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Winterizing a Vacant Home

If you plan to leave a house vacant for winter, it’s important to make sure your home is ready.
Give your home a once-over and tend to winter preparation tasks and repairs before the year’s first frost. Having the exterior of the home ready for the cold winds, snow and ice is critical for keeping Old Man Winter out.

Windows and Doors

  • Check all the weatherstripping around windows and doorframes for leaks to prevent heat loss. Replace weatherstripping, if necessary.
  • Replace all screen doors with storm doors.
  • Replace all window screens with storm windows.
  • Examine wooden window frames for signs of rot or decay. Repair or replace framing to maintain structural integrity.
  • Check for drafts around windows and doors. Caulk inside and out, where necessary, to keep heat from escaping.
  • Inspect windows for cracks, broken glass, or gaps. Repair or replace, if needed.

Gutters, Roof, and Drains

  • Check for missing, damaged or warped shingles and replace, as necessary before you get stuck with a leak.
  • Check for deteriorated flashing at the chimney, walls, and skylights and around vent pipes. Seal joints where water could penetrate, using roofing cement and a caulking gun.
  • Check the gutters and downspouts for proper fastening, and re-secure if loose or sagging. The weight of snow and ice can pull gutters off the house.
  • Clean gutters of any debris. Make sure downspouts extend away from the house by at least 5 feet to prevent flooding of the foundation and water damage from snowmelt.
  • Clean leaves and debris from courtyard and pool storm drains to prevent blockages.
  • Ensure all vents and openings are covered to prevent insects, birds, and rodents from getting inside to nest in a warm place.
  • If a pipe bursts or leaks while you are away, it could cause significant damage. Consider completely turning off the water supply if no one will be in the home for an extended period of time. If your home is heated by an older steam heating system, consult with your heating professional to determine if it is safe to turn off the water supply for your particular heating system. Also, if your home is protected by a fire sprinkler system, do not turn off the water to this system.
  • Drain your pipes of all water by opening the faucets, and flush your toilet to clear the water from the tank and bowl, then consider pouring antifreeze in toilet tanks and bowls to prevent any remaining water from freezing and cracking.* Always use non-toxic antifreeze rated for plumbing systems.
  • To help confirm that the pipes have been drained, consider having a plumber blow compressed air through the pipes.

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