10 Winterizing Tasks You Absolutely Have to Do

gloved hand cleaning leaves from gutter

The change in weather from summer to fall should act as a reminder that it’s time to do some yearly maintenance around the house. With each season comes different responsibilities. Here are ten winterizing tasks you absolutely have to do before freezing temperatures arrive.

1. Clean Out Your Gutters

gutter filled with leaves

The perfect time to clean out your gutters is after all of the leaves have fallen off the trees. You may even want to check as leaves are falling in case there is any build-up, as in some parts rain can turn to snow quite quickly overnight and cause an ice dam. This is a potentially very expensive problem that could cause leaks and damage to your home, so invest in a good ladder if you don’t already have one, and climb up (safely) before problems occur.

2. Wrap up Hoses and Store Garden Equipment

garden tools stored in a shed

Tidy up and store hoses and rain barrels you may have outside so that they don’t freeze and crack before the weather drops below freezing. Drain hoses and disengage them from outdoor spigots to ensure they do not freeze or rust around them come spring time. Storing in a garage or basement is just fine to protect them from winter weather. Include any pots, shovels, rakes, etcetera in your clean-up. Any place that gets snow and ice like driveways and paths should be cleared as much as possible for easy removal and protection of equipment.

3. Yard Clean-Up

rake with autumn leaves on grass

Take the time to clean-up any debris around the yard and outdoor areas like patios and driveways. Gather up broken branches and either use them as firewood or check your municipal bi-laws on what they will take away.

Many people rake all of their leaves into bags, but it’s better to keep them around garden beds and lawns as a cover/mulch. Worms love to eat the leaves and will enhance the organic material in your soil. Leaves can also be stored in piles to add to compost. Trim plants and shrubs that need it, but remember not all perennials prefer a fall haircut; and the pollinators and birds will thank you for some shelter.

4. Weather Stripping

weatherstripping foam

Before blasts of cold, icy wind start penetrating your home’s interior, spend an afternoon sealing up windows, doors, and baseboards with weather stripping and caulking. Check the bottoms of doors to see if new stripping is needed, and feel for drafts around windows and baseboards along exterior walls. Use a combination of weather stripping, foam strips, and caulking to seal things tightly. This will turn into instant savings on your home heating bill.

5. Insulate Pipes

insulated pipe

If you haven’t already checked your basement or cold rooms for non-insulated pipes, late fall is a good time to do so. Using an easy-to-install foam wrapping can save exposed pipes from freezing—it can also be an energy saver. Insulating hot water pipes can help reduce heat loss and increase temperature gain, allowing you to reduce hot water tank temperatures by around two degrees. This will only work if you can get at the majority of exposed lines from the basement, but nonetheless, insulating whatever pipes you can see is worth the minimal effort.

6. Check the Perimeter

hand checking damaged shingles

Do an annual perimeter walk of your house to check on a few things. Take a look at the roof to see if there are any signs of damaged shingles or eaves, and follow any downspouts to the ground and make sure they are in good shape.

You want downspouts to run away from the home’s foundation, so if any are broken or too short, invest in an extra downspout extension to keep water flowing towards the street. Make sure steps and walkways are in good condition and safe: do any stabilizing of stairs, and add non-slip and handles if necessary.

7. Locate Emergency Shut-offs

water shutoff valve

Winter brings an increased chance of gas and water leaks. Do you know where your gas, water, and electrical shut-offs are in case of an emergency? Gas shut-offs are normally on an exterior wall close to the gas meter.

Water shut-offs are usually in the basement, close to your water meter. Your electrical panel will have a main breaker to shut off all electricity. Make sure you can locate, access, and shut-off all of these things efficiently. While inspecting these points, take the time to locate and check the maintenance schedule of all fire extinguishers.

8. Yearly Furnace Service

hand with pliers fixing furnace pipe

An annual furnace inspection is a very important task to add to your winterizing schedule. Yearly check-ups may seem unnecessary, but most “no-heat” calls are from lack of basic maintenance over the years according to repair people. Keep in mind that emergency calls in the winter will be a lot more expensive than $100-$200 a year in tune-ups. Ask if the service includes a filter replacement, and if not make sure to get a new one at the same time every year so that you don’t forget. This is an easy and cheap way to keep your system running well. The same should be done for central A/C in the spring.

9. Fireplace and Chimney Cleaning

cleaning chimney pipe with brush

Not everyone realizes that a gas fireplace needs an annual check-up and cleaning just like a furnace does. This will ensure that any minor issues with the ignition, valves, or connections are taken care of before a major problem occurs.

Wood-burning fireplaces also need a yearly cleaning along with your chimney. Some of these tasks are DIY-friendly, but leave any chimney sweeping and gas servicing to the professionals.

10. Check Alarms and Detectors

hands changing battery in smoke detector

Most smoke and carbon monoxide alarms will let you know they are losing battery life with an annoying, but helpfully consistent “beep” sound (usually in the middle of the night when you are fast asleep).

Don’t delay in changing the batteries or replacing old units immediately. Make it an annual task to check that all detectors are in working order; quality ones will have a “test” option to assure you they are doing their job. This can literally save the lives of you and anyone in your home.

As cold weather approaches, there are a number of things you need to do to winterize your home. A checklist may be helpful in order to remember the various tasks, and you may want to add to it as you go. These ten winterizing tasks are things you absolutely have to consider in order to keep your home running well.