Winter is coming, and with it, cold weather and icy storms. But you can insulate yourself from the worst of the chill — and potential damage to your home — by taking steps weatherize your house now.
The idea of weatherizing your home may sound expensive — not exactly what you want to hear when you’ve just put down thousands of dollars to buy your home. But there are plenty of ways homeowners can weatherize on a budget. And investing in home resilience upfront can actually save money on repairs and utility bills long-term.
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Climate change has increased the risk of wildfires, flooding, extreme heat, and drought conditions that can jeopardize properties. But even standard winter weather can cause serious wear-and-tear on a home.
These tips will help you weatherize your home against the winter winds…and rain, and snow, and sleet, and, well, you get the picture.
A key way to keep out drafts (and keep your energy bill in check) is to add weatherstripping to areas of the home with air leaks that are letting in cold air.
“If your home isn’t properly sealed from the elements, it won’t be as effective when it comes to staying warm or cool,” said Chaz Wyland, a carpenter and handyman and founder of the website SnowmobileHow.
Wyland’s advice on identifying areas that need to be resealed: “You can light a match and move it around a door or window frame. The flame and smoke will be pulled out through drafty areas, and once you identify that, you can replace or add weather stripping.”
One quick and budget-friendly fix for large gaps between your door and the floor is to add door sweeps, which you can get for around $10 from a hardware or home renovation store. These will prevent cold air from blowing in through the door frame.
Another DIY fix: Seal up gaps in your window frame with silicone-based caulk. You can find tubes of caulk for under $10, and you can seal the gaps yourself. This is a simple way to keep warm air in and cold air out — and to keep your heating bills from spiraling out of control.
You can also purchase window film to help prevent air leakage on cold and blustery days. Some window films are reusable, so you can put them up in the winter, remove them when the weather warms up, and save them for the following year.
If you live in an area that’s often hit by hurricanes, investing in storm windows can be a good idea. However, if you don’t have the budget to replace your windows right now, adding storm shutters (including previously owned ones) can provide protection for less of an investment.
Insulation can make a big difference to the temperature in your home, so check your attic and crawl spaces to ensure you have sufficient insulation. If you’re not sure what to look for, you can call a contractor who will give you an estimate and can fill in any sparse areas for you.
Be sure to check with your electric and natural gas utility for insulation rebates available.
There are also DIY options, such as spraying expanding foam into hard-to-reach areas that are in need of insulation. You can find expanding foam at home improvement stores.
If your area is prone to strong fall and winter storms, particularly those that bring drenching rain and flooding, adding trees and plants to the landscaping can weatherize your home and make the property more resilient.
“Indigenous or native plants, trees, and shrubs are the best ones to have to prevent floods,” said Codey Stout, an arborist and Head of Operations at Tree Triage. “Tree canopy provides cover to the ground and slows down the speed of the rain before it hits the ground. It intercepts some of the rainwater and allows it to evaporate without reaching the ground.”
Stout added that trees “provide a strong root network to hold the soil and prevent erosion, absorb rainwater, filter stormwater, and prevent water from running off toward the home.”
Be sure to examine any existing trees and shrubbery as well.
“Trim any plants that need to be cut back over the winter, clear leaves, weed and seed your lawn, and finally, move any outdoor furniture, like patio furniture, and pool equipment inside for storage,” said Bailey Carson, home care expert at Angi (formerly Angie’s List). “It’s very important to check your trees for any branches that could easily fall down in a winter storm — and remove them — to ensure your home and family are kept safe.”
Related reading: How to Protect Your House From Wildfires and Other Climate Hazards
“Plumbing is one of the first things you should focus on when it comes to winterizing your home,” Carson said. “Start outside first. Make sure to winterize your sprinkler systems and hoses by shutting off the water supply and blowing them out. Since you won’t be regularly watering your garden throughout the winter, this is a simple first step. Next, insulate these and any other outdoor pipes to keep them from freezing and potentially bursting on colder days.”
She also advised staying up to date with your HVAC maintenance, and having your furnace serviced or inspected if you haven’t recently.
“No one wants their heater to stop working the minute cold weather hits, so make sure you have routine maintenance performed on your furnace before the winter hits,” she said.
Carson also recommended having your chimney cleaned and inspected in advance of the winter chill as well. Chimney maintenance is key to preventing fires in the home.
Make sure your gutters are cleared of debris before winter storms blow in. If you have lots of trees and leaves have been falling, be sure to clean those out prior to the colder months.
“If your gutters or downspouts are blocked, you could end up with ice dams, damage to your roof and siding, or even flooding or water damage in your home,” Carson said. “To prevent these from happening, ensure your gutters and downspouts are attached correctly and free of debris.”
If you recently bought your home, you may not have had a chance to make decorative purchases such as curtains just yet. However, curtains can help protect you from the elements.
“Curtains can have a significant impact when it comes to weatherizing your home,” Wyland said. “During the middle of the winter, you’ll want to keep the curtains down to trap in heat. And when things get hot, curtains can block out the sun and keep air-conditioned spaces cooler.”
And if you’re really serious, look into external shades for windows that receive a lot of sun. They are more expensive to buy and install than interior shades, but blocking sunlight before it gets inside can significantly reduce the amount of heat generated inside.
Painting a house is a big job, and you don’t want to take it on unless it’s necessary. But if you’ve been meaning to give the house a fresh paint or you see patches of flaking or deterioration on the exterior, you may want to prioritize that this fall.
“Harsh weather elements can ruin the property, especially when there is exposed wood,” said Phillip Ash, founder of Pro Paint Corner. “There’s increased moisture, particularly in winter, which can cause mold and mildew growth and slow deterioration of wood. Repainting will seal off the wood against the elements and protect it from moisture and damage.”
How to weatherize your home for winter FAQs
To weatherize your home for winter, identify any drafts coming in through door frames and windows, and seal those up. You can do this easily with a few inexpensive supplies from a home improvement store.
You’ll also want to make sure your house is sufficiently insulated and that your plumbing and HVAC systems are functioning property and are appropriately winterized.
Weatherization costs depend on what the house needs. Sealing up window drafts or clearing out your gutters costs little to no money, depending on the supplies you have on hand and whether you’re willing to do those tasks yourself. But if you need to have systems inspected or repaired or professional insulation added, you could be looking at hundreds to a few thousand dollars, depending on the job.
The simplest way to weatherize for winter is to seal areas of your home that allow in drafts. You’ll also want to clean out your gutters and trim any tree branches that could call and damage your home during a winter storm. It’s also important to make sure your plumbing and HVAC systems are functioning properly and are prepared for the cold snaps and storms ahead.
Weatherizing your home for winter requires some heavy lifting upfront, but the fixes you make now can actually pay off year-round. For instance, hanging curtains and sealing air leaks will help keep your home cool and more energy-efficient come summertime. Same goes for insulation — it will keep out both cold and hot air when done properly, so it’s worth investing in these areas for a more resilient and comfortable home, no matter what the season.