How to Get Your House Ready for Winter
It’s time to start thinking about getting your house ready for the long winter months ahead.
Winter brings with it a host of challenges, from icy sidewalks to snow-covered driveways, and the potential for damage to your property.
In this guide to winterize your home, we’ll also look at issues related to your home insurance. We’ll answer questions like, "Does insurance cover ice damage?" and "Am I required to shovel my driveway and walkway?"
Inspect and maintain your heating system
Adequate heating is not only essential for your comfort but also helps prevent frozen pipes and other cold-related problems.
The first step in getting your home ready for winter is to ensure your heating system is in excellent working condition. Schedule a professional inspection of your furnace or heating system to identify any potential issues.
Replace air filters regularly, as clogged filters can reduce efficiency and lead to higher energy bills.
Seal gaps and insulate
A well-insulated home is key to keeping the cold out and the warmth in. Check for gaps around windows and doors and apply weatherstripping or caulking as needed.
Consider adding insulation to your attic, basement, and walls if they are poorly insulated. Proper insulation can significantly reduce your heating costs and make your home more comfortable during the winter.
Clean and inspect your chimney
If you have a fireplace or wood-burning stove, it's essential to have your chimney cleaned and inspected before using it during the winter months. Creosote buildup can lead to chimney fires, so hire a professional chimney sweep to ensure it's safe to use.
Protect your pipes
Frozen pipes can be a costly and damaging winter woe. To prevent this, insulate pipes in unheated areas of your home, such as the basement or crawl spaces. Consider letting faucets drip during extremely cold nights to keep water flowing, reducing the risk of freezing. If you plan to be away from home for an extended period, keep your thermostat set to at least 55°F (about 13°C) to prevent frozen pipes.
Clear your gutters
Before the winter chill sets in, take the time to clear leaves, debris, and dirt from your gutters and downspouts. Clogged gutters can lead to ice dams and water damage when snow melts and can't flow properly. Ensure that water is directed away from your foundation to prevent basement leaks.
Trim trees and branches
Inspect the trees around your property and trim any branches that could potentially fall on your home or power lines during heavy snow or ice storms. Pruning trees can reduce the risk of damage to your property and ensure your safety during winter weather events.
Stock up on winter essentials
Be prepared for winter storms by stocking up on essential supplies such as rock salt or sand for icy walkways, shovels, snow blowers, and an emergency kit with flashlights, batteries, blankets, and non-perishable food. Having these items readily available can make a big difference in case of power outages or heavy snowfall.
Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
Ensure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working correctly. Winter heating systems can increase the risk of carbon monoxide leaks, so it's crucial to have functioning detectors on each floor of your home. Replace batteries as needed and test them regularly.
Review your home insurance policy
Now that your home is prepped for winter, it's time to turn our attention to your home insurance policy. Understanding what your policy covers and doesn't cover is essential to avoid unexpected financial burdens in case of winter-related damage.
Does insurance cover ice damage?
Most standard home insurance policies provide coverage for ice damage. This typically includes damage caused by ice dams on your roof, which can lead to water intrusion and interior damage. However, coverage can vary, so it's crucial to review your policy and understand the limits and deductibles.
Am I required to shovel my driveway and walkway?
Whether you're required to shovel your driveway and walkway depends on local ordinances and regulations. Some municipalities have laws in place that require property owners to keep sidewalks and driveways clear of snow and ice for the safety of pedestrians. Failing to do so could result in fines or liability if someone slips and falls on your property. Check with your local government or homeowner's association to determine your specific obligations.
Consider adding additional coverage
While standard home insurance policies typically cover ice damage, they may not cover all winter-related risks. For example, damage from frozen pipes may not be fully covered if you did not take reasonable precautions to prevent them.
To ensure comprehensive protection, consider adding endorsements or riders to your policy for specific winter-related risks.
Safety tips for winter
In addition to preparing your home and reviewing your insurance policy, here are some safety tips to keep in mind during the winter months:
- Stay informed: Keep an eye on weather forecasts and stay informed about potential winter storms in your area. Being aware of impending severe weather can help you prepare in advance.
- Safe snow removal: When shoveling or using a snow blower, take breaks to avoid overexertion. Ensure that snow is piled away from the foundation of your home to prevent water intrusion.
- Drive cautiously: If you must drive in snowy or icy conditions, make sure your vehicle is equipped with snow tires and that you have an emergency kit in the car. Drive slowly and leave plenty of space between vehicles.
- Prevent slips and falls: Keep walkways and driveways clear of snow and ice to prevent accidents. Use salt, sand, or ice melt products to improve traction.
- Emergency preparedness: Have an emergency kit ready with essentials like non-perishable food, bottled water, flashlights, blankets, and a battery-powered radio in case of power outages.
Remember to review your home insurance policy, understand what it covers, and consider adding additional coverage if necessary. This proactive approach will provide you with peace of mind, knowing that you're prepared for whatever winter may bring. Stay safe, stay warm, and enjoy the beauty of the season.