Your Twin Cities Home Winterization Checklist
Twin Cities residents brave the coldest metropolitan temperatures in the continental United States. If you live here, you’re already hardier than most, and you don’t let a sub-freezing afternoon keep you cooped up. But that doesn’t mean you have to shiver your way through winter.
Stay toasty all winter long by defending your home against harsh wind, rain, and snow.
Weather stripping and draft guards are just the beginning. From your garage door to your dryer vent, there are many possible leaks and inefficiencies that can sap your heat (while running up your heating bill).
Never fear! We compiled 24 ways to keep winter’s chill where it belongs: Outdoors.
24 Ways to Winterize Your Home from the Outside In
Use this checklist to winterize your home from top to bottom, inside and out. Tackle these tasks now to avoid weather damage and costly repairs later.
Outside: Reinforce Your Home’s Exterior to Keep Cold at Bay
Start with your home’s exterior so you can finish your outdoor weatherization chores before temperatures really plummet.
Number 1: Replace worn or fallen roof shingles.
Your roof is your first line of defense against the elements. Extreme yearly temperature changes and falling rain, snow, and ice can weaken this defense. Have a licensed, certified roofing professional inspect and repair any loose, missing, and tattered shingles.
Number 2: Replace worn or fallen siding.
Missing or deteriorating siding leaves your house vulnerable to weather damage. Look for peeling paint as a sign of moisture intrusion, which may be coming from outside elements or from moisture accumulating within your home. This may be an opportunity to upgrade to a more durable siding.
Number 3: Check your home’s exterior for cracks.
Walk the perimeter of your home and caulk any cracks you discover in the walls and foundation, along window trim, and places where masonry meets siding. Seal up new cracks each year to stay leak-proof and energy efficient.
Number 4: Clean your gutters.
Clogged gutters cause ice to build up at the edge of your roof. This ice build-up in turn causes rain and snow to pool and accumulate under your roof material, rather than drain. Scrape out the debris, flush your gutters with water, and make sure the elbows, joints, and downspouts are in good condition and free of leaks.
Number 5: Drain outdoor hoses and spigots.
Water sitting in an outdoor pipe, faucet, or hose will cause damage when it freezes and expands. Shut off outdoor valves and drain the last drops of water from your spigots. Disconnect any garden hoses and store them inside for the winter.
Number 6: Weatherize your dryer vent.
Warm air can escape and cold air can seep in where your dryer vents at the exterior of your home. Be sure to check that the exterior dryer damper is free and clear of lint so it can properly close when the dryer is not in use. Seal any gaps between your wall and dryer vent with a fresh bead of caulk. You may need to detach the dryer vent hardware from your wall, so follow this step by step guide to do the job properly.
Number 7: Close your in-ground pool.
If you have an in-ground pool, drain it or add winterizing chemicals and blow out the pipes. You may want to hire a professional to prepare your pool for winter as there are many variables to consider. Finally, attach your winter pool cover and triple check for any holes or other damage.
Number 8: Weather-strip your garage door.
Seal the edges of your garage door to keep heat in and snow and water out. Garage door weather stripping is uniquely designed to move flexibly while maintaining a tight seal. If you’re not sure you can properly install garage door weather stripping yourself, hire a professional.
Number 9: Inspect your driveway for cracks.
This won’t heat your home, but it will prevent cracks from deepening over winter and damaging your driveway. Squeeze driveway filler into any cracks and coat the surface with a sealant. There are several ways to patch driveway cracks and holes, so be sure to choose the best method and materials for you.
Number 10: Prepare your yard equipment for storage.
Drain the fuel from your lawn mowers, leaf blowers, chain saws, and other yard equipment. Store them in a place where they will stay dry and safe from corrosion all winter — perhaps in your newly sealed garage?
Number 11: Ready your snow equipment.
While you’re stowing away summer equipment, prepare your shovels, salt, snow blowers, roof rakes, and other winter tools for duty. Clean, organized, and fully functioning snow clearing equipment means you’re ready when the first snowflake falls.
Number 12: Seal and protect your deck or patio.
Give your deck or patio a deep clean, then apply a waterproof sealant to protect wood and concrete against moisture, mold, and deterioration. Clean and store your patio furniture, outdoor umbrellas, barbecue, and other seasonal items in a dry place.
