Batten Down the Hatches: How to Winterize Your Home Without Going Mad


Winter can wreak havoc on your home. And those cold drafts and freezing pipes are more than just uncomfortable—they’re expensive. Winterizing your home is an important step in protecting your investment and your financial health, and fortunately, it doesn’t have to be complicated.

Whether winter is on its way or already on full blast, it’s never too late to winterize. Set aside a weekend to safeguard your home against the cold and keep that arctic chill on the outside where it belongs. Here are five ways to winterize your home so you can save both your money and your sanity.

Protect against frozen pipes

Frozen pipes are a particularly pernicious winter problem since, usually, you won’t know there’s a problem until there’s really a problem. Aside from just being inconvenient, frozen pipes can expand and burst, leading to extensive damage in your home and even flooding. Even a small ice blockage in a pipe can cause water pressure to increase downstream, so it’s important to do what you can to prevent that from happening.

To start, examine the areas around where pipes enter and exit your home—both on the interior and exterior of your house—and use caulk to seal any cracks. This will help keep cold air from reaching your pipes in the first place. On exposed pipes, wrap aluminum tape around joints and slits to provide an extra barrier against the elements. If you live in a particularly cold climate, it may be worth having a professional plumber out to ensure that you don’t leave any potential openings for air or unwanted moisture to get through.

Weatherstrip your windows and doors

Non-winterized windows and doors are one of the most expensive winter mistakes you can make. If they’re not properly sealed, your windows and doors will allow drafts of cold into your home, straining your heating system and forcing it to pump out extra energy to keep up.

There are various kinds of weatherstripping materials to choose from, and they’re all relatively inexpensive and easy to install. Choose from vinyl, felt, or foam to seal the areas around your window and door frames. In some cases, you may want to use more than one material at a time. Talk to an expert at your local hardware store to determine the best weatherstripping material for your home and to get advice on how to best install it.

Have your furnace serviced

Any sort of furnace malfunction can pose a safety and efficiency hazard in your home. You won’t be able to take on this task yourself, but it’s definitely worth the $100 or so it costs to have an HVAC pro out to do it for you. The general recommendation is to have new furnaces checked every other year and older furnaces (10 years old and up) checked every year.

A full-service furnace check involves a couple of key to-dos that ensure your furnace will do its best for you all winter long. This may include a cleaning of your furnace’s motor and fan, a carbon monoxide safety check, and replacement of air filters. Your HVAC specialist may also inspect all gas piping leading to the furnace. There’s no standard checklist for furnace tune-ups, so ask what will be included when you book your service appointment.

Get up to the attic

The attic is where your home loses most of its heat. Because of this, it’s extra important to ensure that your attic is efficiently insulated and that any dormer is sealed around the edges. Take a walk around the space inspecting for any areas where heat may be escaping and seal them with caulk, then weatherstrip the entrance leading up to the attic. You’ll also want to seal the joints on all exposed duct-work. It may sound like a lot of work, but winterizing the rest of your home and neglecting the attic will counteract your efforts and facilitate the loss of warm air and influx of cold air that hikes up your energy bill and keeps you shivering under a pile of blankets.

Check the chimney

A fireplace can be a godsend in the winter, but if you’re not careful, it can also serve as an entrance for the cold to seep into your home. If you haven’t had it cleaned in a while, call in a chimney sweep to remove all dirt, debris, and build up from the flue, and then cap the top of your chimney to block off cold air and keep birds and rodents from getting inside. Make sure you have doors on the inner opening of your fireplace as well to keep out the cold air that does make its way into the chimney. If you live in an older home, it’s probably a good idea to have a professional out to seal any cracks in your chimney’s bricks as well.

Winter can be a challenge in a lot of ways. Put in the effort to winterize your home and you won’t have to worry so much about those challenges creeping in and affecting your home. Do it right, and you can take all that money you saved on your energy bills and use it to escape somewhere warm the next time winter rolls around.