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21 Ways to Prepare Your House and Lawn for Winter (Checklist)

Published on: Sep 30, 2022

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Winter is coming, and your property needs preparing. When the leaves begin to fall, it's time to get your home ready for the winter months ahead—this includes both home and lawn care.

Not sure where to start? We got you covered.

Below, we'll walk you through 21 tried-and-true ways to prepare your property for wintertime. First, let's quickly cover why this is so important to take care of in the fall before it's too late.

Why Prepare Your Property for the Upcoming Winter Months?

Winter can be hard on your property, lawn, and electrical bill. Fortunately, the steps you take now can mitigate damage to your home and boost energy savings for your home.

Here are a few reasons you need to prepare your property (every fall) for winter:

  • Safety: Dangerous ice can form on frozen gutters, and wooden steps deteriorate quickly without proper protection. Keep your house (and visitors) safe by putting in the work ahead of time.

  • Energy Savings: Air leaks around your windows and doors let precious warmth escape your home, and that means your wallet will have to provide compensation. Fixing your trim, caulking windows, and ensuring doors and windows close properly can save you extra money during the winter.

  • Damage Prevention: Winters can be harsh, especially on your home's exterior. Properly preparing your property will help prevent rot, mold, burst pipes, and more.

  • Timing: Often, once the winter months are upon you, it'll be too late to do some winterizing. It's challenging to caulk and paint your home in the cold, and you'll waste precious warm air trying to seal windows and doors once your days are cold.

Lucky for you, most winter preparation doesn't require too much time or money. If all goes well, you can check off most of your to-do list in a weekend. However, if things don't go according to plan, winterizing your property might take a bit longer—but at least you'll be in the know before it's too late.

21 Ways to Prepare Your Property for Winter

1. Test Your Heating System

You don't want to find out your heating system is dead right when you need it. It's a lot easier for a plumber or HVAC expert to work on your system in the fall than in the winter.

Change your filters and test your heating in advance to ensure your furnace and thermostats are working appropriately. Look around your water heater for any signs of leaks or moisture, and take care of any minor issues before they become full-scale problems.

2. Seal the Exterior

Exposed wood and trim on the outside of your home need to be appropriately caulked, painted, and sealed. Look for chips in your paint and gaps behind your trim where moisture can accumulate. Take care of the problems before the cold months arrive.

You can take care of most minor painting and caulking jobs on your own if you catch the problem earlier. However, if the wood starts to rot, you'll need a carpenter to replace your trim—and then you'll need to begin the caulking, painting, and sealing process from scratch.

3. Check for Air Leaks

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Feel around your windows and doors for any cold air that might be getting in—these can lead to substantial energy bills when your warm air escapes night after night, week after week. You might find trim that needs replacing, windows that need caulking, and doors that need better sealing.

Finding air leaks in the fall gives you plenty of time to take care of the problem. You can take care of most teeny-tiny air leak problems on your own with weather sealing strips and caulk, but you'll likely need a professional for any bigger problems. Give yourself time to find an expert and get on their calendar.

4. Clear Your Gutters

Start from the top and work your way down. Remove all the leaves from your gutters, and ensure nothing is blocking your downspouts. If you have large trees around your home, you'll want to wait until all the leaves have fallen before you clean out your gutters—or you'll likely end up needing to do it again.

Once you've cleared the top of your gutters, experiment by pouring a bit of water down your downspout and ensuring the water exits where it's supposed to. Add extensions to your downspouts to take water further away from your home if necessary.

Water depositing too close to your foundation and porch supports can saturate the soil and cause issues. The farther away you can deposit the water, the better.

5. Clean Your Chimney

Get your chimney cleaned in the fall so that you can roast that yule log in the winter. Your chimney can also be a source of cold air leaks—another reason you'll want to examine it now.

Clear any obvious obstructions, and make sure your damper opens and closes properly. If it's been a while, get your chimney professionally cleaned by an expert. They'll remove hard-to-reach obstructions and ensure smoke escapes efficiently and safely from your fireplace.

6. Test Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Detectors

Winter heating is often the biggest cause of property fires. While it's important your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors work year-round, you'll want to double-check their batteries and test them before heading into winter.

Carbon monoxide is a bigger threat during the winter because you likely have all your windows and doors closed up tightly (as you should). Install detectors where necessary and replace the batteries before you need to. Don't worry—the annoying chirping sound they typically make is an unforgettable reminder.

7. Shut Down the Sprinkler System

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This is arguably the most important step on this entire list. Get this wrong, and you could end up with a huge (and expensive) mess come springtime.

It's not enough to just turn off your sprinklers. Most systems require the lines to be blown out to ensure no moisture remains in the lines (which could get frozen and cause problems). Get a professional to handle this to make sure it's done right.

Want to do it yourself? Here’s what the process looks like:

  • Turn Off the Water: Look for the main valve next to your water meter. Turn it off. If you have backflow prevention valves, shut those off, too.

  • Switch Off Your Timer: Turn off your automatic timer to prevent your sprinkler from trying to turn on. Modern-day systems let you put your system into a Rain Mode that’ll allow you to turn off the timer without losing your programmed settings.

  • Drain the Water: While there shouldn’t be any new water running through your pipes, there’s likely water already there that hasn’t left. How you drain the water will mostly depend on your system, but blow-out draining is the most common technique (always wear protective goggles). This technique involves using an air compressor to force the remaining moisture out of the sprinkler heads. However, when done wrong, this could damage your sprinkler system (which is exactly what we’re trying to prevent by doing a proper shutdown). We recommend hiring a professional.

  • Leave Your Backflow Valves Partially Open: Keeping your valves open will allow any remaining water to drain naturally. Follow these steps to winterize your backflow device.

