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What should I consider when preparing my home and property for winter?

Your home is probably your most valuable asset. But it is also more than that. Your home is your shelter, and it needs you to keep it in good shape so it can continue keeping you safe. Winter weather can cause serious damage to a home that is not prepared.

A worst-case scenario for many people in the winter is to be snowed in with no utility services. In the winter of 2021, for example, this happened to millions of people in Texas. When a bad storm hit and extremely low temperatures set in, the utility services failed. Texans were not prepared to spend days without power, heat, and, in some cases, water. A homeowner might also lose power or other services because of poor maintenance, which can lead to burst pipes and structural damage to the home.

Exactly what parts of your house need attention depends on the kind of winter weather that is likely to happen in your area. As we have learned in recent years, though, nearly every part of the country can freeze for at least a few days. That might be all the time winter needs to damage your home.

Which home maintenance and repair projects should I prioritize before winter?

With winter on the way, it is a good idea to prioritize certain repairs as well as do the usual winterizing. These are some examples of important maintenance and repair projects that can prepare your home for winter:

  • Service your HVAC system to make sure it is in good condition, and replace air filters.
  • Make sure the weatherstripping and seals around doors and windows are tight.
  • Check your roof and attic for signs of damage. 
  • Remove or protect outdoor fixtures that might not hold snow or ice, such as window awnings, shade umbrellas, or glass top patio tables.
  • Insulate any pipes that are near the outside walls of your home.
  • Drain any outside faucets and hose bibs.
  • Remove tree limbs that might bring down power lines or cause other damage if they fall.
  • Clean your fireplace and chimney.
  • Seal any places where squirrels or other critters might get into your attic or crawlspace.
  • Replace the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Clean your gutters and downspouts.
  • Make sure water is not pooling around your foundation.

When you are preparing for a winter storm or serious freeze, these items can be useful:

  • Several days' worth of clean water.
  • Canned or packaged food that does not have to be cooked or refrigerated.
  • Firewood.
  • A portable generator.

If you have a gas-powered generator, be sure not to run it inside your house since it produces exhaust that contains carbon monoxide and other dangerous gases. Similarly, if you use your car during a power outage to warm up or charge your mobile devices, it is wise to keep the garage door open so the dangerous exhaust fumes can escape outside.

How can I protect my home while I am away on vacation in the winter?

If you're going away during the winter, consider asking a neighbor or trusted friend to check in on your home while you are away. It can also be helpful if that neighbor or trusted friend has a spare key. However, just because someone will check in on your home, that does not mean you should not prepare. The best way to protect your home is to prepare for any problems that severe winter weather might bring, like these:

  • Damage caused by heavy snow or ice on roofs, other structures, or tree limbs.
  • Burst or frozen pipes.
  • Damage caused by poor drainage in gutters or around the foundation.

Cleaning your gutters, preventing water from collecting around your foundation, and keeping your trees trimmed in the fall can help you avoid damage in the winter months. 

How can I hire a maintenance and repair professional to help prepare my home for winter weather?

The winter months are busy times for maintenance and repair professionals. If you can build a relationship with someone ahead of time, it might be easier for you to get on their schedule after a major winter weather event. You may want to consider signing a Maintenance Contract with a professional you like or believe did quality work. If you have done the projects described above, you probably already know a few professionals in your area.

Finding skilled professionals, such as a plumber, electrician, HVAC specialist, tree trimmer, or roofing contractor can seem tough, but it does not have to be. Many websites show customer reviews that can help you see which contractors you can trust. Another idea is to ask your neighbors for recommendations. If your neighbors do not know any professionals, you might try to search or ask on a social media platform.

Once you have talked to a repair and maintenance professional, it is good to make sure you both understand what work will be done and when. A clear written agreement, such as a Maintenance Contract, a Repair Contract, or a Home Improvement Contract, can make this easy. A contract can also help protect your rights and home if anything goes wrong.

If you have questions about a service professional's contract, or legal issues related to a contractor's work, reach out to a Rocket Lawyer network attorney for affordable legal advice.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

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