Winter weather provides a whole new set of challenges when it comes to home maintenance. Use these tips to stay safe in the snow and ice and keep your home in peak condition all year long.

When the seasons change, freezing winter weather can make you want to cozy up by the fire and hibernate the days away. Unfortunately, home maintenance doesn’t take any days off. Even during the coldest months there’s always work to be done. As you build your checklist for winter, use these tips to help prepare your home and stay safe while doing it.

7 Steps to Prepare Your Home for Winter

A home is a huge investment. No matter the season, you want to make sure it’s protected. Winter offers some especially unique challenges, but with advanced preparations you can keep the snow and ice at bay. Here are seven key steps to help prepare your home for winter.

1. Inspect Your Heating System

After spending the better part of the year sitting idle, it’s time to kick your heating system into high gear. Before temperatures get too low, take time to test all the components. That way you can identify any potential issues before the freezing weather sets in. It’s also recommended to have your furnace or heating system inspected by a professional annually. They’ll help keep things running efficiently and can perform a carbon monoxide test to check for dangerous gas leaks.

2. Shut Down Sprinklers

Whether you water by hand or you have a complete irrigation system, sprinklers should be shut down before the first hard freeze. Detach and drain all hoses from the outdoor faucets. This prevents any water left in the line from freezing and potentially bursting pipes. Underground irrigation should also be blown out to remove excess water and avoid the same issues. If you’re unable to do this before winter weather arrives, it’s worth having a sprinkler system inspection in the spring to assess any unseen damage that occurred.

3. Tidy Up Landscaping

As long as you’re taking care of the sprinkler system, take the time to tidy up the yard. Leaves should be raked or mulched to prevent fungus and mold from developing, and to help the lawn get much-needed oxygen. Additionally, do an inspection of the trees and large shrubs around the yard. Remove any broken branches or damaged limbs, as these can be a serious safety hazard when they get loaded with heavy snow and come crashing down.

4. Inspect the Roof

The last thing you want when your roof is blanketed with snow is a slow drip coming from the ceiling. The heat radiating from your home is enough to melt the bottom layer and allow water to seep in, even under freezing conditions. At the very least, perform a visual inspection of the roof and look for missing or damaged shingles and flashing seals. If your roof is difficult to access or you just don’t like heights, a drone survey inspection is a quick and affordable way to assess the condition.

5. Clean the Gutters

Cleaning the gutters is a dirty job, but someone has to do it. When gutters are filled with debris they can easily get backed up as snow melts and freezes throughout winter months. In addition to damaging gutters and drains, this backup can also damage your roofing, siding and trim. By tackling this chore early, you’re much less likely to be surprised by costly repairs come spring.

7. Insulate Windows and Doors

Drafty windows and doors can make your heating costs skyrocket. If you see daylight coming through cracks in window frames, it’s a strong sign they could benefit from fresh caulk or sealing. Doors present a different set of challenges, but can often be improved with an inexpensive draft stopper that seals the gap between the bottom of the door and the floor. To really understand where heat is escaping, a thermal imaging inspection helps reveal your energy-loss hotspots.

8. Check the Fireplace

There’s nothing like a roaring fire on a cold, snowy day. Before you start using this trusted heat source, have it inspected by a professional. They’ll make sure the chimney and surrounding areas are free of debris and buildup that could lead to dangerous carbon monoxide levels or even house fires.

Stay Safe Working in Winter Weather

When you own a home, sometimes there are jobs that just can’t wait. As you address issues during the winter months, keep these basic safety tips in mind for working outside.

  • Get the Gear. Having the right gear makes winter much more tolerable. It also helps you stay safe. When you’re out in the elements, make sure you have clothes that keep you warm and footwear with good traction. Don’t be afraid to take breaks, either. Pushing yourself until you’re freezing cold can lead to costly mistakes.
  • Know Your Equipment. Winter home maintenance comes with all sorts of special equipment. If you’re working with machinery like snowblowers, familiarize yourself with the owner’s manual to ensure you’re running it safely. Also, know the hazards of chemicals like antifreeze or ice melt driveway salt and store them properly.
  • Evaluate Your Surroundings. When the winds are whipping and snow is coming down fast, it’s easy for heavy branches to get broken or treacherous obstacles to become hidden. Prior to doing any outdoor work, carefully evaluate your surroundings for potential hazards.
  • Don’t Work Alone. In any season it’s common sense to have a spotter or buddy system when you’re doing significant home maintenance. This is especially important in winter months where slippery conditions create additional hazards. Even if you’re doing the job alone, have someone around who can help in case something goes wrong.

When to Use a Professional

Much of the work to be done during winter months can be handled on your own. However, there are certain circumstances that are better left to the professionals. Here are a few situations where you should reach out for assistance.

  • If you suspect your appliances have a carbon monoxide leak.
  • If there’s been damage to power lines or they’ve fallen on your property.
  • If pipes have broken or burst due to freezing temperatures.
  • If large trees have partially fallen and need to be removed.

Each individual has a different comfort level with these sorts of situations, but when in doubt, always exercise caution.

Schedule a Specialty Inspection With AmeriSpec

AmeriSpec inspectors are highly trained and ready to assist you in any season. We offer numerous types of specialty inspections -- ranging from radon testing to sewer scopes -- that will help you understand the condition of your property and keep it in excellent condition. With more than 150 locations across North America, it’s easy to find a professional near you. Contact us today to get started!