Calm During The Storm: Winterizing Your Home

Posted by: Elise Stern, Created date: February 14, 2013

As Winter Storm Nemo reminded us, there’s a special pleasure to be found in staying indoors at home as we watch the snow fall down. (Or fly sideways, as the case may be.) Listen carefully, and you’ll learn that most Christmas carols aren’t about Christmas at all — they’re about winter, and about roasting chestnuts, popping corn, or canoodling with one’s beloved while the storm rages on outside.

But below all those winter delights can be a nagging sense of uncertainty. What if the pipes burst? What if the thaw trickles in? What if? This goes double for those who are enjoying winter at a second property in sunnier climes. It’s hard not to worry about how the winter is treating one’s home. Here are some tips for winterizing your home, and your peace of mind.

  • Let it out. Builder Tim Carter says that water is a home’s greatest enemy during the winter months. It can freeze in pipes and lines, and burst later on during a thaw. The best thing to do, especially if one is leaving home for an extended period — whether it’s living in another home, visiting family, or going on vacation — is to flush all the water from the home. That means opening all the valves in the lowest points of the home and letting the water out. Remember to flush all the toilets and let all flexible hoses hang straight so they can drain. If possible, have a plumber shut off external water. If you are in the process of building your home right now, talk to your builder about where to locate valves so that they’ll be easy to flush.

  • Clean it out. Mucking out your gutters is no fun, but it can save you time and money in the long run. If the leaves accumulate, they can freeze into “ice dams” over the winter months, forcing water up over the top of the gutters or down into the downspouts, where it can trickle into foundations. This also goes for your garden: take out dying annuals, so you’ll have more room to plant in the spring. Cover up your potted plants and bring them inside.

  • Seal it up. This is where a home inspection is very important. A home inspector can help you learn if your foundation is properly sealed, making it water-repellent or at least breathable. But you an also weatherstrip windows and doors (including the garage door), so as to avoid heat loss. Make sure you do this in attics, as well, and that your attic, basement, or crawlspace has an appropriate closure — a secondary door to lock out hot and cold air. If you’re working with a builder, ask for an airlock like this. Sealing any drafts will also help vermin-proof your home. As the nights get longer, you may notice more spiders or other livestock grazing your home — weatherstripping, caulking, and watching for cracks in your foundation can help keep them out.

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