How to winterize your home

By C. Dwight Barnett


Now is a good time to winterize your home. Work outside first, because changes in the weather can force you indoors at any time.

1. Clean the exterior glass. As the weather cools, it becomes more difficult to dry the windows because cold air cannot hold as much moisture as warm air and the glass will streak. You can clean the inside any time of the year.

2. Make sure gutters and downspouts are clean and that runoff water drains at least six feet from the foundation. Water that pools next to the foundation can seep to the interior of the crawl space or basement.

3. Inspect and re-caulk, if necessary, around all exterior window and door frames. Loose or missing caulking allows air to penetrate the wall, which increases your utility costs. A typical home with no exterior caulking allows so much air to enter that it is like having a window open all year long.

4. Use a quality silicone caulk to seal cracks in all exterior concrete pads. Driveways, walks and most patios have “control joints” or lines installed in the concrete to control the cracking that will eventually occur. Cracks that are open can absorb rain and snowmelt and when the water refreezes it can lift the concrete at the joint or cause the cracks to widen.

5. Inspect the crawl space area of the home by entering the crawl. Check for loose or missing insulation on the perimeter walls and rim joists. Make sure that all soils or gravel on the floor of the crawl space are covered with a 6-mil or heavier plastic vapor barrier and that all seams are lapped and are sealed with tape. Check under the bathrooms and kitchen for signs of leaks or decay to the flooring. Remove all debris from the crawl space and insulate and add a seal to the crawl space door.

6. If you have a wood-burning appliance, make sure the chimney is inspected by a certified chimney sweep. A well-used chimney will need to be cleaned and inspected twice a year.

7. Remove outdoor hoses. A hose left on an outdoor faucet can freeze and burst through the faucet supply pipe inside the home.

8. If you have a sprinkler or garden water system, shut off the water supply and clear the lines using an air compressor blowing out one zone and then another. If you don’t have the equipment, have the system winterized by a professional.

9. Check the insulation in the attic to make sure it is sufficient. Your local building official or a home inspector can give you an estimate on the amount of insulation required in your area. Loose fill fiberglass insulation can be blown into piles by winds coming through the soffit vents, or loose fill insulations can be compressed and damaged by walking on the insulation. Workers in an attic often leave a trail where they have walked. Evenly redistribute or add insulation where needed. Check for openings in the insulation where there are bulkheads on the interior of the home. A bulkhead is a dropped ceiling for kitchen and bathroom cabinets or over stairways. You may find the vertical walls of the bulkheads are exposed and opened to the cold attic air.

10. Change furnace filters every two to three months depending on the quality of the filter and the amount of dust in the environment where you live. A dirty filter can damage the furnace fan and increase your utility costs. Attach a “filter change” card to the furnace to record the date when the filter is changed. Note the airflow arrow on the filter and install the filter in the proper direction.