The summer has come to an end. You’ve had months now to enjoy your new space but as fall approaches you can’t help to wonder, what needs to be done to prepare the house for winter?
As a new homeowner, it’s hard to come up with all the steps you need to take when you’ve never taken them before. Have you ever winterized your lawn mower? Do you know what to look for in drafty windows? Ever owned a fireplace before?
Quickly, you can become overwhelmed. And you may be asking yourself, what did I get myself into? How am I going to handle this?
But I can tell you, if you prepare, if you do the research, you can come out on top.
Let’s start with why it’s important to maintain your home.
We maintain the inside of the home by cleaning, and updating appliances and such when they stop working. Outside, we have the same situation. We have tools that need to be cleaned, and “appliances” or functional machinery that need to be repaired and taken care of.
The seasonal changes in the Midwest, allow us to pause and concentrate on these maintenance items.
When we take care of our things, they tend to last longer.
Here is an example. A patio set may have cost you a few hundred dollars, but you wouldn’t just leave it out in the snow unprotected. You would put it away so it doesn’t rust and break down.
And on a grander scale. A house may have cost you a few hundred thousand dollars. You wouldn’t leave it alone to break down and lose value. You’d protect it. Maintain it. And hopefully, it will provide you future equity.
Depending on where you live, you may have more or less maintenance to pause and deal with.
Here are 20 things you may or may not have to do to prepare your home for winter.
Outside your Home
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1. Clean and find “homes” for your stuff.
You will need to find good homes for outdoor furniture, hoses, flower pots and any other gardening items.
2. Driveway and Walkways
Clean up your cement driveway or walkway with a power washer and check for and repair cracks. We like and use this one from Home Depot. Power washers can also be rented from your local hardware store.
Have lots of trees? Prepare yourself for raking up all of the leaves. You can either mulch the leaves into your grass with a good mulching lawn mower, or you can rake and bag leaves. Find out if your garbage company takes them or if you need to drive them to a city drop off location. Big box stores have nice large reusable paper bags to put the leaves in.
Aerate your lawn in the fall and fertilize it; you can also seed your grass for next spring. Did the previous owner have a lawn service? Evaluate how well they did. They will be looking to you soon to re-book for next year.
5. Sprinklers and Hoses
It was so nice to water your lawn all summer, but now it’s time to put the sprinklers and hoses to rest.
Underground sprinklers need to be emptied so that they don’t freeze and break over winter. They call it a “blow out” because compressed air is used to blow out the water from the pipes.
Secondly, garden hoses need to be emptied for the same reasons, and a winterized cap should be placed on the outside of your water valves (also known as water spigots, attached to the side of your house.)
Inside your home, you should be able to turn off the water to those valves. Hopefully you can find it; some valves are very easy to spot and others are not such as above a ceiling tile in the basement. It should be identified in your inspection report; look there if needed.
6. Trim Landscaping
Trim the bushes, the trees, plants, anything that looks overgrown next to or above your house. Do this sooner in the fall rather than right before it snows; this will give your greenery a chance to recover. Because winter snow can get heavy, you don’t want large branches hovering over your roof. Trim what you need to, cut it down and bring to your local drop-off location. Have a wood fireplace? Don’t forget to stock up.
Autumn is a great time to plant bulbs in your gardens; tulips, irises, daffodils, anything you want to come up in the spring. If it is your first year in your home, you may want to wait until next year to plant so that you can find out if anything is already there.
8. Have a Pool?
Underground pools need to be closed down for the season too.
9. Tools and Machines
You will need to winterize your lawn mower, snow blower, or gas powered anything. You need to empty the fuel tanks or use a stabilizer to keep the gas good through the winter. Just like a car, these items need to have regular oil changes. It’s also a good idea to clean and do checkups on these items so that they are all set for the next year.
Once you put away your summer items, take out your winter ones like your snowblower and shovel. It’s time to have a reserved space in your garage for these items so that you can access them on those snowy mornings.