Number 13: Empty soil from pots and planters.
Just as water can freeze and burst your pipes, soil can freeze and expand to crack pots and planters. Bring clay pots indoors or store soil in buckets until it can be used again.
Number 14: Pro Tip: Fertilize your lawn.
While you’re winterizing the outside of your house, prepare your grass for the long, cold months ahead. Feed your lawn a high phosphorous fertilizer in late fall or early winter for a lush, green yard in spring. And clip your grass as short as you can to prevent animals from burrowing.
Inside: Insulate Your Home Against Pesky Leaks and Drafts
Once your home’s exterior has been thoroughly sealed and protected, move inside to maximize heat retention and energy efficiency.
Number 15: Seal doors and windows.
Stopping air leaks is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce heating costs. You can find leaks simply by feeling for cold drafts with your hand. Whether you use weather stripping, silicone caulk, rope caulk, draft guards, or a combination, make sure your door and window frames are airtight.
Number 16: Put up plastic window film.
You may not want to see plastic covering all of your windows, but window insulation film is an inexpensive and surprisingly effective way to stop air leaks. Use it selectively in under-utilized areas of the house or for old windows where heat loss through the glass is a concern.
Number 17: Inspect for leaks in out-of-sight places.
While most of us think to seal drafty windows, we don’t always think of the skylights, vents, switch plates, attic windows, and other out of sight, out of mind leaks. Take a thorough tour of your home, checking for drafts in hard-to-reach corners and spots where pipes or wires travel.
Number 18: Flush your water heater.
Flush your hot water tank annually to clear out corrosive mineral buildup and boost water heater efficiency. To do this, you need to safely drain the tank, flush it clean with several gallons of water, then refill it. You may need special tools and additional parts to do the job right, so be sure to carefully follow instructions or hire professional help.
Number 19: Service your heating system.
You can go the DIY route and change out the furnace filters, clean the blower fan, inspect the motor belt for wear, and seal any duct leaks yourself. However, experts highly recommend having your furnace professionally serviced once a year. It’s a minor expense that can prevent highly expensive repairs down the road.
Number 20: Prevent chimney drafts.
First inspect your chimney damper and liner to see if they need to be upgraded. If your damper is not very effective or you don’t have a damper at all, use a chimney balloon or plug to stop drafts. This is also a good time to clean your chimney of creosote buildup and other fire hazards. We highly recommend hiring a professional to inspect and clean your chimney.
Number 21: Insulate your pipes.
Protect any exposed pipes from freezing temperatures with adhesive foam-rubber pipe insulation. Plumbing pipes in unheated spaces like your garage or attic have the greatest risk of bursting. If you have any exterior plumbing, you’ll want to step back outside for this job too.
Number 22: Seal your ductwork.
Ducts in attics or crawl spaces lose 25% to 40% of their heat due to air leaks and poor insulation. If your AC and heating ducts are accessible, inspect them for leaks and gaps. Seal ducts with a heat tolerant tape like mastic and wrap them with insulation when possible.
Number 23: Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
The risk of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning increases in winter as we spend more time in unventilated spaces. Make sure your smoke and carbon dioxide detectors are working properly, replace the batteries, and stock up on extra household batteries so they never go dead.
Number 24: Switch the direction of your ceiling fans.
This final step is as easy as flipping a switch. Your fans rotate counterclockwise in summer to blow air straight down. In the winter, turn the blades clockwise to draw cool air upwards and circulate warm air down and out. Simply locate and flip the direction switch on the fan’s motor.
Invest Now to Keep Cozy and Save Money
If winterizing feels overwhelming, prioritize two to three tasks that tackle your biggest heat-sapping problem areas. A few small, DIY fixes can make a big impact on your day-to-day comfort (and monthly heating bill).
Beyond completing our 24-step checklist, there are a number of tools and home renovations you may want to invest in to improve heating and cooling year-round. From a programmable thermostat to an energy efficiency home remodel, the best solutions for you depend on your home and budget.
If you need help getting your home in peak condition for the winter months, don’t hesitate to give Purcell a call at 651.748.1304.