Freeze! 8 Essential Winter Home Maintenance Tips That'll Save You Big-Time
Home maintenance in the winter? You heard us right, snow dogs. Just because the flurries may be drifting all over the yard and temps are dipping perilously close to the freezing mark, it doesn't mean there isn't plenty to do indoors to keep your home in peak condition.
Your top tasks for winter home maintenance varies depending on where you live, but we spoke with experts from all over the country to bring you this definitive list of items you definitely shouldn't overlook.
We’re talking about the maintenance must-do’s—the ones that will save you money on your energy bill, plus the cost of any expensive repairs down the road. Some are definite DIY projects, others require some professional help. Either way, it's time to get cracking at this list before the next winter storm hits. (Hot toddies not included.)
1. Weatherproof your windows to save on heating
If you haven’t done this one yet, then you’re literally throwing money out the window.
“Most windows develop an air gap over time, which can cause as much as 40% energy loss for heating and cooling,” says Cristina Miguelez, a remodeling specialist with Fixr. “Caulking that gap can make a big difference in your heating bills and comfort level.”
You can get your windows winter-ready by first removing any old caulking. Then head to a store like Home Depot to buy a caulk gun, and a few pairs of latex gloves.
Miguelez recommends using your gloved fingertips to smooth out the caulking after application.
Want the full scoop? Check out these instructions.
2. Avoid water damage with a roof inspection
It's not just Santa's sleigh that might have damaged your roof—our rooftops also take a major beating during heavy winter storms. And while you shouldn’t go climbing up there when the weather is bad, it’s a good idea to have someone inspect the roof on the next clear day, before another storm hits.
“It’s essential to check for missing shingles, roof tiles, and damage as part of winter roof maintenance,” says Amanda Wynn of Rampart Roofing. “Repairing any existing leaks will prevent small problems from becoming big and expensive problems later on.”
Much like your leaky windows, a damaged roof can also cause high energy bills during the winter, not to mention water damage in your attic or top-floor rooms.
But should you be scaling a ladder outdoors in frigid weather? Maybe not.
“We recommend professional roof repairs and inspections rather than DIY projects,” says Wynn. “A professional will have the experience and knowledge necessary to identify and repair potential roofing problems, and DIY roofing can be dangerous if a homeowner isn’t using proper equipment.”
3. Sweep out the ol’ chimney of toxic debris
“If you use your fireplace, you need to clean it,” says Miguelez. “Creosote builds up on the chimney walls, and a stray spark could cause it to catch fire.”
What’s creosote? Something toxic you don’t want your family to be exposed to, according to the Centers for Disease Control. But don’t start crawling up in your chimney just yet.
“It’s a messy job that requires very specific tools,” she says, “and should be done by a professional whenever possible.”
4. Trim back trees that pose a risk
Your Christmas tree isn’t the only one you’ll need to keep in check this winter. To avoid property damage from falling branches, you’ll also want to be sure the trees closest to your house stay at a respectful distance.
“Have the trees on your property inspected and treated in the fall or early winter,” advises Jason Metzger, senior vice president of risk management at PURE Insurance.
“Temperature fluctuation, ice, heavy snow, and other winter conditions can weaken your trees. If they fall or break, they could injure someone, knock out electricity, or damage your home, cars, and other property,” he adds.
5. Test your sump pump (before flooding season)
If you have one of these in your basement, then you’ll want to be sure it’s ready for flooding season.
“Make sure to test your sump pump every few months to ensure it's in working condition, otherwise you might end up facing a costly flooded basement disaster,” cautions Diana Rodriguez-Zaba, president of ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba.
“Confirm that your sump pump's mechanism is clean and moves freely so that it can activate the pump's motor in the event of flooding,” she adds.
Beyond the pump itself, Rodriguez-Zaba also recommends checking the basin.
“Make sure it's clear of anything that might clog the valve or discharge pipe,” she says.
6. Avoid bursting pipes when temperatures go low
If the pipes inside and outside your home aren’t properly insulated when temperatures drop below freezing, you can expect a nasty surprise the next time you turn on the tap.
Doyle James, president of Mr. Rooter Plumbing, shares some tips on how to avoid wintertime plumbing disaster.
“Allow a small trickle of cold water to run from your faucet, and open under-sink cabinet doors to keep warm room air circulating around pipes,” he says. “Take the time before the first freeze of the season to drain out the sprinkler system. Disconnect, drain, and store all hoses, and ensure that the faucets outside of your home are not leaking. When an outside faucet drips during freezing temperatures the water can turn to ice, which may cause the pipe to expand and break.”
7. Reverse ceiling fans to stay warm
Like to keep your ceiling fans running year-round? Then at least make sure they’re spinning in the right direction.
“Many people don't realize the difference made with the simple reversal of ceiling fans,” says Richard Ciresi, franchise owner of Aire Serv.
“Hot air always rises, and ceiling fans are uniquely designed to direct airflow exactly where you need it most. When you flip your fan's switch to reverse, the fan moves in a clockwise direction, and this updraft allows hot air to get pushed down into your rooms,” he says. “This is especially useful in rooms with very high ceilings.”
8. Protect your floors from winter grime
This one’s easy, but definitely something you’ll want to do before friends and family arrive with snowy or muddy boots.
“If you have a wood or a stone floor, throw down a mat,” says Miguelez. “It’s not the water you’re worried about; it’s the sand and salt—since those can really harm wood or stone floors.”