Do you have gutters on your home to catch all the rain water? Be sure they are clean of debris and working properly. If you have underground piping attached to your gutters, you can test them out with a garden hose. If they are blocked, you may be starting a new project. (When we moved in, tree roots had blocked our underground pipes and our sump pump was on overdrive. We dug it up and put a new pipe in, and even extended it further away from the house; we have had no problems since.)
11. Roof and Siding Inspection
Look for holes in your roof, in your siding and near the ground. Repair as needed. You may just need a little clear exterior caulk around a few pipes. Filling holes can greatly reduce your heating costs. And keep the critters out!
12. Storage Spaces
Organize your storage spaces. Throw away anything broken, replace light bulbs, build needed shelving; create a clean space for your items. The more organized, the more stuff you can fit in!
13. Extra fuel
Own a portable generator yet? You may find yourself using one in the fall when more blackouts occur. Fill up a portable gas tank, which you should already have for your lawn mower, with extra fuel. Save yourself a trip to the gas station when you are in an emergency.
Inside your Home
14. Home Safety Check:
It’s very important to check smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Be sure they are working properly. If your detectors are not wired into your electrical, it’s recommended to change out batteries in the fall and in the spring.
15. Insulation Check
Have enough insulation in your attic? You can go up and check, but your inspection report should tell you if you need more.
You could also check that your water pipes have insulation around them for winter weather, especially those near the exterior of your home.
16. Windows and Doors
Over time your windows and doors wear out. Check for drafts easily with a feather or a candle. Extend your arm around the edges and see if the feather moves or the candle flickers. If so, you can give your windows a temporary fix by adding a layer of plastic over it. You can find window covering kits at hardware stores. You can also add a weathering strip to the bottom and sides of your door if needed.
Additionally, you can get a better view out your window by taking off your window screens; you probably won’t open your windows again until spring.
Another thought, do you have storm windows in your home? Are they just sitting in the basement waiting for you to put them on the outside of your windows? Storm windows add another layer of insulation to your home, check to see if the previous home owner had them.
If you have a wood fireplace, clean it out and be sure to stock up on firewood now. Or if you have a gas one, vacuum out and dust the inside components. You will also want to be sure the pilot light is on and ready to bring you some heat!
Electric fireplaces are the easiest to maintain. Just change the light bulb and clean up the fan.
Have a chimney? Take the time this fall to inspect the damper, which is the part that closes off your home to the outside. Make sure it is in working order and there is nothing clogging it, like a nest of some kind. 😐 It’s recommended that chimneys should be cleaned every other year.
19. Furnace and Air Conditioners
Fall is a great time to get an inspection if your initial inspection wasn’t thorough. Furnaces have filters that need to be changed out every three or six months. The smaller the filter, the less time it can sit and collect dust. Filters can be easily purchased in packs on Amazon.
Secondly, if you have a humidifier, this should also have a filter that needs maintenance.
Air conditioners should be prepped for winter as soon as you stop using them. Window boxes can be stored away and you can finally close that window! If you have an outdoor unit, you may want to cover it.
Also, reprogram the thermostat for that winter cold.
Get that musty smell out of all your winter gear that you’ve been storing. You deserve a fresh blanket to cuddle in after you have finished a hard day’s work.
Remember, this list is not exclusive. Every home is different. Please continue to seek out additional items that you may need to do to prepare for winter.
A Few More Tips from One Homeowner to the Next:
- Use your inspection report as a guidebook. You paid for it. It lays out what you need to work on in the coming years.
- Invest in a leaf blower. Most homes are surrounded by rock pebbles and leaf blowers are a great way to clean them out after the leaves start falling. Blow the leaves into the grass and then mow the lawn. You won’t need to pick them up. With a blower, you can also “cattle” the leaves into a pile for easy pick up. Rakes work too.
- Invest in a good snow shovel. This can make the difference in future bills from the chiropractor. Have a long driveway, get a snow blower!
- You can pick up ice salts at your local grocery store. Lay the salt on your walkways so your guests don’t slip.
Did you know when you bought your house, it would be this much work? Houses need thorough maintenance especially if you live in an area of the country that has seasonal changes!
Plan for the winter. Address any big concerns before the snow hits. And be proud that you are taking care of your new investment.
Helping you plan for tomorrow,
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