I’ll save you the tired GoT line, but seriously, winter is just around the corner.
Winterization is something you should already be considering and prepared for, especially if you need to tarp up windows and seal up crevices that allow heat to escape your home.
Heat loss is at an all-time high in the dead of winter, with no quick fixes in sight. It’s all about preparing ahead of time so you can ensure the warmest winter of your life, with the appropriate mechanisms in place.
We’re going to break down just what winterization entails, why you need to do it, and what benefits you’re going to get out of it. Preparations need to be made, especially if you’re in heavily snowy areas.
- 1 What is Winterization?
- 2 What to Winterize Depending on Your Region
- 3 Basic Winterizing Gear
- 4 Are There Any Professionals I Can Call?
- 5 Winter is Fast Approaching: Are You Ready?
What is Winterization?
Winterization is preparing for winter. It includes optimizing your heating systems, covering cracks and draft points in your home, sealing up your windows, and much, much more.
Preparing your home for winter is all about maintaining heat on the inside, and keeping the cold out. In regions where you commonly see single digit or sub zero temperatures in the winter, this method of home preparation is critical.
Winterization may also refer to reducing your expected heat bill through the cold months by optimizing your home to retain heat from central units or space heaters. The point is, you want the cold to stay where it belongs and remain safe (and toasty).
What to Winterize Depending on Your Region
Winterization is a complicated process, depending on the state of your home and what region you live in.
While I can’t tell you what’s wrong with your house (you need an inspector or a good set of eyes to do that), I can tell you what will affect you regionally. This is a quick list of what you should winterize and some good reasons why.
Your roof needs to be winterized to prevent loss of heat more than anything else. Plenty of attics don’t have the right insulation ratings, and with winters getting worse across the country, they might not be equipped for the next cold front.
It all starts with an inspection. Look for water damage by getting up on the roof, and inspecting shingles. Look for gaps in between where soft spots might be, or visibly darker patches (current water or water damage) might be.
From there, either consider re-roofing that patch, or simply use a tarp and a few 2 x 4’s to patch it up. Patches are simple and can last for three to six months. When you do one of these patches, consider an insulation layer between the patch and the roof.
To further winterize, go inside with a thermal gun. These can be rented from your local hardware store for around ten dollars per day if you don’t want to buy one. Use this to go around your attic and inspect spots for thermal leakage. Apply additional insulation inside.
Winterizing a chimney is an absolute chore. The first thing you’re going to want to do is inspect it to see if there’s any major damage. If not, you’re good to go. If so, hire someone to fix it ASAP.
Seal off your chimney from the outside. Use a brick sealer on the outside of the chimney to stop heat transference, and use a chimney cap or cover (whichever you refer to it as), securing it to the top of the chimney.
Winterizing this means you won’t be able to use it for the entire season. Otherwise, you’re just going to lose a bunch of heat through the top (and nobody wants to get up on a ladder in the snow or freezing cold).
Once the cap is on, seal it from the top with a temporary sealer, like shrink wrap. Go inside of your home, and place a fireplace insert that helps to block the cold from getting in. Is this excessive?
Yes, it is, but most homeowners don’t maintain their chimneys the way they’re supposed to, and this is a perfect way to ensure it’s not going to cause problems throughout the winter season.
Most disrepair can simply be chocked up to the previous homeowner not taking care of the property, by the way. It’s a common issue in older homes.
The number one thing you need to do is clean them out. You can use a retractable pole to extend through the gutters and clear out all that garbage inside. All those wet leaves and buildup. This is going to prevent water from running through and it will all freeze.
The number one concern with frozen gutters comes down to your windows, more than anything else.
A frozen gutter that’s jammed with ice and leaves is going to come down against your house, so when the weight gets to be too much and it breaks away, it can shatter your windows fairly easily. It’s hundreds of pounds of ice.
There’s also a ton of damage that happens to your home as well. Once the gutters are cleared out, you can use metal sheeting to cover the top of your gutters. If water gets in there from melted snow, it’s going to freeze over and bring on that damage we just discussed.
You can secure this with some simple screws if you wish, or use an adhesive to just keep it in place well enough to last for the winter. The remaining concern with your gutters comes down to ice shelves forming on the edge of your home and destroying them anyway.
You can use heated tack strips that are connected via a waterproof electrical wire and sit on the edge of your roof. These can heat up (at your command) to melt existing ice, and prevent further issues.
You have a lot of windows, but thankfully, they’re easy to winterize from the inside and the out. Starting inside, you’re going to need shrink wrap and bubble wrap.
Use double-back tape, and make two frames around the window. Make them no more than one inch apart.
The inner frame of double-back tape should be peeled first. After this, apply strips of bubble wrap over it going vertically, and trim whatever you don’t need at the bottom. Secure all the bubble wrap, and tape up the seams where different strips meet.
On the outer layer, peel back the film on the double-back tape, and use shrink wrap in the same fashion that we used the bubble wrap. Cut off excess, secure it nice and tight.
Tape isn’t going to last outside, though. A bit of melting snow, and all the adhesive is going to wear down. Instead, use two layers of shrink wrap, but secure them to your window frames using a brad nailer.
Brad nails are very small, so they’ll keep the shrink wrap there and not cause major damage to your home (you can even leave the nails in when winter melts away).
Doors are tricky to winterize, because you’re still going to use them, right?
Well, some people actually completely cover any entry door that they don’t use much like the way we talked about windows earlier. In the event of a house fire (which is more common in winter), we don’t want to limit the exit options we have, so that’s not a good idea.
