater
- Buy de-icer and sand
- Reverse your ceiling fans
- Clean your garage
- Buy winter survival gear
- Check your winter equipment
- Put utilities on your contact list
- Stock up on food and water
#1 – Inspect your home for leaks & cracks
The first and foremost step to winterizing your home is to inspect the interior/exterior for any cracks and leaks. You’ll find these on:
- window sills
- concrete foundation
- stucco exterior
- broken window latches/locks
Seal the cracks using the appropriate method. For caulking, remember that it’s done ideally in a warm setting i.e. inside your home, although durable outside-able brands are also available.
Weatherstripping comes in various forms as well, so make sure to check what the best way is to seal any leaks you find in your home via a quick Google search or by asking your local home department store expert.
#2 – Add insulation in the attic
If your home is a bit aged and gets unbearably cold during the winter, adding a layer of insulation in the attic may be one of the best ways to winterize your property.
If you are putting more on top of an existing layer, make sure you don’t use a type of insulation that acts as a vapour barrier. This could cause moisture to build and result in the growth of mould.
Not sure about which insulation is best to use? Ask your local home department store specialist for advice. Make sure to let them know details such as what kind of insulation is currently being used for the best results.
#3 – Test and maintain your furnace
Put your furnace through its paces before the cold comes. There will be a strange, short-lasting smell once turned on; simply aerate the area to remove the smell.
If the odour persists, turn it off and call a furnace professional to book an appointment. If this is the case, there may be something wrong with your furnace and it should be fixed as soon as possible!
There is no substitute for checking and maintaining your furnace, which in turn heats your home. Having an operating furnace is perhaps one of the most important parts in keeping your house well winterized and heated.
#4 – Get a furnace inspection and cleaning
It’s never a bad idea to have your furnace inspected and cleaned on an annual basis as is. Doing so ensures your furnace is in tip-top shape for many winters to come.
Your standard furnace inspection/tune-up fee starts anywhere from CAD $99 to $149+ applicable taxes per unit.
A furnace inspection and cleaning is a good investment if you want to make sure your furnace is performing optimally for fall and winter.
#5 – Consider replacing your old furnace
If your furnace is outdated, buying a new one may be ideal and save you money over the long haul. A new and improved furnace also means your home will likely be warmer inside during winter.
Old furnaces can use up to 50 per cent more energy than new ones and don’t warm your house as effectively.
In short, a healthy furnace is key to not only winterizing your home before the cold, but also saving a few bucks while you’re at it!
#6 – Buy furnace filters in advance
It’s convenient to stock up on furnace filters before the cold and check the ones that are being used regularly during the winter.
A dirty filter will impede the efficiency of your furnace by restricting airflow, and in dire cases may cause a fire.
Different filters need to be changed at different intervals, but it’s usually somewhere between every two to three months. Many people switch it out every six months.
Just a friendly reminder that if you choose to do so in six-month intervals, you’ll probably have more dust on the shelves than if you were to do so every two or three months.
#7 – Apply window coverings
Adding window layers can help prevent heat loss, not only helping to winterize your home but also trimming your heating bill.
Consider covering your windows with plastic insulation or more designer-savvy kits if aesthetic appeal is important to you. Insulator kits are found at home department stores such as the Home Depot and RONA, and are an affordable means to prevent heat from escaping through your windows.
If you want to go an extra step, tape up some bubble wrap on your windows. It works as an excellent insulator during the winter. Your friends and family might think you’ve lost your marbles, but at least you’ll save even more money on the heating bill — so who cares!
#8 – Clear your eavestrough
Get on the roof carefully with your tool of choice (a spatula, broom or your hand with a set of gloves works great), or, use a ladder and remove clutter from your eaves trough.
If possible, grab the hose and spray out any remaining residue assuming that the weather outside isn’t cold enough to cause ice problems along your walkways.
Cleaning your eaves trough will prevent ice blockages which may cause snow and water runoff to drain toward the foundation of your house. Pools of water in such areas can freeze and cause foundational problems that are super expensive to fix.
#9 – Inspect your roof
A full inspection of your roof – as long as it’s safe – should be a part of the steps you take to winterize your house. If your roof is slippery for any reason, you may want to call a professional to inspect it for you. Or, wait until you can do it yourself without any safety hazards.
Inspecting the roof is essential because any leaks into the structure of your home can cause water to accumulate and freeze in the foundation, window sills and attic.
Once this water seeps into those nooks and crannies, it has the potential to freeze and expand, causing immense damage to your home.
#10 – Point drain pipes away
Make sure your gutter spouts drain properly without blockage, and carry water well away from the foundation of your home.
As mentioned above, water collecting near your home’s foundation threatens its structural integrity. Water expands when it freezes; therefore, if it seeps into the concrete cribbing of your home through a crack and solidifies, it may make that crack even bigger.
Foundational issues are some of the most expensive problems to fix for homeowners. Avoid such issues caused by freezing water by following this step to winterize your home.
#11 – Drain your water pipes
Drain any air conditioners you might have. If there is a water shut-off valve for your air conditioner, close it. Also drain all pipes leading to outdoor water faucets and any garden hoses you might have.
Irrigation systems must be blown with clean air so water doesn’t accumulate and crack the pipes in sub-zero temperatures. Cracked irrigation systems and piping are expensive to fix. Outdoor pumps for ponds or other features of the sort must also be cleared of water and put inside in a warm place.
Winterizing your home appropriately will help avoid having to make any piping-related repairs.
#12 – Turn up the heat a bit
If you plan on leaving your home for an extended period, turn the heat up! It might be -15 Celsius one day, but drop to -30 Celsius the next; that added heat will help prevent pipes from bursting while you’re gone.
