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Ah, winter. Skiers, snowboarders, soup eaters, and bulky knit sweater wearers revel in the snow and the cold.
Homeowners? Those who don’t prepare their home for winter may be cursing the season for the melting snow and ice, hail, burst pipes, and wind damage that causes the most common homeowners insurance claims.
In an effort to help your winter mood be more fun than frustrating, we’ll look at five areas of your home where you should focus your winterizing efforts.
We’ll also boost your motivation by showing how protecting your home can garner discounts on home insurance, whether you have insurance for an older home or new build home insurance.
Let’s talk about the benefits and the timing of winterizing before we move on to specifics.
Why you should winterize
Winterize your home to keep your family safe from any incidents resulting from wintertime wind, hail, and water damage, which will also help prevent you from dealing with insurance claims and extra costs.
You also want to winterize to keep your family warm and toasty without sabotaging your budget with higher energy bills.
When and where to winterize
Start your tasks in autumn, not only because there’s a lot to do, but you want to be prepared before the weather starts getting cold enough to freeze.
Winterize isn’t just a duty for Snowbelt homeowners. Prepare your home for the winter season wherever you live. Damaging winter weather isn’t exclusive to the North. It’s not uncommon for temperatures to hit freezing and below freezing several times during the winter in the Southern states.
Many parts of the country that you may not expect can also be subject to hail and ice. These storms may be infrequent, but they can knock out power for long periods of time. And the precipitation can melt very quickly, causing water problems.
Also, while scientists are providing evidence of warmer and shorter winters across the United States, climate change is also making for some wild weather-pattern changes. Malibu, California, the home of sun, surf, and sand, just received a January dusting of snow as well as dangerous black ice.
How to winterize
Thankfully, the majority of tasks to winterize your home are small and affordable.
If you need a professional, don’t forget coronavirus protocols. Ask how workers are health-screened and what type of protective equipment they use. Before work starts, clear the area, including removing any items, like rugs, that will be hard to clean within federal guidelines after the work is done. Abide by the mask and six-foot-distance protocols. And clean per protocols afterward.
While our top five focus is on your home itself, don’t forget how objects surrounding your home can have an impact.
For example, iced-over or wind-swept branches can cause property damage, so trim overgrown branches back from the house and electrical wires.
Outdoor furniture should also be taken care of since it’s susceptible to high winds and can damage the side of your home. Cover it with a heavy tarp or store it inside a shed, garage, or basement.
In addition to outdoor furniture, store non-gas grills in the garage or basement. For gas grills, close the tank valve and disconnect the tank, maintain the grill, and cover it.
And take care of your lawn equipment. Clean and maintain your mower and trimmer and then store them. If you have a snowblower, inspect it before the first snowfall.
1. Check your roof
A leaking roof is a homeowner’s worst nightmare. The problems it can cause can be endless and expensive: damage to contents in your home, including electronics, ruined insulation, and even structural damage. There are also health concerns stemming from mold and mildew.
Roof inspection and cleaning
The roof is the part of the house that will most likely take up the bulk of your time to winterize.
You’ll want to check for missing, damaged, or warped shingles. Replace them to prevent leaks. Check for deteriorated flashing at the chimney, walls, skylights, and around vent pipes. Use roofing cement and a caulking gun to seal joints and prevent water from penetrating.
Also clear leaves, pine needles, dirt, and other accumulated debris from the roof. And ensure all vents and openings are covered to prevent insects, birds, and rodents from getting inside to nest in a warm place.
Your roof review and any fixes should also include an inspection and cleaning of your gutters and downspouts of leaves and other debris. Make sure gutters and downspouts are properly fastened. Resecure them if they’re loose or sagging to prevent ice and snow from pulling the gutters off of your home.
Also, make sure downspouts extend at least five feet away from your home. This will help prevent flooding of your foundation and water damage from melting ice and snow.
Your roof and home insurance
Some home insurance companies offer a small discount if you replace your roof. Others may require you to use impact-resistant roofing materials that resist hail damage.
The insurance discount is offered since you’ll unlikely make a claim on roof damage because your new roof can withstand winter weather abuse.
