How to Prepare Your Home for Winter

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Ready for snow?

Depending on where you live, you might be getting the first snowstorm of the season this week. Learn how to prep for the first big snowfall and stay safe out there! 

The seasons are changing and as the days get shorter, it’s time to ready your home for the coming winter season. These seven winter safety tips will help you stay warm and safe.

1. Winterize your pipes

Use foam, heating cables, or pipe sleeves to ensure pipes stay warm enough, and seal any cracks in your home’s exterior.

Frozen pipe prevention
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During the winter, outside water can freeze and burst exterior pipes. Take precautions to prevent frozen pipes by disconnecting all garden hoses and draining any water left in outdoor spigots. If you have an automatic sprinkler system, drain it as well.

If temperatures will drop below freezing overnight, leave exterior faucets trickling to avoid the pressure buildup that causes burst pipes. You can also avoid frozen and burst pipes inside your house by insulating your home and pipes.

2. Inspect your roof

Before the first snowfall, check your roof for damaged, loose, or missing shingles that may leak when snow melts or during severe storms. Make sure seals around chimneys and vent stacks are intact as well. If they aren’t, you can make repairs yourself or hire a handyman.

For patching roof seals list price as of post date. Read full disclaimer.

Regularly clear your roof of snow this season. And remove all leaves, pine needles, and other roof debris as these can hold moisture and rot during winter weather if left unattended.

As the temperatures drop this season, it’s also smart to double-check your homeowners insurance coverage regarding roof repair, water damage, and other risks associated with bad weather.

3. Prepare for power outages

Heavy snow and ice can take down power lines and leave you in the cold and dark. To prepare for power outages, invest in a two-way radio for news concerning the power outage—look for one that uses solar power, batteries, or a hand crank. A hand-crank or solar-powered cellphone charger can keep you in touch with family, friends, and neighbors until the storm passes.

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You'll also want to invest in a generator, alongside flashlights, lanterns, and extra batteries.

In addition to these gadgets, keep warm clothing, blankets, non-perishable food, and bottled water in an emergency kit for bad weather emergencies.

Pro Tip

Winter brings increased risk for carbon monoxide poisoning via dangerous habits like warming your car in the garage, heating your home with a gas range, and improper home ventilation when using a gas-powered appliance like a generator.

Learn poisoning symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, and fatigue and slim your risk by installing a carbon monoxide detector.

And you can hear more advice for safer home air quality straight from the horse's (our expert Rebecca's) mouth on the Your Valuable Home Podcast.

4. Repair outdoor lighting

Winter days are short, which means you spend more time in the dark. Maintain a well-lit path to your home by ensuring outdoor lights work and fixtures are firmly secured.

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Replace outdoor lightbulbs to guarantee strong lighting throughout the whole season. You may even consider using motion sensor lights or smartbulbs that you can automate and control with your smartphone.

5. Prevent icicles and ice dams

Icicles look enchanting, but they present risk of injury and ice dams—which damage the outside of your home and cause meltwater to get inside. Ice dams occur when there are air leaks in your home or inadequate insulation in your attic.

Ice dam prevention

Consider asking a professional to identify and correct these potential problems before it’s too late. Another preventative measure is to opt for roof heating cables.

If you already have icicles on your home, there’s no need to be a hero. Hiring a professional to remove them is the safest route. If you do attempt DIY removal, wear a hardhat and safety glasses, and always warn children to avoid icicles.

6. Keep your driveway and walkways clear

During winter weather conditions, remove snow and ice from sidewalks and driveways. Prepare for snow by stocking up on winter tools like snow shovels and giving your snowblower or plow a tune-up.

Ice melt
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After it snows, immediately plow or shovel all trafficked areas. If you go the shoveling route, invest in an ergonomic handle, lift with your legs (not your back), and push snow rather than lift it. Take frequent breaks away from the wind chill to let your body warm up and your muscles relax.

Follow up with ice melt or rock salt on steps and walkways to prevent ice buildup. Always wear protective clothing like gloves and hats to prevent frostbite.

7. Fight germs

Illnesses thrive in winter months, and being cooped up inside makes everyone more susceptible to viruses and bacteria. Keep your family safe by going on the offense against germs and letting in fresh air whenever possible. Keep your house a little cooler so the environment is less friendly for viruses—drop the thermostat by five degrees and use a humidifier.

Make sure everyone in your household washes their hands frequently with antibacterial soap and regularly changes their toothbrushes.

Final word

The winter season brings cold weather and long nights. You can’t keep it from coming, but with these home winter safety tips you’re set to stay safe and enjoy this winter like a pro.

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Rebecca Edwards
Written by
Rebecca Edwards
Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past decade. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month poring over crime and safety reports and spotting trends. Her expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her expert advice and analysis in places like NPR, TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, HGTV, MSN, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, and an ever-growing library of podcast, radio and TV clips in the US and abroad.

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