Winter is rough on houses. Moisture, freezing temperatures, high winds, and heavy snow all take their toll, not to mention small animals looking for a way inside. Sometimes it seems easier to take a reactive approach to home maintenance: waiting until something goes wrong to fix it. But that’s also a stressful and an expensive approach—it’s far more economical to fix a dripping faucet now than wait until it’s gushing water.
Take a look at your schedule and set aside a day to go through your house, inside and out, to look for potential problems. Here is our Winter-Preparation Check List (& a handy ready-to-print version for you to download as well):
- Service/inspect the furnace and heating system. (Replace the house air filter, while you’re at it.)
- Test smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms.
- Inspect and repair weather stripping around doors and windows to ensure a tight seal.
- Check attic, basement, and crawlspace insulation and replace as needed.
- Inspect corners and cabinets for evidence of bugs or mice.
- Check faucets and drains for drips and leaks..
- Inspect and repair roof and siding as needed.
- Clean the gutters before the heavy rains arrive. Repair or replace them if they are drooping
- Make sure that water is draining away from your house.
- Check attic, basement, and crawlspace insulation and replace as needed. Replace any missing or broken insulation blocks in your foundation.
- Remove dead trees or tree limbs.
- Inspect/Repair/Insulate outdoor pipes and spigots. Disconnect, drain, and store hoses.
- Clear weeds and brush from around your home (even if it looks dead).
- Clean out the fire pit. Store patio furniture, BBQs, and recreational equipment in a dry place.
- If you have a generator, make sure it’s prepped and in ready-to-go condition. Have fuel on hand and stored safely.
If you have a cabin or vacation home, make sure you make a special visit to winterize it before leaving it alone for months.
If you are leaving for the winter:
- Turn off the house’s natural gas at the meter (just in case there is a leak inside).
- Turn off the house’s water and drain the pipes.
- Turn off the hot water tank and drain it (to protect the heating elements from corrosion). Also check the sump pump (if applicable).
- Drain toilets and put non-toxic anti-freeze in the bowl. Cover the toilet bowl with plastic wrap. (It’s not a prank—it prevents gases from the sewer/septic system from entering your house.)
- Vacuum, sweep, and dust the corner cobwebs.
- Unplug as many appliances as possible, especially if you leave the power on while you are gone.
- Clean out the cabinets and pantries. Leave the doors open to prevent mold/mildew.
- Clean the oven and leave the door open.
- Clean the dishwater and leave the door open to prevent mold/mildew.
- Leave the washing machine/dryer doors open.
- Clean and defrost the refrigerators/freezers. Turn off for the winter and leave the doors cracked.
- Any non-perishable food left behind should be stored in rodent-proof containers. (It’s better not to leave any food behind.)
- Cover chimneys to prevent animals from nesting.
- Notify the post office and police office that the residence will be vacant for the season. (Don’t forget to inform them when you get back.)
- Remove all valuables and close the curtains.
- Take out all the trash. Make sure it is picked up or drive it to the dump to prevent animals getting into it over the winter.
- Consider a Vacation Property Management service.
Home maintenance is all about being aware of the condition of your home. Repairing problems when they are little and properly winterizing will pay you back in real money, as your repair bills will be smaller and your home will retain its value better when it comes time to sell.
We hope you have a cozy winter!