  • Insulate Above-Ground: Make sure your shut-off valve and exposed pipes are wrapped in insulation tape or foam covers to prevent freezing.

8. Drain Outside Faucets

While draining your sprinkler system, do the same for your outside faucets. Unplug the hoses and let the remaining water drain out of the line. This will ensure no pipes freeze and potentially flood your home, basement, or yard.

9. Cleanup and Rake the Yard

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Clean up fallen branches and dead plants from your yard. Rake all the leaves off the lawn, or mulch the leaves with your lawn mower. Either way, you need to get the big leaves off the lawn to help with aerating and growing grass.

10. Aerate Your Lawn

Aeration keeps your lawn healthy, happy, and alive. Without it, your compacted soil will restrict water and nutrient absorption—and that eventually leads to dead grass.

Rent an aeration device to break up the soil and let air, water, and nutrients reach your grass’s roots. Doing this in the fall and spring will keep your grass lively.

11. Start Growing Grass

You have two opportunities to grow grass:

  • Spring

  • Fall

We recommend starting in the fall, but this is going to require aerating, seeding, and properly fertilizing the new grass before the temperature drops too much.

Water your lawn well a few days before aerating. The better you aerate your lawn, the more likely the seeds will get into the soil and have a fighting chance. Rent an aeration machine from your local hardware store (it looks a lot like a lawn mower), and aerate everywhere you’re going to seed.

Starting in the fall gives you a headstart. Yes, the cold will temporarily put your grass to sleep (so to speak), but if you've aerated and seeded properly, your lawn will be primed and ready to bloom in the spring.

12. Fertilize the Grass

You’re almost done with lawn care. After aerating and seeding your yard, it’s time to apply fertilizer. The best time to do this is 2 to 3 weeks before the ground freezes. Depending on where you live and what grass you have, the right fertilizer could be labeled as a winterizer fertilizer.

This is different from a springtime fertilizer. Winterizer fertilizer provides different nutrients (in the right ratios) and has specific release solutions for a lawn that’s about to go to sleep. Here’s a list of winter fertilizers and how to find the best one for your specific grass and climate.

13. Remove Dead (or Dying) Trees

Dead trees and branches can be a hazard to your home, especially when they're cold, brittle, and weighed down by a few pounds of snow. Take time in the fall to remove any risky trees or dangerous limbs.

It's also a lot easier to climb a ladder and handle a pair of clippers when there's no snow and your hands aren't freezing—so there's that advantage.

14. Scan Your Roof

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Check your roof for any holes or damaged shingles. Summer storms and nasty critters can make your roof a liability come wintertime. If you identify any issues, hire a professional to get things in tip-top shape.

15. Check Your Fuel Supply

Do you use propane to heat your home? Ensure your storage tank is full and ready to go come wintertime. Double-check your contracts and payment methods to ensure your supplier will make regular refuels. You don't want to worry about finding gas once it's run out.

16. Stow Your Lawn Care Equipment

Don't let your lawnmowers or weed eaters sit out all winter. Put them in your garage or shed for safekeeping. Now's also a good time to empty the gas (if your machines use them) and maintain your equipment. Add new string to your weed eater and double-check your lawnmower's blades are sharp, aligned, and cutting properly.

Doing your due diligence in the fall will ensure you're ready when the sun pokes out in spring.

17. Restock on Ice Melt

Take a look at your ice melt inventory. Restock and buy extra bags before the ice prevents you from getting out the door and into your car.

18. Examine Your Snow-Clearing Tools

Double-check that your gloves, boots, shovels, and snow-blowing machines are ready to be put to good use. The last thing you want is a broken shovel after the snow's piled up around your driveway and vehicles.

19. Prep Your AC Unit for Winter

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Some homeowners like to cover their AC unit, but that’s a matter of personal preference. More importantly, you need to ensure your unit doesn’t turn on during the winter. If the outside temperature has dipped below 60 degrees, you shouldn’t turn on your air conditioning—doing so could damage your unit.

Remember, an air conditioning unit isn’t necessarily designed to keep things cold when it’s hot outside. Its purpose is to help your inside space reach a specific temperature.

For example, if your house is feeling stuffy at 72 degrees and you turn the thermostat to 70, your air conditioning unit will kick on to make it happen (if you haven’t turned cooling off). If you still have cooling turned on, it’ll do its job. Make sure you turn your thermostats to heat only—that way, if you want to reduce the temperature, you can let the outside weather do its job rather than turning your AC unit on.

20. Winterize Your Swamp Cooler

Your swamp cooler is filled with water, and this can cause problems when temperatures drop below freezing. Winterize your swamp cooler to avoid frozen lines, damages, and heat loss:

  • Disconnect the Water Line: Turn off the water supply and then disconnect the water line from the cooler. Remove all water from your line by blowing through it and letting it dry.

  • Drain the Water: Remove the water at the base of your cooler to prevent rust and potential freezing. The easiest way to do this is with a bucket and sponge.

  • Clean Your Cooler: After sponging out the excess water, clean the inside of your evaporative cooler of all dirt and grime. Change out your evaporative pads now to make it easy to get things up and running come springtime.

  • Install the Winter Cover: Slip a winter cover over your swamp cooler to protect it from the elements. Don’t just use a sheet or any old cover—find one with vent panels that’ll provide adequate airflow.

  • Seal the Vent: Vents came sometimes cause heat loss. Remove your vent cover and install insulation or cardboard over the opening. Put your cover back on.

21. Insulate Your Attic

Hot air rises, and it might be escaping quickly from the top of your house if your attic isn’t insulated properly. Not sure if your insulation is doing its job? Check for these 12 signs.

Notice any problems? Get a roofing professional to come take a look and possibly fix your insulation or ventilation issues.

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