Prepare Your Home for a Bad Winter

While we are getting close to the official start of winter, you still have time to get your place in good order. Chances are some of the things on this list are things you already have or that you can order or get in town with ease.

Preparing your place for the winter doesn’t have to be nerve wracking but there are some steps you should take to make sure things go smoothly. A little bit of prevention can result in a lot less problems later on. Here are some tips for making winter a little easier to transition to.

Think about unique needs

The world is a big place in a lot of ways. This list I have come up with can be applied to quite a few areas but there are very likely going to be some things unique to your area or living situation that you will want to add.

Check your pipes and check them twice

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I want to tell you a little story that was passed on through the family over the years. My great grandfather Fred Queen lived in NC most of his life then he followed his kids out to Washington state where they had found employment in the logging industry.

Well, one dad he was prepping his place for winter but Grandpa Fred had a pet raccoon that followed him around. This raccoon watched Grandpa Fred meticulously wrap all of his pipes and plumbing in insulation. It was quite a job and he was naturally glad and felt accomplished after it was done.

Raccoons are smart and have very dexterous little hands. Great Grandpa Fred’s  beloved pet came behind him not a day later and unwrapped every single pipe.

The moral of this story is never to assume that your insulation is in good shape. You need to look and then make sure that it is in good shape before winter sets in.

A broken pipe can cause your water to go out and thousands of dollars in damage from leaks. If you are away part of the year it is even more essential to make sure things are in order. If something happens and you are away it can be absolutely terrible.

Clean and refurbish heating systems

It is a good idea to change your furnace filter before winter. Take a shop vac and stick it down your heating ducts and vacuum them out as well as you can. If you do this occasionally, you can avoid expensive professional cleanings.

Picking up a 6 pack of furnace filters and stashing them can make it easier to remember to change them out and you can usually get a better deal buying in bulk. Those of us with long haired dogs know that the furnace filters that say 90 days should probably be changed every 45 at the most. If it is dry and dusty out we go for changing once a month.

Clean your chimney

Chimneys can get dirty quicker than you might think. Burning small fires or green wood can increase how often your chimney needs cleaning. This is due to incomplete combustion. Look up your chimney with a flashlight and don’t just assume that once a year is okay for cleaning.

A wire brush doesn’t cost much and lasts for a very long time. While it is messy to do this, a chimney fire is not something you ever want to deal with. Chimney brushes come in different sizes and you can buy sections of handle as needed so you can get the full length of your chimney. Everything screws apart for storage.

Birds can sometimes make nests in chimney caps or the top of a chimney. It is not pleasant to deal with but you may have to dislodge them. We have had to take down a section of stove pipe on the inside of our house to free trapped birds. It is rare but sometimes an industrious bird will succeed in getting through and trapped.

Cresote Remover

I do not have experience using this product but it seems that a lot of people really like it  for the convenience. I have to say that if it keeps you from having to use a messy chimney brush then it is worth it.  You are still probably going to want to get out the brush once a year if you use your stove a lot.

Check animal feed supplies

If you have cats, dogs, or livestock it can be very helpful to make sure you have a few weeks at least of food on hand. If a storm comes through you don’t want to be out in it trying to get supplies for your animals and you don’t want to be in a situation of having to feed people food to dogs and cats.

Clean gutters and ditches

I don’t care for these tasks but they are important. Gutters are one of the few things we hired someone else to do on the house. We still had to the drainage from the gutters but the company that put our gutters on added screens that keep the vast majority of debris out of the main gutters.

A broom on the backside of the house and in 10 minutes I am done. If you don’t have screens then I advise you get them because they are under $1 a foot and worth every penny.

Road ditches on private property can get a lot of debris accumulated in them that can lead to a lot of water running down and washing out roads. Check your ditches and save your gravel from washing away.

Check your well head and insulate if needed

It is amazing how many people have uninsulated wellheads when they should have a very well insulated one. A cracked well casing can cause contamination and you may even lose your water if lines freeze up. You cam get an artificial boulder and line with a mylar blanket and a water heater blanket and wrap any pipes coming out of your well head.

When I did this I taped the water heater blanket to itself and folded edges in and taped. This allowed for a thick insulation blanket with no fiberglass mess. You can then tape it to make a pouch. This costs 75% less than a premade pouch.

Emsco Artificial Boulder

This is a lot cheaper and provides more and longer lasting insulation properties than buying a premade insulated pouch. Make sure to seal well below with rocks or similar to prevent anything from burrowing into your insulation but it still may happen. The important thing is to not have water freezing and cracking pipes.

Actual pipes can be wrapped in fiberglass and mylar pipe insulation or the foam or rubber tubes that can be just placed around pipes. You may still have to use some wrap to get spots that the tubes won’t work on.

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