Even if you’re not going away, a little more heat will help you stay cozy and warm at home, assuming there are no serious issues with your furnace or leaks to the outside.
Being away from home for an extended period without someone checking your place regularly can also sometimes void your insurance in the case of frozen pipes or when other winter-weather-related issues occur.
Check with your insurance company on what your exact policy is when travelling. This is important because not all insurance policies cover damage that may have been caused indirectly because of your absence. Knowing what is and is not covered by your policy is critical.
#13 – Wrap water pipes with insulation
Your home should have several pipes that run close to the outside walls, especially in the basement.
Insulate the pipes using a made-for sleeve which you can get from your local department store.
It’s an inexpensive way to winterize your house before any expensive accidents happen that could cost you thousands.
Wrapping these pipes in insulation will go a long way in preventing any freezing, potentially costing you big bucks to fix.
#14 – Know where the water shut-off is
Let’s say a pipe does freeze and causes a backup of water flow in your basement. Now your basement is flooding, and you need to know where to turn the water off quickly.
With that in mind, take some time to locate where the main water valve is in your home. In Canada, this valve is usually in the basement near the utility stack. Make sure to label it somehow in case you aren’t home and a family member or roommate needs to turn the valve off instead.
Knowing where the main water shut-off valve is could save you a big mess and lots of money while you’re at it.
#15 – Install a programmable thermostat
On average, for every degree you lower your home’s temperature during winter, you’ll save on your heating bill.
Programmable thermostats sense and adjust your home’s temperature accordingly. By installing one, you’ll do your wallet and the environment a favour. Smart thermostats are incredibly handy as they can be operated from an app on your phone. Therefore, whether you’re coming or going, you’ll have complete control of the temperature of your home.
Many people opt to turn down the temperature while away at work, and then turn up the heat shortly before coming home from work. Scheduling this sort of regime is easy when using a smart thermostat app.
#16 – Install a car starter
Consider installing a car starter if you don’t have one already, especially if you park outside. Or, if you’re parking in a garage, you could always buy a block heater that would keep your car moderately warm come work time.
There’s nothing better than warming up your ice-cold car before getting inside it every morning. Winterizing your home and car for the cold go hand-in-hand.
Car starters can range in price from $500 to $1,000 or more. Because many of these are third-party hardware, it is a good idea to have the starter installed at your car dealership.
#17 – Insulate your garage
Insulating your garage for the winter is a worthwhile investment, particularly if it’s attached to your home.
An uninsulated garage can substantially lower the temperature of adjacent rooms, causing mild discomfort while increasing your heating requirements and energy bill as a result.
One of the most common methods of insulating your garage is using spray foam. While more expensive than batt-type insulation, its R rating is typically much higher and will help keep your garage warm, especially if there is a heating mechanism inside.
#18 – Install a garage heater
Installing a garage heater can go a long way in helping winterize your home for the cold. Not only will it keep your vehicles warm and ready to use, but it will also act to help to insulate and maintain the temperature in adjacent rooms.
Garage heaters come in many different shapes and sizes. You’ll basically have a choice between many makes and models, but the important decision is if it will run on electricity or natural gas.
These devices can range from a few thousand bucks to several thousand; by no means, is this a small purchase, so make sure to do your due diligence and research various companies and products before buying one.
#19 – Buy de-icer and sand
Stock up on some bags of sand and ice melt to spread on your walkways. This will help prevent any slips or falls when coming in and out of your house, and will ensure hazards are reduced
Some jurisdictions have bylaws that require you to remove snow and ice from your walkways and sidewalks along your property. De-icer helps melt tough ice that is otherwise hard to remove.
Another great trick to winterize your home and make it more visitor-friendly is to buy a proper ice scraper. This leads us to our next winterizing tip.
#20 – Reverse your ceiling fans
Reversing your ceiling fans in a clockwise direction will push warm air downwards and help to circulate air accordingly.
This is an easy method to winterize your home for the cold, which in some instances can cut heating costs by up to 10 per cent!
If you’re not sure exactly how to reverse your ceiling fan, look for the user’s manual or search for guidance online.
#21 – Clean your garage
Consider decluttering your garage so that you can park your car inside with ease.
Allow yourself to walk comfortably without slip and trip hazards that come with having wet shoes and slushy, cluttered floors.
A cluttered garage also will reduce the effectiveness of any heating systems you have set up, so it’s best to make sure everything is nice and tidy.
#22 – Buy some survival gear
You never know when an outdoor storm could cause power outages in your community. Buy some lighters and/or matches and some candles so you can see in the dark in case of a power shortage.
You could also consider purchasing a backup generator as a power source if you think it’s necessary.
After all, if you have a fish tank, it might be essential to have another source of electricity available to you. Your fish won’t be able to live too long without the pump that helps oxygenate the water they live in.
#23 – Check your winter equipment
Replace any worn snow shovels and brooms. Also, consider getting an ice scraper to remove that nasty ice on the driveway/walkways that we’ve all had a slip and fall on at one point or another.
Also, don’t skimp on buying the best snow shovel if you can. The ergonomic design and best materials used by the more expensive shovels are worth the extra cost and will save your back while making the job easier.
Consider creating an emergency “winter” car package with a blanket, batteries, first-aid kit and other necessities in case you get stuck out in the cold.
#24 – Put utilities on your contact list
Have the phone numbers of your utility providers handy. Inside the front page of the phone book perhaps or on the whiteboard beside the phone.
If an emergency arises, it will be helpful to have these numbers and resources readily available, because you just never know!
#25 – Stock up on food and water
Stock up on non-perishable food and water as well as a first-aid kit and blankets. Have an evacuation plan in case of an emergency situation. You just never know if you’ll need them or not!
Here’s a list of non-perishable food items that are relatively healthy.