Many homeowners approach the winter season with their fingers crossed, hoping that the weather will be mild this year. Unfortunately, “wishful thinking” is a poor method of preparing for winter.

There are several weather-vulnerable parts of a house, both inside and out. Preparation for the worst can help alleviate stressful situations when sub-zero temperatures assault your home and feet of snow blanket your driveway.

Preparing For Winter

To ensure preparing for winter is pain-free, take a holistic approach to weather-readiness.

That word might conjure images of massages and self-care. But the word refers to looking at a system as a whole, rather than solely focusing on individual components. So, before you start preparing your home for winter, take a step back and prepare a plan of attack that addresses your entire home as one unit.

Your plan should address the following areas of concern:

  • Drafty doors and windows
  • Lawn and garden
  • Heating systems
  • Roofs and decks
  • Tools and supplies

1. Deal With Drafty Doors and Windows.

In an inefficient house, your costs for providing comfort skyrocket. Drafts suck dollar bills out the window. On top of the additional unnecessary costs, inefficiency also makes your home less comfortable. Rather than spend the winter months huddled up under a blanket, enjoy a warm indoors with some simple efficiency tasks.

When checking for drafts, paying particular attention to areas where you might not usually notice a cold breeze, such as in a basement or spare bedroom.  Use weather stripping or caulk to seal off window and door drafts.

If a room is infrequently used, such as an extra bedroom or storage area, it may make the most sense to seal the room or area off completely. Close the door and use a draft stopper. These can be purchased or even made at home for practically no cost at all.

2. Prepare Your Lawn For Winter.

Give some attention to your outdoor spaces before they get buried in snow and ice.

If your bushes and shrubs are directly under your roofline, consider protecting them with a simple wood cover. These A-frame-style protectors can be purchased or quickly fashioned with wood slats and some hinges.

Although it may disappear from your view for a few months, remember that your lawn is taking a nap during the winter. Before the snow comes, you have an opportunity to feed your grass so that it bounces right back after the spring melt. If you give your lawn a final late fall treatment you will be more likely to enjoy lush green grass in the spring.

3. Inspect Your Furnace.

Don’t wait until the first cold day to switch on your heating system. Run a test and ensure that you are ready for the cold. Have your furnace inspected and serviced, if necessary.

Be sure to replace filters regularly. Consider installing filters on hot air registers to reduce dust and debris accumulation. Clean and test fireplaces, wood stoves and pellet stoves.

Simple preventative maintenance of these systems can significantly reduce costs, and once you are in the midst of winter’s chill, it can become more challenging to schedule professional service leaving you freeezing in your home.

4. Prepare Your Roof For Winter.

Will your roof handle a foot of snow this year?

If your roof is over 10 years old, consider having it inspected by a professional. Some faults are visible, such as a wavy appearance in shingles. Common points of vulnerability also include areas of metal flashing where chimneys and vents are located. If you see anything that looks damaged or pulled away from the roof, schedule an estimate from a professional roofing company. Make sure gutters and downspout are clear of debris to make way for melting snow

Roofs are treacherous, especially as cold weather approaches, so be sure to take extra caution when doing a self-inspection.

Wood decks and patios can also be damaged by winter snow and ice. Take the time now to reinforce wobbly railings, and replace weak boards on your deck, before the cold comes. In most case, you don’t have to remove snow from your deck during the winter as long as it is well-maintained in warmer months.

5. Ready Your Tools.

Some of the most important preparation and planning for winter involves your snow removal tools. Don’t wait until the last minute to start up your snowblower, or you’ll risk scrambling for parts or repairs. Repairs are more costly, and much more difficult to schedule during the winter rush.

There are several DIY-friendly ways to maintain snowblowers. Most homeowners can change their snowblower’s oil, and check for broken belts and snapped shear bolts.

While snowblower maintenance and repair is crucial, remember your simple tools as well. Snow shovels are relatively cheap, so place one at or near each entrance way. Invest in a large, push-style shovel for cleaning the driveway, and some smaller shovels for knocking down snowbanks and more substantial accumulations. Other essential tools include ice chippers, snow brooms, and rakes for your roof and car.

Another tool is ice melt, such as rock salt or other material. Stock up on ice melt now, rather than dealing with the retail rush at your local hardware or building supply store. This stuff lasts forever, so buy quite a bit now and be prepared.

Don’t be stuck with a dangerous and inconvenient hockey rink driveway when friends and family visit over the holidays. Determine the best system for storage and use of rock salt. Some people like to use a lawn seed and fertilizer spreader, while others find a bucket and scoop to be easier to use.

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Kevin Wheatley