Bjorn Wallander for Kylee Shintaffer
Whether you’re a longtime homeowner, in your first home, or in a rental apartment, it’s time to prepare your premises for the winter weather. No matter where you live, fall is the ideal time to get ready before the temperatures, rain, and snow make it too difficult (and miserable!) to do those outdoor tasks. “Winterizing your home not only helps the systems in your home last longer, but you can also prevent problems like leaks,” says Keith Busch, Mr. Handyman’s vice president of operations. “There are many things that people don’t think about but that are very easy to do to protect your investment.”
Before we get to our handy checklist, let’s start with the preparation: Before you do anything, go outside and take a tour to familiarize yourself with the exterior of your home and identify any potential problems, Busch says. Look around windows and doors, garage doors, and sidewalks, and look for anything that is garish and jumps at you, such as: Also, if this is your first winter in your home, locate your home’s gas and water shut-off valves. It’s better to know beforehand than to scramble around trying to find a shutoff if you have a leak or smell gas.
And now that you’ve mastered the basics, read on for a comprehensive checklist of how to winterize your home.
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Check the weatherstrips on windows and doors.
Cold air penetrates through the smallest cracks. Check the rubber or felt strip or foam tape that goes around doors or window frames to make sure it is in good condition. If it’s torn or pieces are missing, or you can see light gaps through the weatherstrip, it’s time to replace it, Busch says. Check what kind you have before shopping.
Winterize lawn and garden equipment.
After mowing the lawn for the last time, prepare your equipment for long-term storage. Clean it and drain the gas or use a gas stabilizer that allows you to keep gas in the machine all winter and disconnect the batteries. Store all garden items such as pots that are not frost resistant, such as terracotta, in the shed, garage or basement. And don’t forget to put garden furniture away! Or, if you choose to leave it out, be careful not to press it against drains or air vents on the outside of your home, Busch says.
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Shut off water to outdoor taps.
Make sure underground irrigation systems have been blown out so water isn’t left inside to freeze. Drain garden hoses and store in shed or garage. Turn off outside faucets, which often have a shut-off valve in the basement. Once you have turned off the water, open the faucet and let the remaining water drip out. If you have an older home that may not have frost-free outdoor faucets, buy a small outdoor faucet cover to protect it from frost, Busch says.
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Have your chimney checked.
If it’s been a few years – or if you’ve never done it – it’s probably time for a chimney inspection and cleaning. Cracks can appear in brickwork, and birds and other animals can build nests in chimneys, creating obstacles for carbon monoxide to seep back into your home. Check with the National Chimney Sweep Guild or the Chimney Sweep Institute for certified chimney sweeps.
Make sure the gutters are clean.
Gutters keep water away from your home and not pooling near the foundation. Gutters clogged with leaves and sticks also allow water and ice to back up under the shingles, creating what’s called an ice dam that pushes water under your shingles, Busch says. The weight of icicles can also pull down gutters that don’t drain properly. Be sure to clean all gutters before winter rains and snows.
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Darn large outer holes.
Rodents can wriggle through a hole as small as a pencil (ick!). Walk around your home and look for any obvious cracks or holes that rodents can get in through. Check places like around windows and doors, around the chimney, at the foundation where it meets the ground, around the hot water tank or stovepipes exiting the house, and dryer vents. It’s not always easy to spot a small hole, but you can spot some obvious gaps that can be filled with caulk or foam spray.
Change the direction of rotation of your ceiling fan.
Heat rises, so make sure your fan is running clockwise to direct the warm air down into the living area. In summer, turn the fan counter-clockwise to create a cooling downdraft. Usually there is a small button on the side of the fan to operate the switch.
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Change your oven filter.
A clogged filter makes your oven harder to work with and can shorten its lifespan. If you’re not already changing filters regularly, stick to a schedule, Busch says. While the general recommendation is to change it at least every three months, you’ll probably need to do it more often if you live up north where your stove runs all day, every day. Other factors also play a role, e.g. For example, if you have pets, are working on a home renovation project, or if anyone in your home is sensitive to indoor allergens like dust mites. In that case, changing it monthly isn’t a bad idea. If your house is equipped with a whole house humidifier, now is the time to turn it on.
Get ready for winter storms.
Don’t wait for a big storm to come! Dig out your snow shovels now and make sure your snowblower is working, says Busch. Also, get Ice Melt.
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Change batteries in smoke detectors.
Now is the ideal time to replace batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide alarms to ensure they’re working properly, Busch says.
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