Prepping Your Home for Winter: The Basics and Upgrades You Can Tackle

Is your home ready for winter? In order to get your home ready for the ice and snow, it’s important that you take care of any home renovations you haven’t crossed off your list yet. Before the freezing temperatures arrive, there are a few things you’ll want to do to ensure you stay cozy and warm while the winter winds blow. By preparing your home, you can help avoid expensive heating bills and weather-related damage from wreaking havoc on your household budget. Here are some of the basic renovation tasks and upgrades to tackle when prepping your home for winter.

Make Sure You’ll Be Warm

Losing the heat in your house from an overworked furnace can be dangerous for you and your family. Start prepping your home for winter by having your HVAC unit professionally inspected by a licensed HVAC technician for any cracks, leaks, or broken components. If you and your spouse both work, have your children’s caregiver available at your home to wait for the HVAC technician to perform an inspection. Make sure to change the filter and replace it every one to three months. You will want to make sure your heating repair is complete before giving your HVAC system its first test run.

If your furnace runs on fuel oil or propane, make sure your fuel storage tank is full. Inspect heating and exhaust vents and clean them of any obstacles that can block airflow. If you have a wood-burning fireplace, make sure to have it inspected and serviced before winter weather arrives. Clear obstructions from the chimney and check the damper to ensure it opens and closes properly. Have the chimney professionally cleaned and have any open mortar joints in the firebrick repaired immediately.

Eating is Second Nature

When it’s cold outside, eating becomes second nature as we try to keep ourselves warm. That means spending a lot of time in the kitchen cooking and baking our favorite foods. One upgrade you may want to consider when prepping your home for winter is a kitchen renovation. You may not have the time and money for a full upgrade, but there are a few small tasks you can do to get the room winter-ready. Start by giving your cabinets a fresh coat of paint or stain and replace the hardware.

Refresh the walls with new wallpaper or paint and don’t forget to freshen up the ceiling as well. If your countertops have become worn or scratched, you may want to replace them with durable granite slabs. Consider a heated hardwood flooring installation to keep your feet warm while you prepare meals. Install energy-efficient appliances to reduce your monthly utility expenses. Make sure to clean your kitchen exhaust vent for proper ventilation during the winter months.

Find Another Spot for the Kids

If your home is small, your kids can drive you crazy when everyone is cramped together during winter weather. You may want to find another spot for the kids to go by building another room for them to play or sleep in. It can also be a great place for the family to hang out and have fun together while stuck inside. A new room addition is a much easier task when prepping for winter because the ground is colder and easier to dig. Once the room is built, you’ll need additional professional work done to get it ready, such as hiring a flooring contractor to install hardwood floors or carpet.

Another thing to consider if you are thinking about adding a room is getting an electrical upgrade for your home. Power outages can be frequent during winter storms, so make sure you’re ready in advance. Have your electrical system inspected for faulty wiring and other potential issues. Upgrading your electrical panel can be inexpensive and may help reduce the cost of your homeowner’s insurance. You may also want to install more outlets in your home to plug in all of the kids’ electronic devices safely.

Reshingle the Roof

The roof over your head provides you with protection during the harsh winter weather. If your shingles are damaged, you could face water damage from leaks seeping through. Make sure you stay dry by having your roof inspected before it starts to freeze. You can inspect the roof yourself, but it may be wiser to hire a professional. Many licensed roofers offer a free reshingle roof estimate you can take advantage of and save yourself from potential injury.

Make sure to check the flashings around chimneys and any other roof projections. Clean the gutters and downspouts that could cause water to back up and damage shingles. Ensure that downspouts are facing away from your home and extend five feet to prevent flooding. Trim any tree branches that can scrape against your roof during winter storms. You may find it incredibly difficult to get your roof repaired after the ice and snow hits, so don’t delay prepping your home for winter with this task as soon as possible.

Don’t Let the Cold In

Sealing your home from icy drafts is vital for prepping your home for winter. One area that is often overlooked is your garage door. Garage door repairs can save you a significant amount of money each month on your home’s energy bills. Check the trim and flashing around the garage door for signs of rotting wood and install insulation in the exterior walls of your garage. Apply weatherstripping to the bottom of the door to block drafts and prevent it from sticking.

When prepping your home for winter, you may want to identify safe spots in your home to seek shelter during a severe winter storm. There are a few areas of your home you may want to set up as a storm shelter. The basement and bathroom are two ideal choices for keeping you and your family safe. If you don’t have an area of your home where you can bunker for an extended period of time, you may want to upgrade your home with a storm cellar. Once you have your storm shelter in place, be sure to stock it up with all the emergency supplies you’ll need to survive two or three days at least.

