From frost and snow to ice and hail, Canadian winters can be unpredictable. By late September there’s a chill in the air –– and just two months later, the sidewalks are slippery and there’s snow on the ground. It’s important to prepare your home for the winter ahead. Winterize your property properly and you’ll be set for a safe, comfortable winter season. You’ll also save money and time.

What does it mean to winterize a home?

Winterizing a home includes anything you do to prepare your home for cold weather. Different winter elements can compromise the security or comfort of your home in freezing temperatures, or drive up your heating bills unnecessarily. Ice, snow, and wind can damage the structure of your home or cause trees to fall. Flooding can occur when snow or ice thaws and doesn’t have the right channels to drain. Pipes can burst when freezing water expands with lower temperatures. We all know that utility and maintenance bills can get especially cringe-worthy as the weather gets colder. Winterizing a home is a preventative measure to protect your home from damage, save on heating bills, and keep you cozy all winter long.

Important tips to prepare your home for winter

Use these helpful tips to prepare your home for the winter ahead.

Avoid air leaks

Sealing air leaks in your home can save you more than 20% on heating and cooling bills. Just like a hole in a boat causes flooding, air leaks can allow in cold air increasing your costs and your discomfort during the coming winter. Caulking and weatherstripping are two simple ways to prevent air leaks. 

 

Caulking seals air leaks and prevents water damage along cracks or gaps in your home. 

 

Weatherstripping similarly prevents air leaks, but specifically seals moving parts like doors and windows. 

 

Sealing air leaks may include:

 

  • Weatherstripping doors and windows throughout your home.
  • Adding weatherstripping on porches, patios, or sunrooms, especially where snow can accumulate and lean against your house.
  • Insulate and seal leaks in easily forgotten areas like attics and closets with weatherstripping.
  • Caulking around electrical wiring holes, plumbing fixtures and taps, and any other places where cold air can sneak in. 

Clean your eavestroughs

The autumn months clog most eavestroughs with colourful leaves, which easily build up if they’re not cleared out by late fall. Once these piles of leaves

freeze, they can cause damage to eavestroughs. When ice thaws in the spring or because of a temporary rise in temperature, blockages can restrict the flow of water, causing ice damming. Blocked eavestroughs can also break or snap off, resulting in costly repairs.

What is ice damming?

Ice damming refers to the raised edge of ice or snow on a rooftop that keeps melting ice or snow from draining off of the roof. If water can’t drain from the roof, it puts pressure on the structure of your home and can cause flooding or leaking when temperatures rise.

Preventative yard work

Walk around your property and notice any trees, branches, or structures that don’t seem solid. Branches or trees that are leaning or are too close to the sides of your home can be prone to break or cause trouble if a winter storm closes in. A load of heavy snow can also weigh down branches. Take time to trim or cut back any branches that are close to your home, parking spot, or walking paths.

Use salt wisely

Salt has been commonly used to help make sidewalks less slippery or to navigate the front stairs when they’re covered in ice. However, salt can be damaging to grass, resulting in a brown, dead lawn in the spring. Salt can also cause damage to waterways and pavement as well as your pet’s feet. Consider buying an eco-friendly melting agent to protect your property, grass, and walkways. Natural salt is better for your lawn and pavement, and it’s better for the environment too.

Don’t forget the attic

Heat loss through the attic in your home can account for 40 percent of your winter heating bill. It might cost you up front to insulate or winterize your attic, but doing so can save you money in the winters ahead. Make sure you hire a well-reviewed contractor to insulate your attic; poorly installed insulation baffles can cause mould or other issues when the weather warms up.

Prevent frozen drains and pipes

Water damage caused by burst pipes can be costly and dangerous. In the colder months, pipes can break or burst when frozen water expands. Dropping water pressure is a clue that your pipes might be freezing, so make note of pressure changes in the winter. Here’s how you can avoid frozen pipes or drains in your home. 

 

  • Drain and turn off outdoor water lines before the cold weather hits to prevent freezing or damage.
  • Insulate water pipes in unheated areas of the house like the garage, backhouse, garage, and attic. This can also cut down your heating bill. 
  • Keep a tap dripping a tiny bit if the weather drops far below zero. 
  • Increase indoor circulation. Keep doors inside your home and between bedrooms open, and outdoor and garage doors sealed and closed. 
  • Plan ahead if you’re traveling. Before you leave for a winter getaway, make sure you turn on the water main to drain all pipes, drain your hot water tank, unhook your washing machine hoses, open kitchen and cabinet doors to increase air circulation, and keep heating set to a moderate temperature to avoid freezing. Ask a friend to check on your house while you’re away.

Avoid fires

It might not be instinctual to worry about a fire in the colder months, but in cold weather we like to light fires or use constant heat sources to keep our bodies warm. Regularly check that stovetops are switched off, fires are properly snuffed out, and heat sources are far away from furniture or clutter.

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