15 Tips to Prepare Your Home for Winter
Autumn is in full swing for the Reno-Tahoe region, and now is the perfect time to prepare your home for winter so you’re ready for the upcoming snowy months. The weather in Reno & Tahoe is notoriously unpredictable, so it’s important to make sure your home is ready for the infamous “Sierra cement.” We’ve put together a checklist of important tasks to remind you what needs to be done, to make sure your property is fully prepared before the first snow storm hits. While preparing your home for winter is one of the most important things to do, it isn’t the only thing that needs to be winterized. The surrounding land, your car, and yourself should all be prepared for winter too. Homeownership in the High Sierra region is very rewarding, and our easy to follow reminders allow for a worry-free winter, leaving you to enjoy the beautiful Sierra snow. Here are some of the things you should focus on to prepare your home for winter:
- Visually Inspect the Property for Hazards
- Check Trees for Branches That Can Cause Damage
- Set Irrigation System to off for the Winter
- Drain Irrigation System Pipes
- Clean the Fireplace Flue (Or Close It)
- Order and Stack Firewood
- Remove Old Rotten Firewood from the Property
- Inspect the Roof for Leaks
- Get the Proper Snow Removal Tools
- Insulate Water Pipes and Crawl Space
- Heat Your Home for the Winter (To Prevent Pipe Freezing)
- Seal Windows and Doors with Caulk and Weather-Stripping
- Stock the House with Emergency Supplies
- Prepare Your Car
- Stock Your Car with Emergency Supplies
Trim the Trees
It’s smart to start preparing your home for winter with a walk around your property to visually inspect everything for potential hazards, paying close attention to the trees. Look for branches that are close to your (or your neighbor’s) house that could be removed. These tree branches can get weighted down with ice or snow, causing them to fall on the house which could lead to extensive damage. You may want to call in a professional tree-trimming service to help you with this one.
Turn off the Irrigation & Drain the Pipes
I can tell you, from many unfortunate experiences, this is very important. Remember to shut off the water to your irrigation system and drain any remaining water from the pipes. It’s all fun and games, until spring (when the snow melts) and you have to repair and replace you irrigation lines. If the irrigation system on your property has an automatic timer, don’t forget to switch it to “off” as well.
Clean or Close the Fireplace
If you’re anything like us and you love to build a cozy fire during winter, it’s a good idea to have your fireplace cleaned by a chimney sweep company, making sure it’s safe to use. If you are not planning on using your fireplace, make sure you close the flue to eliminate any drafts from entering the home.
Speaking of warm fires, fall is the perfect time to order firewood. Stack it in place and make sure you have easy access to the firewood. If your firewood storage area isn’t covered, you can use a tarp to cover the pile of wood, which keeps it from getting too wet (put a couple of logs on top of the tarp to keep it from blowing away). Also remember to remove any old and rotten wood from your firewood pile, your house, and your yard.
Inspect the Roof
Checking the roof is one of the most important tasks to prepare your home for winter. There can be small (and not immediately visible) damage from last year’s winter. These small and often overlooked problems can turn into much greater problems later, which are especially difficult to deal with in the heart of winter. Have a contractor check your roof for weak areas that could possibly leak, and also have them check to make sure it can withstand the weight of heavy winter snowfall (hence the term, “Sierra cement”). Keep your roof in mind during the winter season, and remember to shovel it off, keeping it clear of heavy and potentially damaging snow.
Pay for a Snow Removal Service, and Get the Right Tools
A simple thing to make sure you’re ready for the coming snow, is to find a reliable snow removal service and prepay for the winter season. They will remove snow from your driveway, which will make your life a lot easier. If you’d rather take care of it yourself, we recommend getting a snowblower. A snowblower will make it significantly easier and quicker to remove snow from your driveway. Also, make sure you have a snow shovel ready at all times to get rid of snow from your deck, walkway and stairs, to keep you (and your family and friends) safe from any potential falls. It’s also handy to have a bag of ice melt ready, but make sure to buy a pet friendly non-hazardous mix. The ice melt is great after you’ve removed snow, because it helps keep traction between your feet and the ground. Sprinkle some on top of ice patches and on walkways, which will facilitate ice melting and keep your walkways safe to use. No ice melt? No Problem! We put together a list of household items that can help remove built up ice.
Heat Your House, or Drain the Pipes
If you are a full time resident, there shouldn’t be any problems. Check your basement, and consider wrapping water pipes or crawl spaces with insulation sleeves to slow heat transfer. Also, make sure your furniture doesn’t block any heating vents. If you own a vacation home in Tahoe that will be unattended during cold periods, consider keeping your house heated. It only needs to be kept at a temperature of 50 degrees to avoid pipes freezing. If you don’t want to heat the house during winter, you should drain the water system to prevent your pipes from freezing, cracking, and eventual flooding.
Seal Windows and Doors
Having too many gaps around your windows and doors can make it very tough to keep the heat inside your house. It’s a good idea to pick up a caulk gun from your local hardware store and retouch the seals around your doors and windows. Pay attention to both the interior and exterior of your home. Also, weather-stripping is relatively cheap and effective at eliminating drafts, allowing you to keep the heat from escaping. These minor tasks are an easy way to prepare your home for winter, they will help keep your home warm all season long, and will save you a little bit of money.
Stock up on Cold Weather Essentials
Heavy winter storms often bring power outages with them. It’s a good idea to make sure you have extra supplies in case this happens. Make sure to stock up on helpful things like medical kits, flashlights, batteries, candles and blankets. It’s also a good idea to keep plenty of food and bottled water in the house. Items like nuts, jerky, and dehydrated fruits are great to keep as an emergency supply through winter. A fully functional fire extinguisher is also a good idea, because you never know what troubles winter may bring.
Don’t Forget About Your Car
With the ever changing road conditions, it’s a wise idea to have a reliable car, preferably with 4-wheel or all-wheel drive. It’s also smart to have all-season or winter ready tires, and make sure the tread depth on your tires is good, along with the tire pressure. For those vehicles that don’t have 4-wheel drive, keep a pair or proper fitting chains or tire cables in the car at all times. A supply box filled with a flashlight, road flares, first aid kit, emergency food, and blankets is a must. A soft bristle broom works well to remove light snow from your windshield, and won’t scratch your car when scraping away snow. Speaking of scraping away snow, don’t forget an ice scraper. If you forgot your ice scraper, a credit card works well as a backup for removing ice from the windshield (be careful not to break your credit card though!). Also, make sure you swap out your regular windshield wiper fluid to “winter fluid.” This special weather fluid will not freeze, even at the coldest temperatures. It’s also a good idea to keep a small supply of sand in your vehicle, which you can throw underneath your tires to add some traction if you are stuck. Most importantly, adapt your driving to the current conditions. Slow down, try to predict other drivers’ maneuvers, and if the conditions get really bad, consider staying home.