Our homes are invaluable to our families. No matter how grand or meager our houses compare, they protect our families and keep us warm and dry, especially during the winter. Even for areas that don’t experience severe cold, the transition in seasons can signal hurricanes and tornadoes. 

Winterizing your home prepares it for the harsh conditions of winter. A smart way to approach winterizing is to put yourself in the place of an insurance provider. What are your greatest risks? Ask questions and find answers. For example, who is responsible for the waterline between the house and the curb if it bursts? What causes ice dams? Will insurance cover spring flooding?

Winterizing your home can save energy, prevent costly damage, and keep your homeowners insurance at an affordable rate. 

Prepare for Extreme Weather 

Analyze risk factors to your house from top to bottom and prioritize as you face winter. Whether your winter consists of a rainy season or weekly blizzards, your family needs protection from the elements.

Roof Maintenance

Your potential risks from your roof are water damage, wind damage, and roof collapse. These damages can start with a leaking roof, clogged gutters, and ice dams.

Take a look at your shingles. Just looking at your roof from the ground and using binoculars should be sufficient to assess basic damage. Also, peek into your attic to spot water damage or light coming in. 

If you live in a newer build, your building plans and inspection would have required a plan to support typical snow loads. If you are in an older house, you might want to get professional advice on how capable your roof is at handling the weight of snow.

Exterior Concerns

Moving down from the roof, evaluate your windows and doors. Adding storm shutters or reinforced garage doors can lower your insurance rates if you live in a hurricane or severe wind area. Also, resealing your front door and caulking windows improves energy efficiency.

Scan areas with concrete, pavers, or asphalt. Seal your concrete and fix cracks while the weather is still mild to prevent cement and asphalt deterioration before the freezing and thawing process begins. 

A wooden deck will not last forever. But you can increase its lifespan with preventive maintenance. To test your deck, pour water on it; if the water beads up, you’re doing well. On the other hand, if your boards soak up the water, it’s time to reseal or paint your deck.

Basement Threats

Flooding is a serious threat to consider. It can happen any time freezing and thawing and improper drainage exist. 

While your sump pump may lie dormant most of the winter, make sure it’s in tip-top shape for spring thaw. Look at generators or water-powered backup sump pumps as a plan B for sump pump failure. Most insurance policies do not cover sump pump failure, so don’t assume you’re covered.

Efficient Indoor Heating

Keeping your family warm during the winter will look different in every climate, but no doubt your home has a heating system already in place. The first thing to consider for the winter is where your house is losing heat. 

Get Rid of Drafts

Old windows are a significant draft risk. Door jams can also be energy wasters. Shore up your drafty spaces. Remember that better energy-efficient sealing can lead to a greater risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Please make sure your detectors are up to date and properly functioning.

Be Safe

Along the lines of carbon monoxide and energy efficiency, make sure your fireplace is ready for winter. Check your chimney and flue. Prepare your woodpile. Replace smoke detector batteries. Some insurance providers offer discounts if you buy fire extinguishers for your home. All these measures contribute to safe and effective fireplace usage.

Optimize Your Heating System

Your HVAC system is the other obvious consideration when winterizing. Insurance does not automatically cover your furnace. Appliance insurance is available, so consult your options.

Replacing your outdated system can save you energy and lower your insurance rates. You can always inform your insurance provider of updates, even if it’s not time for your policy renewal.

Freezing Water

The freezing and thawing cycle of water can produce surprising damage. The expansion of frozen water will stress anything that it can permeate. Once frozen water thaws, your masonry, cement, windows, you name it, could be compromised.

Stay Ahead of Ice Dams

Ice dams affect your roof. Just as their name implies, they are dams that prevent proper drainage from your roof. If water doesn’t drain properly from your roof, it can back up under your shingles, between your trim, and even seep into your siding.

Protect Water Pipes

Did you know you are responsible for any repairs on your water service line from your house to the curb? You can get special insurance policies for this line to protect yourself from one substantial out-of-pocket expense. Unfortunately, water lines burst more often than you may know.

It is easy to add some pipe insulation to your home, from tape wraps to foam tubes.

If you happen to be a snowbird or are interested in winterizing a seasonal home, always turn off the water main to the house to protect your home and landscape in the winter. Undetected water damage while you are away can wreak havoc on your house.

Preventive Yardwork

If you’ve invested any time and energy into a backyard oasis, you’ll want to make it last as long as possible. These simple preparations can prolong the life of your outdoor investment. 

Secure moveable outdoor objects that pose risks to your home. Winds can be powerful enough to drive a grill into your siding or propel a portable firepit into your sliding door. Secure whatever needs to be secured. Also make sure that you cover your outdoor items, from a grill cover to firepit covers.

Also make sure that your sprinkler system is blown out so that water does not freeze and cause the pipes to break.

Landscape Cleanup

Outside landscaping has the potential to damage your house. Unkempt tree branches are a risk to power lines, windows, and roofs. 

Winterizing your garden may not add security or financial gain to your home, but it can improve your spring cleanup experience. Yard debris can attract pests and impact water drainage around your foundation.

Protect Outdoor Furniture

Deck furniture is built to withstand the elements. However, you can find relatively cheap patio furniture covers to prolong the life of your deck furniture. Replacing deck furniture cushions can almost rival the original cost of the pieces, so bring cushions indoors or stash them in the garage.

A Little Winterization Goes a Long Way

Preventative maintenance may seem like a hassle, but getting into a good yearly routine as you approach seasonal changes can save resources long term. In addition, making a solid winterizing routine will help you keep a watchful eye on home risks.

Any major home repairs or replacements can help your insurance rates come down. Make sure you inform your agent, and don’t be afraid to compare quotes from other companies. You don’t have to wait until policy renewal to have these conversations.

The most effective strategy in winterizing is to act while the warmer weather lasts. Waiting for bad weather to set in will discourage immediate action and add to the stress of fixing a preventable problem. 

Maria Hanson writes and researches for the insurance comparison site, Clearsurance.com. As a mom of four, she is passionate about families finding their best insurance coverage.