Instead, you’re going to use weather stripping. This is a simple strip that you can glue to the frames of your door that help provide a mostly airtight seal around the frame of your door. These act just like foam strips that you get with window-mounted air conditioner units.
Putting these around the frame on the top, bottom, and sides of your door is pretty effective. However, you can also get door sweeps, or door seals.
These slide along the bottom of your door and make it a little harder to open, but it creates a solid barrier to protect you from the cold. Mix this with weather stripping on the other three sides for the best effect.
If you use space heaters and window-mount AC units, then you’re actually more prepared for winterization than most. However, a lot of us have HVAC systems for heating and cooling, and these also need to be winterized to the best of your ability.
In order to keep all of this winterized, you should inspect your entire system. Ensure there’s no blockage in the piping in the attic, check the furnace for debris and see if it needs to be cleaned, and vacuum out your air vents.
While doing this, you should use new filters in your cooling systems. This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but what this does is put less stress on your system during a stressful time.
If you’re using HEPA filters, it’s time to stop for the season. Most heating and cooling HVAC systems have to work, on average, about 50% harder when using HEPA filters depending on the grade of the system.
Winterizing plumbing is fairly straightforward, you just have to know where your water lines are, and be comfortable using an air compressor.
This is something you should do the night before major shifts in the temperature where your local weather advisory is telling you that things will freeze over, or if you’re leaving your property alone for the winter.
To winterize your plumbing if you are staying in the home, gently turn all of your faucets on to a low drip. This is an overnight or two-day solution at best.
It’s harder to freeze flowing water, but on top of that, the flow of water keeps air moving out of the pipes. One of the biggest reasons that pipes burst and leak is because water expanded rapidly and air couldn’t escape, so this seriously helps out.
Otherwise, you’re going to have to use an air compressor to blow all the air and water out of the pipes. Shut off the main water valve, and set up your compressor to force air out of the pipes.
For this, you’ll need to leave your faucets and water sources completely open in the home. While an air compressor is helpful, there’s still a chance that pressure can build from the water freezing beyond the shut-off valve (to the city/street water supply). We don’t want to take any chances.
Basic Winterizing Gear
If you’re going to winterize your home, you need to have the right gear on-hand to get it done properly.
This is just a quick checklist of things you will need, although some might not apply to you depending on your current situation and how well your home is already prepared for the winter.
Keeping snow away from sensitive parts of your home will help reduce potential water damage when the snow starts to melt.
If you have cracks in the foundation or drafts in the windowsills, and there’s a lot of snow on the ground/against your home, you want to prepare to move this whenever the snow storm passes by.
Brad nails are basically small nails you use to finish projects, such as making a small footstool or an upholstered chair. These small nails are perfect for winterizing the outside of your home because they don’t leave that much damage.
No matter what, you’re going to have to secure winterization gear on windows to your home, brad nailers are just one of the most effective ways to do it with minimal repair when spring rolls around. If you don’t have one of these, they can be rented for cheap.
These are used to clean out gutters, and trust me, you’re going to want to do this. Like we talked about earlier, stuffed gutters can quickly freeze. Leaves, ice, and debris all adds up to a very heavy load on your gutters.
They can break away from your home, but a telescopic pole will help you clean them out with ease.
This is if you’re not going to be staying in the home during winter. If you’re winterizing it because it’s a rental or vacation property you own, this is a must. Air compressors help you push all remaining water out of pipes and valves that have been turned off.
The reason this is important is because water that constantly freezes and melts can build up pressure inside the pipes, and lead to a burst. That’s a call you don’t want in the middle of a season when you’re not making money off the property anyway.
Shrink Wrap & Bubble Wrap
We’re going to winterize the heck out of your windows. Nothing is going to get through them, because you’re going to make sure of it.
You use double-back tape to apply a layer of bubble wrap over the glass of your windows, and then shrink wrap in a slightly larger area around the bubble wrap, making a two-fold layer that covers everything.
To winterize your deck and not end up with a swollen, split mess come springtime, you need to seal your deck before it gets too cold. Seal any and all exposed wood decks, fences, sheds, and anything else that’s applicable.
If you need to winterize spots in your roof that need to be repaired, or that are leaking heat (visible through a thermal gun), then you need to make it a priority to cover these from the top.
Use canvas tarps and 2 x 4’s to create a proper seal and keep that heat in. You can also use bubble wrap or shrink wrap in addition to this to create a heat barrier.
Are There Any Professionals I Can Call?
If you want your home professionally winterized, you’re not alone. This is a service that exists, and it’s one that a lot of landlords use year after year when they have vacation homes that are vacant throughout the season.
Yes, you can absolutely hire a professional to winterize your home. It’s just going to be fairly costly, so be prepared to have your wallets open.
You don’t know what a professional is going to find. Cracks in the foundation, drafts under window sills, leaking air in the attic. You could need new insulation, repairs, and a touch-up on your heating system. You just don’t know until you have someone come in and take a look.
Winter is Fast Approaching: Are You Ready?
You know why winterizing is important, but the question is, are you ready to take care of business?
To save on massive heat loss throughout the entire winter, save money, and make sure your family is kept warm even in sub-zero outdoor temperatures, you need to winterize.
We’ve outlined the steps you need to take, what you need to do to prepare, and what you need to beware of. The rest is up to you. Check out our guides on basement heaters, and why portable fireplaces might be the best thing for you this winter, if you need a bit if additional help preparing.