Prepare Your Home Ahead of the Winter Season
Severe winter weather causes cold temperatures, dangerous blizzards, and icy conditions. The most common types of property damage, which can differ by region are:
- roof damage or collapse due to snow,
- ice or sleet and water damage from burst frozen pipes or
- ice dams.
Start Seasonal Home Prep!
These steps can help you to prepare your family and home before the winter season, no matter where you’re located. Prepare now and be Winter Ready!
Winter Ready Home Preparedness Guide
These steps can help you to prepare your home before the winter season.
1. Create a plan for your family and home
Severe winter weather can disrupt daily life and damage your home. Power outages can lead to frozen pipes and water damage while heavy snowfalls and ice dams can wreak havoc on your roof. Prepare now to reduce the impact of winter weather on you and your home.
- Create an emergency winter plan.
- Compile a list of emergency contacts including fire, police, family, neighbors, friends, tree services, utility companies, and your insurance agent.
- Create a communications plan for your family before and after a winter storm.
- Determine who will bring pets inside or provide adequate shelter and unfrozen water.
- Know where to go in case your home gets too cold.
- Keep your car in good working order. Ensure it is filled with gas or has a full charge.
- Prepare an emergency supply kit in case the power goes out. Be ready to live without power, water, or gas.
- Keep your phone charged.
- Stay informed.
- Find a reliable source for severe weather information. Follow the National Weather Service (NWS) Weather Prediction Center (WPC) on Facebook or X, and your local NWS office. Tune in to local news often when winter weather is forecast.
- Enable wireless emergency alerts on your cell phone.
- Purchase a weather radio that broadcasts emergency alerts from the National Weather Service, preferably one with a hand crank.
- Check your insurance coverage and document belongings.
- Know what your insurance covers and what it doesn’t.
- Document your belongings and store your home inventory in the cloud. If you have to file a claim due to a winter-related event, you will have to itemize losses for your insurance company.
PREPARE YOUR HOME
2) Inspect and repair your roof, gutters, and attic
Ensuring your roof, gutters, and attic are prepared for winter weather protects your home structurally, reduces the chance of interior water damage, and helps keep your home warm. Water that does not properly drain off your roof has the potential to freeze, creating ice dams and adding to the snow load on the roof. Left untreated, ice dams can cause interior water damage while heavy snow loads can cause a roof to collapse.
- Inspect roof, secure loose shingles, and repair leaks before winter.
- Check and repair flashing seals around roof edges, vent stacks, skylights, and chimneys.
- Repair or replace damaged fascia boards.
- Gutters & downspouts
- Inspect gutters and ensure they are secured to the house.
- Clean all gutters, downspouts, and drains of tree debris and vegetation that may restrict proper flow.
- Check downspouts to ensure they divert water at least 3 to 4 feet away from the foundation.
- Ensure you have adequate attic insulation with proper ventilation.
- Insulate attic access doors and seal attic penetrations such as those for vents, plumbing, and anywhere piping or wiring penetrates an exterior wall.
3) Protect the pipes
Plumbing and interior sprinklers may freeze in extreme cold, particularly during power outages. Older homes—especially in Southern states—may be more susceptible to below-freezing temperatures and are more likely to have inadequate insulation.
- Make sure pipes are insulated in hard-to-reach places like attics, crawl spaces, and along all walls facing outside. Using specifically designed pipe insulation, wrap pipes and faucets in unheated or minimally heated areas.
- Caulk and seal any cracks or gaps on your home’s exterior.
- Add weatherstripping to seal air leaks around doors and operable windows. Make sure you cannot see any daylight around doors and windows from inside your home.
- Cover any ventilated crawl spaces during the winter months.
4) Winterize your yard and irrigation
Trees near or overhanging your home can damage the roof, siding, and windows under the weight of snow and ice. Preparing outdoor faucets and plumbing can save your pipes during a cold snap.
- Keep all tree limbs trimmed and away from your house. Hire an arborist to remove branches that overhang the house and remove any dead, dying, or diseased trees.
- Shut down pool and irrigation systems.
- Remove hoses attached to the house, drain and store.
- If you don’t have frost-proof outdoor faucets (homes built before 2010 typically do not), shut off the valves and insulate outdoor faucets.
5) Tune-up your home’s heating system
You don’t want to be last in line for repairs on the coldest day of the year! A broken heating system can make your home dangerously cold and cause pipes to freeze.
- Schedule preventative maintenance annually and make sure the system is operating properly and efficiently.
- Ensure the technician changes out air filters, the system can achieve its manufacturer-rated efficiency, and check that exhaust gases are being ventilated properly.
6) Clean your chimney
Cleaning your chimney can prevent chimney fires and prevent carbon monoxide from building up in your home.
- Call a chimney sweep to clean out the chimney annually.
- Close the damper to avoid warm air escaping up the chimney when the chimney is not in use.
7) Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors keep your family safe. According to NFPA, house fires occur more often in the winter than any other season and heating equipment is involved in one out of every six house fires. Also, sources of carbon monoxide can come from heating and cooking appliances and vehicle or generators running nearby a home.
- Install both types of detectors (or a combined detector) inside of every bedroom, outside of all sleeping areas, and on every floor of a home.
- Smoke alarms should be interconnected. When one sounds, they all should sound.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for placement and mounting height.
- Test at least once a month.
- Change batteries every six months.
- Replace detectors every 10 years, or when the manufacturer recommends.
8) Service your generator in case of power outages
Winter weather can knock out power. When used safely, a generator can help keep your home warm and the lights on. Proper maintenance ensures a generator is ready to go when it is needed most.
- Set a maintenance plan for the specific model you have by checking the owner’s manual, which should tell you:
- When to check and change the oil
- When to replace the spark plug and air filter
- When to clean the spark arrestor screen
- How often to test run the generator, which is typically every couple of months
- How to store the generator, usually in a dry place