Winterizing My Home


How to Winterize My Home

With winter moving rapidly into the forefront, the winterizing of our homes is a vital aspect of home ownership. This article will not identify the more detailed and difficult aspects of winterizing, such as replacement windows or re-roofing, but will summarize some basic activities that can be done during a fall weekend, around the home.

Dependent upon where you are located, winter may mean different things to individuals located on the coast, further inland, along a river or stream, or in the mountains. Dependent upon your average winter temperature and the amount of moisture and the type of moisture you receive, will determine what should be done to winterize your home. To write an article that is all encompassing is basically impossible, however, this will provide an overall, very general summary of suggested activities.

  • Windows and doors. Check all windows and doors for the obvious, broken glass, broken screens or missing or deteriorated weather stripping. The weather stripping is the casketing that surrounds the window or the door. This can be rubber, neoprene, foam, wood, felt, or almost any type of material that would create, or attempt to create, a seal between the operating portion of the window or door, and the frame itself. Think of the cold weather and how it can obtain access to the interior of your home. If there are gaps or openings between the window or door assembly and the surrounding frame, they must be closed, either with new weather stripping or with a total enclosure of plastic.
  • Plastic enclosures. If there are windows or doors that are not used and can be covered with a plastic sheathing, this is a very practical and economical method of stopping the air from infiltrating the opening. There are several different insulation packages that are sold to accommodate this purpose, however, the purchase of a roll of plastic sheathing and a roll of insulating tape, will accomplish the same purpose. Care must be taken to use a material to fasten the plastic sheathing that does not leave a sticky residue when removed. Products like duct tape will provide a very stable and air tight seal but will leave a stubborn residue on the surfaces it was applied to. One suggestion is to use small strips of wood that are screwed into the frame with minimum damage to the frame. In this manner the screws can be removed to take the plastic sheathing off the windows with minimum remaining evidence of the temporary plastic enclosure.
  • Drainage around the homes perimeter. During winter months, the ice and snow will build up around the perimeter of the home. It is important that you determine where this buildup will occur, and insure that the drainage of these areas is away from the home. It is much easier to either regrade or accommodate this requirement during the pleasant fall weather, than to fight the winter elements when the problem occurs. Many times homeowners are not aware of the damaging effects that improper grading around the home can cause. Water that flows away from the home is far less damaging than water flowing towards the foundation. Simple, but many times missed when inspecting the perimeter of the home.
  • Roofing issues. The winter will cause additional deterioration to previously weakened or deteriorated roofing areas. These areas are commonly located along the flashings against the chimney, or the step flashings alongside a roof dormer. If you can, without causing a safety issue, access your roof, walk it with a pail of roofing patch or tar. With the material in hand, fill any holes or openings between the flashings of the home. The best method for sealing these penetrations is to purchase a caulking gun and the appropriate tubes of roofing material. This method allows the material to penetrate into the opening and properly seal the gap. It is essential that any obvious holes or compromises in the roof be tarred or caulked to eliminate any leaking as the winter approaches. Remember that the winter will normally cause windy, rainy and snowy conditions that will drive the water or ice into any opening or gap in the roofing systems.
  • If there are compromises in the actual roofing, whether it is shingles or a flat type of roofing material, a quick and easy temporary fix, is to install a piece of sheet metal flashing over the compromised area. Either slip the sheet metal under the compromised roof shingle or simply tar that sheet metal patch over the area. Four roofing nails embedded with the roofing tar should be fastened at each corner of the patch, to ensure that it remains in place, at least for the upcoming winter months.
  • Check the eaves of the home. The eaves are the portions of the roof that form the edge along the lower end of a pitched roof. It is in these areas that ice and snow will accumulate over the winter, and cause leaking into the home. It is recommended that a commonly found, electrical heating strip, be installed at the eaves of the home that may have ice and snow build up. Although it is difficult to accurately locate all of these areas, the most common exposures are the northern eave exposures that have limited sun and melting opportunities. These areas will normally build up with ice and snow, allowing the thawing water to work itself up under the shingles. The best method of eliminating this issue is to have all of your eaves totally waterproofed by metal roofing, full sheathing under the shingles, or full electric heating to eliminate the freezing of the eaves. Proper attic insulation is also recommended to reduce the amount of heat that is generated through the roof by a inadequately insulated attic space.
  • Exterior hard surfaces such as a driveway or walk. This type of surface that is subject to freezing can cause hazardous conditions during the winter months. Place containers of sand and salt within easy reach of these areas. It is best to use five gallon pails with covers, strategically placed in areas that freeze up and cause issues. The simple use of a coffee can that is located in the closed container will provide a comfortable method of sand and salt distribution on a cold winters day or night.
  • Other miscellaneous winterizing suggestions.
  • Check to ensure that you have enough shovels, or other tools that you use to remove the ice and snow at hand. Do not wait for the first snow or ice storm to search for your shovel.
  • Check each of your vehicles for an ice scrapper, flares, and emergency highway gear, in-case of an incident on the road.
  • Install a duffel bag of extra gloves, hats, coats, etc. that if stranded, the occupant of the vehicle could use to stay warm and secure.
  • Place a bag of ice melt in each vehicle for emergency use during the winter.
  • Make sure that your furnace has been properly maintained and that the scheduling of oil fill ups is properly scheduled to accommodate the increased use of fuel during the winter months. Don’t forget that if you have an oil fired hot water heater, this will also be using upwards of 3 gallons of oil per day.
  • If you have a sump pump, make sure it is in proper working order. If necessary pour water into the sump itself until the pump triggers the pumping action. If your sump pump is not required on a continuous basis, the possibility that the pump will not operate during the emergency heavy winter rainstorm exists. It is better to check the operation, prior to the need for it to function due to flooding conditions.

Common sense is the best guide for preparing for the winter months as a homeowner. The best method is to imagine a typical severe winter storm and how it will affect you and your home. In many instances a few weekends of simple due diligence around the home will reduce the stress and the damage that winter weather can cause around the country.

Enjoy, the next season is Spring!!