What to Do to Prepare Your House or Apartment for the Cold Winter Months
DIY Network host Jason Cameron shares how you can get your home ready for the winter.
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Perform an annual maintenance check on the furnace, water heater, and HVAC.
To ensure that the furnace, water heater, and HVAC system are all in working order, Cameron recommends having them inspected by a professional. “Most people can’t look at their furnace and say, ‘oh it’s fine.’ Have somebody look at it. It might cost you the trip that it is for them to come out, but it is worth the money to spend on the maintenance ahead of time than to have something happen that’s catastrophic and you loose your heat...and you don’t want your water heater to go and you have a big mess in your house in the colder months,” he says.
While you’re at it, Cameron also suggests homeowners have their HVAC system and heating vents cleaned to ensure good air and heating quality, as well as change the filter on the furnace to keep it working efficiently.
Check for water infiltration issues.
Basements are notorious for being damp because concrete inevitably wicks moisture. To check whether your basement is susceptible to water infiltration issues, Cameron suggests doing a moisture test. “Take maybe a two-by-two [foot] piece of plastic and tape it to the concrete floor with duct tape all the way around and tape it to the concrete block wall all the way around…then leave it there for a couple of days,” Cameron instructs.
If there is moisture on the side of the plastic that’s against the concrete, your home is susceptible to water infiltration issues. To fix this, homeowners can either install drainage tile or apply a concrete sealer that can be sprayed or rolled on to block moisture, Cameron advises.
Stock up for snowstorms.
Whether it’s the beginning of the season or the snow has already made an appearance (or two or 10), it’s never too late to stock up on (or restock) necessary supplies beyond food and water—just save yourself the headache of rushing out to stock up the day before the snowstorm when everyone else is trying to do the same! Here's what Cameron suggests you have on hand:
- An ergonomic snow shovel: A good shovel is necessary of digging out of the snow, but an “ergonomically designed [shovel] makes it easier on you. You can stand up and not hunch over,” Cameron says.
- Rock salt or a rock salt alternative: This will really help break up the ice that forms on sidewalks and driveways, but a lot of people are hesitant to use it. So find a pet-friendly rock salt alternative that will do the same job without the health risks for pets. “And if it’s pet-friendly, it’s kid-friendly,” Cameron adds.
- Sand: Sprinkling sand on the driveway and sidewalks after shoveling will help with traction—especially if you’re having trouble getting the car out.
- Alternative light sources: Flashlights, candles, and battery-operated lanterns are all viable sources of light if the power goes out.
- Fire-starting supplies: If you have a fireplace, it’s great for heat, light, and cooking when the power goes out (or even for a fun back-to-basics night in), so make sure you have kindling, matches, and dry wood readily available. Alternatively, Pine Mountain offers easier solutions to lighting fires, so if you’re not confident about your fire-starting skills, pick up a box of ExtremeStart firestarters to use with dry wood or grab a few firelogs to have on hand (we're currently loving the American Home™ by Yankee Fresh Candle Balsam Fir and Java-Log, which make your home smell like pine trees and coffee, respectively).
- A roof rake: When snow melts, runs down the roof, and refreezes and clogs the gutters on a house, it creates an ice dam. And as this continues to happen, the buildup can cause damage to the house. One way to avoid this, Cameron says, is to remove some the snow from the roof after a snowfall by using a roof rake with an extendable pole so that you stay on the safety of the ground.