So much work goes into preparing your home for winter storms, and for many homeowners, much of the work is guesswork. What should you do to prepare your lawn? How do you know if your attic is winter-ready? It might seem overwhelming, but putting a little extra time and effort into winterizing your home can prevent costly home emergencies and can help you save money on home energy costs. Plus, to help you out, we’ve put together a checklist of things to check, do, and double check, starting in the basement all the way up to the roof. Adjust the list to your home’s needs, and tackle this project as soon as you can so you can get back to enjoying the warm indoors with your family.

Our best advice is to print this list so you can take it with you around the house and take notes on it as you go. That way, you’ll have it (and your notes) for next year, too. Don’t be afraid to add or delete tasks as they might apply; every house has different needs. Either way, it pays to be prepared!

Winterizing Tips: Basement to Roof

Basement

  • Check the hot water heater and any exposed pipes. If the hot water heater is hot to the touch, it would benefit from a hot water heater blanket for insulation, which will keep the water at the right temperature with minimal energy. If you have any exposed pipes, you might want to think about insulating them as well to prevent them from freezing.
  • Walk around your basement with a flashlight to look for cracks in the foundation. Foundation cracks are worth paying attention to - if there’s any chance of water getting into the crack, freezing temperatures can cause it to expand and make the damage (much) worse. Depending on the extent of the existing damage, you might need to contact a contractor.
  • Especially if you haven’t done any regular maintenance this year on your HVAC system, now is the time. Make sure your heating system is up to the challenge of near-constant freezing temperatures throughout the season.

Ground Floor and Landscaping

  • Moving from the basement to ground level, do the last of your late fall lawn care by raking and removing the last of the fall leaves, or mowing them into your lawn. Add fertilizer and keep the grass short.
  • Whether you have a snowblower or you use a shovel lined up for snow removal duty, move them to the front of the garage or shed for easy access. Bring a shovel inside near the front steps.
  • Winter storms can wreak havoc on loose limbs and dead trees. Have a tree service professional look at an problem trees and help keep your home safe.
  • On your way back inside, look over the deck, porch, and/or stairs, paying close attention to the railing. Loose railings and broken steps should be top priority for repairs, as they’ll be even more hazardous under ice.
  • Once inside, feel around the doors and windows for drafts. These can be easily fixed, which will help your house stay warmer and your energy bills stay low. You can use window treatments such as a roller shade or a shrink-fit window insulator kit to keep even old windows well-insulated.
  • Consider installing a programmable thermostat for this winter, like the Nest Learning Thermostat. Turning the temp down a few degrees while you’re out of the house can add up to sizeable savings, and you won’t even notice.

Second Floor and Roof

  • Moving upstairs, if your attic isn’t well insulated, your energy bills will rise as the heat does, and you run the risk of ice dams forming which can seriously damage your roof. Adding insulation is a moderately difficult DIY project but a professional can have it done for you in a weekend.
  • Finally, the roof. Especially if you haven’t been to the roof yet this season, make sure any and all shingles are in good shape and clean out your gutters. Strong wind and heavy snow will cause much less damage to a well-maintained roof!