Year-round residences, winter vacation homes and the occasionally used cabin all have one thing in common: snow, ice and cold temperatures can destroy your investment in the structures. Winterizing your home is quick, simple and a necessity. Do it in 10 steps!
Plant evergreen espaliers. It takes a few seasons to fully train up the vines or shrubs to grow in this manner, but keeping the live plants so close to the home’s exterior walls protects against the winter cold. I have found that this advantage greatly outweighs the potential for damage to masonry by invasive branches or roots. Erect wind breaks. Cultivate evergreen hedges around the home, which cuts down on wind damage to shutters and windows. In the alternative, erect temporary wind breaks. They also decrease the warm air that leeches away from a house pummeled by cold winter winds. Clean vent covers. Roof vents, ducts and other openings must be clean and operational. If you are storing items in the attic, move them away from vent openings to facilitate air flow. Failure to allow proper air circulation leads to potentially trapped moisture in the attic, which in turn might just rot through your joists. Get a chimney inspection. Hire a professional who is certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA). These experts have undergone rigorous testing and you know that you are not just inviting a novice with a few brushes into your home. Make this call as early in the season as possible! Have your heater inspected. If you still have the installer’s phone number, call them out to clean the pilot, re-light it and check for carbon monoxide. Homeowners with older heaters should call the local utility company for a courtesy check; representatives usually offer free pilot-lighting services and also conduct a carbon monoxide check. Install electric heat tape to exterior water lines. In winter vacation homes, it is a good idea to also install this tape on lines that just run along exterior walls. If you are gone for a few weeks or months, this heat tape protects against burst pipes during an unanticipated cold spell. Insulate crawlspace water lines. In lieu of heat tape, this method works well even if the power goes out. If you have previously insulated the pipes, get underneath the house and verify that the material is still in good repair. Vermin may have used some of the insulation for nesting during the spring and summer. Insulate your windows with clear film. The material attaches to the window frames with double-sided tape. It stretches taught after a heat application with a hairdryer. Take this step for windows that you are not planning on opening during the cold winter months. Caulk around windows and doors. Keep out cold air and water with exterior-grade caulk. If needed, follow up this process with an interior caulk from the inside of the home. Insulate your garage door. Winterizing your home does not stop at the front door. Instead, include the garage door in your winter home maintenance regimen to protect heat loss to this large unheated storage space that is connected to your living space.