Keep Out Unwanted Critters

You and your family aren’t the only ones trying to seek warm shelter during the winter. Insects and critters can see your home as an inviting place to stay once the temperatures start to drop. If these uninvited guests are allowed to invade, they can cause serious damage to your home and make you and your family sick. Prepping your home for winter should involve keeping out these unwanted critters. Check the exterior of your home for any cracks or gaps and seal using spray foam or caulk.

Look for and seal any openings that pests can get through around pipes and windows. Repair window screens and keep the lids to your garbage cans tightly closed. Deep clean around kitchen appliances that may contain attractive food debris. Trim the shrubs and trees around the foundation of your home to keep rodents and bugs away. You may also want to consider having your home professionally sprayed to prevent any unwanted intrusions.

Protect Your Plumbing

Protecting your plumbing is essential when prepping your home for winter. Pipes are vulnerable to colder temperatures and can cost extensive water damage if they burst. Check to make sure that all your outdoor plumbing and faucets are turned off and drained for winter. Use heat cables and insulate pipes near your garage and basement. Seal cracks around rim joists with expandable foam.

If you notice any mold or water damage around your pipes, you may want to hire a professional plumber. You may need to have some of your pipes replaced. Look for leaks around the faucets in your kitchen and bathroom and make the necessary repairs. Use an insulating blanket you can purchase at a hardware store to wrap up your water heater. You can also upgrade your existing water heater by upgrading it to a pre-insulated one.

Wrap Up Windows and Doors

Approximately one-third of your heat can escape through your windows and doors. This inefficient heating can skyrocket your energy bills at the same time your household budget is drained from the purchase of holiday gifts. Over time, windows and doors can develop cracks and gaps from the house settling and drastic changes in temperatures. Prepping your home for winter by sealing these cracks can help you reduce your monthly bills and keep the heat where it belongs. Seal gaps and cracks with weather stripping or waterproof caulking.

You may also wish to invest in temporary storm windows that can be installed over your existing windows. These storm windows can reduce heat loss between 25% to 50% on average. If you can’t afford storm windows, you can use a window insulator kit with plastic film to reduce heat transfer. Switch your curtains to heavy drapes to hold in heat and block air drafts. Remove window screens to protect them from wind damage during the winter.

Check Your Basement’s Health

Another task you’ll want to complete when prepping your home for winter is inspecting the health of your basement. Take a look at the foundation of your home for signs of cracks, mildew, or other signs of damage. Leaks can show as paint bubbling up on your basement walls. If you notice any damage, you may have to contact a professional to repair foundational damage to prevent flooding from snow and ice buildup. You can repair small cracks yourself by patching them with plaster and adding a coat of antimicrobial paint.

Inspect your basement drains and sump pump as well. If you notice a strong odor, your sump pump may need to be professionally repaired. Run water through the drains and notice how quickly it goes down. If it’s not going down smoothly, you may have an issue with clogged drains. A plumber can inspect your basement drains and recommend a product to clear roots from summer tree growth to prevent backups and flooding.

Winterize Landscaping and Store Outdoor Accessories

You don’t want to forget your outdoor accessories when prepping your home for winter. Before the weather gets too cold, cover your patio furniture or bring them inside for winter storage. If you have a wooden deck, apply a fresh coat of stain to make it more resistant to winter damage. Power wash concrete and brick surfaces and patch cracks. Store any outdoor gardening supplies and drain the gas from your lawn mower before storing it.

Drain water fountains and unplug the pumps. Deep clean your barbecue grill equipment before storing it to ensure it’s ready to go again once spring arrives. If you have a pool, make sure it’s covered properly to prevent moisture from cracking the interior. You should also drain your built-in sprinkler system to prevent water from cracking the lines. Store outdoor garbage cans indoors to prevent them from becoming damaged or attracting unwanted pests.

Prep outdoor plants before the first hard freeze by giving them a final watering. Apply a slow-acting fertilizer to shrubs and trees. Insulate perennials and bulbs with a layer of mulch. Wrap container plants or bring them inside to protect them against frost. Trim weak branches or tie together evergreen tree branches to prevent them from breaking and causing damage to your property.

While home improvement renovations added up to $350 billion this year, prepping your home for winter doesn’t have to be expensive. Many of the above home renovation tasks and upgrades are budget-friendly for most families. Be prepared for whatever winter may bring by tackling these tasks as soon as possible. You’ll not only have peace of mind during winter storms, but you can also save hundreds of dollars from winter damage. While the cold winter blows, you can stay comfortably inside and enjoy a hot cup of delicious cocoa while sitting by the fire as a reward for all of your hard work.

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