Prepare Your Home for Winter: Everything You Should Be Doing

A-frame house in Lake Arrowhead in winter
credit: Stephen Paul

In certain parts of the country, "winterize" is a pretty abstract concept. (It was 102 degrees in Los Angeles the week before Halloween, mind you). But there are certain tasks we should all consider as we head, if not into snow and sub-zero temps, then at least into a chance of rain.

The A+ students among us will have addressed a lot of these tasks as soon as it turned fall. For the rest of us, there's still time.

IN THE GARDEN

Even if frost isn't yet in the forecast, your garden still has its own inherent rhythm. Respect it.

  • Mulch. It keeps moisture in the ground and will protect in-ground plants as things freeze, thaw and freeze all over again.
  • Prune — thoughtfully. Dead and dying plants need to go, but it's important to leave some top growth to protect plants as they go dormant.
  • Prep the lawn.
  • If you have big tree limbs, and ice or snow to consider,

call an arborist.

  • Plant something that will add some color for winter, such as winter jasmine.

AROUND THE HOUSE

Wet and freezing weather means you need to think about your outdoor plumbing and drains.

  • If it freezes where you are, shut down outdoor faucets. Any undrained water in pipes can cause pipes to burst when it freezes.
  • Roll up garden hoses and store them in the garage.
  • In-ground sprinkler pipes should be blown out.
  • Flush the water heater.
  • Clear the rain gutters.
  • Icicles can be pretty. Ice dams? Not really. This Old House has some smart ways to prevent ice dams.
  • Stock up on firewood.
  • Remove any window A/C units and store for winter.
  • Check the roof for any sign of cracks. Water is your enemy during winter.
  • Inspect and seal any cracks in driveway, stairs, and other masonry.

INSIDE THE HOUSE

Wintertime means spending a lot more time indoors. Not only should it be warm and comfy, but you also shouldn't be throwing money out the (leaky) windows.

  • Get your HVAC serviced before there's a heating issue. (Don't wait until it's cold to discover your furnace isn't working.)
  • Inspect and clean your vents.
  • Swap in new air filters.
  • Check batteries in all of your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Reverse your fans.
  • Clean your fireplace chimney, and get it inspected.
  • Deal with drafts — caulk or use weatherstripping for leaky windows and doors.
  • Consider a smart thermometer — so you're not heating an empty house. "You can easily save energy in the winter by setting the thermostat to 68°F while you're awake and setting it lower while you're asleep or away from home," says the U.S. Department of Energy.
  • Check the ceilings and basement for leaks after a storm.

IN THE GARAGE

This is where the tools of winter are typically kept. The key is to make sure everything is in working order *before *you need it.

  • Stock up on salt pellets.
  • Fire up the snow blower — and get it repaired or replaced, if necessary.
  • Find your snow shovel before the big snowstorm hits.
  • Make sure the portable generator works, just in case the bomb cyclone strikes.
  • Store all your warm-weather and gardening tools. For extra credit, take the time to clean and polish your tools so they'll be ready to go come spring.
Prepare Your Home for Winter Checklist
credit: Hunker

Laura Lambert

Laura Lambert

Laura Lambert is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor who covers lifestyle, design, and women's health.