5 min read

Preparing For Winter Colder Temps

Are you prepared for a severe winter that includes below average temperatures? Last winter was mild, but that’s not a guarantee that this winter will be too. Although you can’t control the weather, you can take steps to prepare your home in case the temperature takes a deep dive. Here are some tips to help you get started.

As the timeworn saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Investing your time – and sometimes your money – now, can save you costly repair bills later.

Preparation Outside Your Home

  • Clean out your gutters. Leaves, twigs, and other debris can impede the proper flow of water and may facilitate the formation of ice dams in extreme weather. 
  • Prune trees and remove dead branches. Not only is a late fall pruning healthy for your plant material, removing large, damaged branches will ensure they don’t end up falling on your home.
  • Turn off outside water spigots. Consider installing a freeze-proof fixture if you don’t have one already. Do it yourself or hire a plumber to do it for you.
  • Repair any damage to exterior steps. Check for loose mortar, caulking, and grout as well as cracked surfaces. Keep steps clear during ice and snow events.
  • Inspect the exterior for leaks around doors and windows. Caulk will deteriorate over time, allowing water to enter and freeze. Remove damaged caulk and replace it with new.
  • Winterize outdoor water systems. If you have a swimming pool, hot tub, irrigation system, or other exterior water feature, winterize them according to the manufacturers’ instructions.

Preparation Inside Your Home

  • Insulate your attic, basement, and crawl space. A well-insulated attic can help prevent the formation of ice dams. Insulated basements and crawlspaces help keep pipes from freezing.
  • Consider investing in a backup power source. Continuous power will not only help you stay warm, but it can also prevent frozen pipes. A portable power generator will do the job.
  • Stay current on routine maintenance of your HVAC system. Regular service by your local professional will reduce the chance of a system failure when you need it the most.
  • Check pipes for cracks, leaks, and loose fittings. Take note of what you find, make the repairs yourself, or call your plumber to do the job.
  • Ask your plumber about installing an emergency pressure relief valve. This can protect your plumbing system from pressure due to frozen pipes and may prevent them from bursting. 
  • Move combustibles away from heat sources, such as fireplaces, wood stoves, and space heaters. This is a good practice always, but especially when temperature causes increased use.
  • Understand your plumbing system. Learn about the general layout of your plumbing system and know where the main shutoff valve is located.
  • Check your homeowner’s insurance coverage. Consider adding sewer backup insurance. If raw sewage backs up in your home, it will be costly to repair. The added coverage will be worth it.

If a cold wave hits before you have time to complete your preparations, don’t panic. Here are some tips for keeping potential damage from spiraling out of control.

Limiting Damage During Freezes

  • Heat your house to a minimum of 65 degrees. Since the temperature inside the walls is considerably lower, this will help make sure it stays at least above freezing. 
  • Make sure you know the location of the main water shutoff valve. Although you might have completed this task, double check when temperatures plunge below freezing. 
  • Insulate pipes in unheated areas. If you have an unheated basement or a shop sink in the garage, wrap those pipes with insulation tape.
  • Open cabinet and vanity doors to allow warmer air to circulate around pipes. You can use newspaper or old towels to provide a layer of protection on indoor pipes.
  • Open all hot and cold water faucets and let them drip slowly. Keeping water flowing slowly through the pipes can help prevent freezing.
  • Keep your fireplace flue and garage doors closed when not in use. This will help to keep the temperature inside your home as warm as possible.
  • Enlist the help of friends. If you plan to be away during a freeze, ask a neighbor to check the interior and exterior of your home regularly.
  • Keep sidewalks and steps free of snow and ice. Make sure your snow shovels are in good working order. Purchase ice melt for hard surfaces and keep it handy.
  • During a freeze and melt cycle, check your gutters for ice dams regularly. Use a rake to dislodge snow from the roof’s edge. Learn how to remove ice dams safely.
  • During a heavy snow or ice storm, check trees for newly damaged branches and remove them before they fall. Even a healthy limb can buckle under the weight of ice buildup.
  • If your pipes freeze, try to thaw them immediately or call a plumber for help. You can try a hair dryer, heat lamp, or heating pad for this process.
  • If you experience a burst pipe, turn off the main shutoff valve first. Then clean up any standing water and call a plumber to repair the pipe.

If you experience a burst pipe and water damage affects the surrounding area (carpet, flooring, drywall, ceilings, etc.), contact a water restoration professional as soon as possible. The area must be thoroughly dried to prevent mold from growing and damaged materials must be removed before repairs can begin.

These tips can help you be prepared and know how to handle threats to your home from a severe winter freeze. Even if this winter is another mild one, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that you can handle whatever it might bring!