Winter is right around the corner, and for the majority of the country, that means freezing temperatures, howling winds, heavy snow, and treacherous ice. Getting through all of this nasty weather in one piece requires a lot of preparation — both inside the house and out. Whether you’re new to home ownership or just need a bit of a refresher, here’s what you can to do to ready both your house and your heart for a safe and happy winter.
Prepping your home for the cold season takes a lot of work, but it’s well worth it in the end. Sky-high heating bills, frozen pipes, leaking roofs, and chimney fires are no one’s idea of fun. The following tips will help you keep your home and family safe this winter:
Take Care of Exterior Plumbing
Frozen pipes often burst — and that can cause thousands of dollars in damage. That’s why preparing your exterior plumbing for winter is so important. Start by disconnecting, draining, and rolling up your garden hoses. Then, drain any water still left in the faucets. If your home isn’t equipped with frost-proof faucets, turn off the shut-off valve. Finally, hire a professional to blow out your in-ground sprinkler pipes.
Clear Your Gutters
Overflowing gutters can damage your roofing, siding, trim, foundation, and sidewalks. They can also cause roof leaks and ice dams. That’s why once the leaves are off the trees, it’s time to clean out your gutters! You can do this yourself or hire a professional to do it for you.
Check Out Your Roof
While you’re cleaning the gutters, take a moment to check out your roof. Keep an eye out for missing or damaged shingles. Take a close look at the flashing around chimneys and other roof projections, as they’re often the source of leaks. If you find anything suspicious, have repairs made.
Clean Your Chimney
Making sure your fireplace is safe is important if you’re planning on using it this winter. To prevent chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning, have the chimney inspected and cleaned by a professional before you build your first fire. Look for a sweep who is certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America.
Make Sure Your Heating System Is in Order
Regularly servicing your furnace allows you to identify problems before an expensive breakdown occurs. It will also prolong the furnace’s life and keep it running more efficiently. A newer furnace will require professional servicing every two years, while older systems need annual servicing. For around $100, a technician will inspect your furnace and ensure the system is clean, in good repair, and operating at peak efficiency. They will also detect any carbon monoxide leakage.
Install Proper Air Filters
Dirty filters drive up heating costs, reduce efficiency, and shorten the life of your furnace. During the winter months, you’ll want to check your furnace filter every four weeks. Hold the filter up to a light source — if you can’t see light through it, it’s time for a replacement. For the best possible indoor air quality, invest in a HEPA filter as it will remove 99.97 percent of particles 0.3μm in diameter and larger.
Test Your Detectors
Winter is a prime time for house fires and carbon monoxide leaks. To ensure your family’s safety, check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they are working. Keep batteries on hand in case they need fresh ones. If your home doesn’t have carbon monoxide or smoke detectors, please consider getting some.
Keep Pests at Bay
When pests get cold, they do whatever it takes to get inside your warm and cozy home. This is obviously something you’ll want to avoid. Spiders and insects are bad enough, but mice are especially bad news. They’re not only extremely destructive, they can also carry dangerous diseases such as hantavirus. Taking action through proactive pest control is an important part of keeping your home healthy and safe. Here’s what to do:
- Keep trees trimmed well away from the house
- Seal cracks and holes on the outside of the house. Pay special attention to areas where utilities and pipes enter the home.
- Replace weather stripping around windows
- Store firewood at least 20 feet from the home.
- Install door sweeps
- Repair damaged screens in windows
- Screen any roof vents, including the gable vents and chimney
Mice can fit into openings the size of a dime, so even the smallest of holes will need to be properly sealed.
Gather Winter Essentials
If you’ve ever tried to buy a snow shovel after a major storm, you can attest to the importance of stocking up on cold-weather essentials early in the season. Lay in supplies such as salt, sand, ice melt, and snow shovels. If you have a snowblower, start it up and make sure it’s working correctly. If not, get it repaired now while the lines are short and the prices are low.
Making Happy Happen
During the long winter months, frigid temperatures often keep us trapped inside far more than we’d like. And so, we rely on our homes to provide us not only with entertainment but with a high degree of comfort and security. If you’re looking to get your hygge on this winter, here are several ways to create a cozy and inviting home that will make the cold season a bit less dreary:
Bring Nature Indoors
One way to make your living space a little more relaxing is to bring in plenty of natural elements. In particular, houseplants and fresh flowers will help counterbalance the austere winter landscape just outside the window. Not only will these plants keep your indoor air fresh, some (like lavender and gardenia) can pull double-duty by helping you get better sleep.
Create a Cozy Nook
Nothing beats curling up with a good book on a chilly winter day. To encourage this mind-expanding hobby, put together a cozy reading nook that just screams comfort. Start with an existing nook or built-in window seat, or place a comfy oversized chair in a quiet corner of a room. Add in a few decorative pillows, throw blankets, and a small end table to perch your drink upon. Don’t forget plenty of lighting as well as an outlet to charge your phone/tablet.
Bring on the Blankets
Fill multiple baskets with a healthy supply of soft wool and fleece throws and place them in the rooms you most often lounge in. Make sure there’s enough for everyone in the room to have one, especially if you tend to keep the thermostat low to save energy. All those cozy blankets will make guests feel right at home when they settle in for movie or board game night!
Tack on the Textiles
If you really want dial up the coziness factor, create plenty of soft layers throughout your house. Place thick rugs on the floor to keep those tootsies warm, pile blankets and pillows on your bed, and hang decorative tapestries on the walls. Once the sun goes down, close your curtains to help keep the chill at bay!
Light It Up
Winter days are short, and the nights are so very long. To make up for the lack of sunshine, make your home bright and cheery with added lighting. Table and floor lamps in dark corners, flickering candles, and glowing string lights will all create a warm and gentle atmosphere. Plenty of alternative lighting makes for an inviting home — which is just what the doctor ordered after a day out in the cold!
Winter is one of the hardest seasons on our homes, but if we’re properly prepared, we can make the best out of a bad situation. And, once your house is ready for the worst winter has to throw at it, you can breathe easy and put your energy into creating the cozy interior of your dreams. Happy winter, everyone!