Ask your insurer what they offer.
Read more: Gutter heaters
2. Check your windows and doors
You don’t want the outdoors to come indoors, especially in the winter. You may be thinking of cold air getting in and creating astronomical heating bills, but don’t forget that openings can also bring in precipitation.
If it’s easiest to stay organized by starting from the top-down, check your attic for proper insulation. Insulating the attic can be a do-it-yourself (DIY) project unless you’re doing spray foam insulation.
Moving on from there, weather strip doors and windows, install a storm door, caulk around windows, and use foam outlet protectors.
Another tip to save on your energy bill: Swap your lightweight summer curtains with thermal lined curtains or drapes. This can help you reduce heat loss by up to 25 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Your windows and doors and home insurance
Hurricane-resistant windows or storm shutters can bring you savings on home insurance with some companies.
If you live in states such as Florida or Texas, where wind storms aren’t unusual, you could also receive an insurance discount for having steel doors. Sometimes called impact doors, they’re similar to impact-resistant garage doors and are designed to resist heavy forces coming at them from the outside.
Read more: Is moving to Texas a good idea for you?
3. Check your plumbing
If a leaking roof is the worst, then burst pipes are a close second — especially in the winter, when you or a plumbing professional has to repair the damage in freezing weather and around the ice and potentially around several inches of snow.
The following tips are very important to prevent pipe bursts.
- Insulate pipes susceptible to freezing. When temperatures drop markedly, keep a stream of water running in a few faucets.
- For exterior faucets, wrap them with covers, shut them off, and drain the water from any outdoor pipes, valves, and sprinkler heads.
- Remove any attached hoses and store them for the winter to prevent cracks, preserve their shapes, and prolong their life.
- Don’t forget to clear your drains. Any standing water from even the smallest blockage can freeze and eventually damage your drain pipes.
Your plumbing and home insurance
If you’re upgrading your plumbing system, alert your home insurer. Since you’re making your home safer and you’re therefore less likely to file a claim, you could be eligible for a discount.
You may also be able to get a discount for having a system in your home that checks for water leaks automatically. Since leaks can happen in parts of your home you may not use frequently, a leak can go undetected and can lead to your insurance company having to pay for a high-cost claim.
4. Check your heating
Have your furnace examined by a licensed heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) technician to ensure it’s ready for the winter. And change your furnace filter to help your heating system work efficiently as well as prolong the life of your system.
If you have a chimney, have it inspected and swept before you build your first fire of the season. You don’t want creosote to accumulate and create a fire risk. You also don’t want bird nests or other debris to cause a hazard.
And if you use a space heater, take extra precautions. Don’t plug any other electrical devices into the same outlet as the heater. Place your heater on a level, flat surfaces, and never on cabinets, furniture, or carpet, which can overheat and start a fire.
Keep the area around all of your heating devices uncluttered. It should go without saying but sometimes winter holiday festivities can create more clutter than usual, such as temporarily storing presents, creating mounds of used gift wrap, and visitors placing items too close to heat sources.
Read more: Ants in house in winter
Your heating and home insurance
An upgrade to your heating system can not only substantially lower your energy use bills but can also result in insurance savings.
And as with detecting water leaks, if you have a system in your house that automatically checks for gas leaks, you may be eligible for an insurance discount for that as well.
5. Install detectors and smart devices
Already have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors? Give yourself a pat on the back, then take a few seconds to check them. This is important year-round, but especially in the winter when you’re running your furnace and the risk of fire or fume leaks increases.
If you don’t have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, get them. This is one of the most low-cost ways to help winterize your home.
Detection systems and home insurance
Smoke detectors placed throughout your home may net you an insurance discount.
And when it comes to fire prevention, insurance companies will also reward you with a lower premium if you live near a fire station or within a short distance from a fire hydrant.
“The best defense is a good offense” is smart advice for more than just football. So once you’ve done your winter home chores, snuggle on your couch, sip your mug of hot cocoa, and watch the snow fall from inside your well-insulated, properly ventilated winter-proofed home.
Read more: How to prepare for a winter storm