It’s official: We’re in the post-holidays stretch of winter. That long, dark, cold time before the spring thaw. You may feel like hibernating until the sun comes back around … but as a homeowner, there’s always something to do!
For example, let’s say you drag yourself out of bed one morning and lumber into your kitchen. You make some coffee and take some vitamin D to combat the seasonal blues. Then you say, “Alexa, what’s the weather report for the day?”
Alexa says: “There’s a massive snowstorm brewing. Batten down the hatches!”
You say: “Alexa, how do I batten down the hatches?”
That’s what we’re here for! Here are 5 tips to help you get ready before the snow flies.
Inspect your home’s exterior
Your roof, siding, windows, and doors protect the inside from the elements. Make sure everything is in good shape before the weather gets ugly. And don’t forget about your gutters and trees — the weight of snow and ice can pull them down.
- Walk around your home and check for loose, missing, or damaged siding or roofing. If you find any issues, fix them ASAP. If there’s no time before the storm arrives, use tarps or plastic to cover openings that might let water in.
- Caulk cracks around your window and door frames. If your windows have storm windows lower them. If you don’t have storm windows, use plastic to add an extra layer of insulation and prevent drafts.
- Clean your gutters and downspouts. Debris left in your gutters can prevent water from draining and add extra weight to your gutter system. Too much weight and you may find your gutters in your yard.
- Remove tree limbs that hang over or near your home. Hire a professional to take care of any tree work near power lines.
Tune-up your HVAC system
The middle of a snowstorm isn’t the best time to discover your furnace needs work or your oil tank is empty. Test your equipment, do some basic maintenance, and order fuel before the storm arrives.
- If possible, schedule a professional service for your HVAC system and chimneys. The pros recommend a yearly inspection at the beginning of the heating system. If you haven’t gotten one, now is the time!
- If you can’t get a pro to your house, or you already did your yearly tune-up at the beginning of the heating season, do some simple maintenance and a test run. Replace filters. Vacuum vents and equipment. Turn your thermostat up and inspect your unit for any strange sounds or smells.
- Order heating fuel ASAP if you heat with oil or propane. Often, fuel delivery companies get bogged down as big storms approach. If you heat with wood, stack some inside near your stove or fireplace.
Prepare for power outages
Wind, snow, and ice often knock the power out. Depending on the damage to the power grid, outages can last a while. Even if you’re able to get to a friend or family member’s house with power after the storm ends, you’ll want your home to be prepared.
- Charge your cellphones. Shut down apps and turn down the screen brightness. Or simply shut your phone off to preserve the battery.
- If you have a generator, stock up on extra gas. While running your generator, place it 20 feet from your house to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Leave your refrigerator and freezer closed. Each time you open the door you lose some cold air.
- Shower while you have hot water. If your home has a water pump or if the power goes out for a long period of time, you may not have any water pressure. This can also impact your toilets, so keep a tubful of water on hand so you can flush.
- Refill prescriptions. If someone in your home uses a medical device that requires electricity, make sure you plan accordingly.
Grab your snow shovel and ice-melt
Eventually, you’ll have to brave the outdoors. When you do, clear walkways and ice-free steps can prevent falls. Before the snow comes, get everything ready to rock and roll.
- Stock up on supplies. Buy shovels, salt or pet-safe ice melt, sand, and gas for your snowblower, if you have one. The earlier you can get to the store the better. Supplies go quick when a storm is brewing.
- Make your shovels, salt, and other equipment easy to access. Trust us, you don’t want to have to figure out how to dig your snow shovels out of the storage shed when everything is buried in snow!
- Layer snowmelt and sand. The snow-melt will help keep ice from forming, and the sand provides traction to prevent slips. Put a layer on steps, walkways, and driveways before the snow starts. Spread a second layer during the storm. Finally, after you shovel, put a final layer down.
- Shovel as the snow falls to lighten the load. Stretch, and take it slow while shoveling. And do like your 8th-grade gym teacher taught you — lift with your legs!
Expect the unexpected
Severe weather can bring all kinds of surprises. Protect your peace of mind by preparing ahead of time.
- Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Install new batteries if needed, even if your detectors are wired into your electrical system. This will keep them working during a power outage.
- Avoid flooding by testing your sump pump. Dump a bucket of water into your sump pump and make sure it pumps all of the water out.
- Take a trip to the store for essentials. Canned goods, bottled water, toilet paper, toothpaste, batteries. Even if you don’t get completely snowed in, you probably won’t want to go out in the freezing cold to pick up something you forgot.
- Put together an emergency kit. It might include flashlights, a battery-powered radio, first aid supplies, a lighter, some cash in case ATMs don’t have power, a list of emergency numbers, and any other items you may find useful. Put it in an easy to access location so you can find it in the dark.
- Check HVAC vents on the outside your home during the storm to make sure they aren’t blocked by snow, ice, or debris. When snow falls from the roof it can block vents, sending harmful fumes back into your home.
For more home tips, check out these posts:
- Rough winter? Here’s how to protect your home from snow and ice damage.
- Have the DIY bug? Try these 7 easy maintenance tasks any homeowner can handle.