7 Winter Home Prep Tasks You Haven't Done Yet

Take these extra steps you may have missed to gear up for the coldest months of the year.

By Devon Thorsby, Editor, Real Estate |Nov. 2, 2018, at 3:29 p.m.

7 Winter Home Prep Tasks You Haven't Done Yet

Slideshow

Time to really get ready for winter.

Mother tidying the clothes rack, domestic life.

(Getty Images)

You already know the basics of getting your home ready for winter: cleaning your gutters, making sure windows and doors have weatherstripping to block drafts and tackling various tasks to keep your house warm and cozy throughout those chilly months. But incorporating a few additional tricks of the trade will make your winter life much easier if you're proactive. From organizing your gear to prepping for the worst kind of winter storm, here are seven winter prep tasks to jump on now.

Assess your outlet situation.

Assess your outlet situation.

Outlet On Wall with Peeling White Paint

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Electrical outlets aren’t always where you need them, and if your house is older, you may find that you don’t have enough in every room. Sheldon Yellen, CEO of BELFOR, a Birmingham, Michigan-based disaster recovery and property restoration company, warns against overloading outlets. To protect against electrical fires, don't attach power strips to other outlet splitters, and be sure to use a surge protector if you're plugging in large appliances. And as you pull out holiday decorations, it's important to examine cords, wires and plugs for damage and throw out anything that’s not in good condition.

Invest in an emergency water shutoff system.

Invest in an emergency water shutoff system.

An old pipe breaks in freezing weather in Baku, Azerbaijan

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Frozen pipes can burst and cause significant damage to your home. “When temperatures get so cold over a lengthy period of time is when you see the most claims go up,” says Jason Metzger, senior vice president and head of risk management at PURE Insurance. To protect your home from damage in the event of a burst pipe, Metzger recommends getting a leak detection and emergency water shutoff system, ranging in price between $400 and $3,000, which he says can mean the difference between a smaller claim and as much as millions of dollars in damage.

Prepare your car for winter.

Prepare your car for winter.

Close-up of winter car tires in a winter scenario with snow and trees in a mountain road

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Your winter home preparation should include being ready to travel safely in inclement weather conditions. Organizing expert Rachel Rosenthal advises stocking your car with everything you may need should you find yourself in a heavy snowstorm. Her list of items include an ice scraper, ice-melt pellets in case your car gets stuck (cat litter is a common substitute in parts of the Midwest), batteries, a spare blanket and anything else you might need if you have to wait in cold weather for a tow truck, snowplow or friend to pick you up.

Get your snow removal gear ready.

Get your snow removal gear ready.

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While you’re tackling the snow preparation for your vehicle, gather all your snow removal tools to have at the ready for the first snowstorm. If you follow other sets of instructions, you’ve likely already prepared your snowplow with gas or a fresh battery, but you also want to be able to easily take care of ice dams that may form on your roof. To clear ice dams, Yellen recommends keeping one of your leaf rakes on hand all winter to clear snow from the edge of your roof. “After the storm, and only once it’s safe to go outside, use a long rake to clear snow from the roof and make sure downspouts and gutters are clear to prevent flooding,” he wrote in an email.

Have a pro assess trees near your house.

Have a pro assess trees near your house.

Researcher in the forest examines trees.

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The snow that lands directly on your house isn’t the only potential problem in a storm. Metzger explains that another source of concern for many homeowners insurance companies is unhealthy or dead trees located close to a structure, especially when branches may break or the entire tree could fall under the heavy weight of snow. Take a look at the trees on your property – particularly those that have the potential to fall on your house or a power line. In particular, check for bark loss or deep cracks. “If trees that are close to the home don’t appear healthy to the untrained eye, we would want an arborist to go out there,” Metzger says.

Declutter your winter wardrobe.

Declutter your winter wardrobe.

Caucasian woman hanging clothes in closet

(Getty Images)

The start of the winter season is the perfect time to take a critical look at your winter wardrobe. “You need to pull out your winter gear and weed through it,” Rosenthal says. Toss or donate any sweaters that pill, jackets that don’t keep you warm like they used to and boots that just don’t go with anything you have. She stresses being honest with yourself about what winter items you wore last year – if you didn’t wear it last winter, the chances are slim you’ll learn to love it again. Make room early in the season and cut down on clutter.

Train your eye for water damage.

Train your eye for water damage.

Damaged ceiling from rain water leak

(Getty Images)

Keep an eye out for water damage – especially in parts of your house that may be vulnerable during a winter storm. Yellen stresses that mold can grow inside a house at any time of year, and it can start growing on a moist area within 12 hours. Keep water damage from causing an air quality problem by remaining vigilant about your roof, ice dams and any surfaces where water can get inside, including around door and window frames. “The simplest way to prevent mold is to remove water and moisture rapidly – but because that’s not always possible to know, it’s important to have a professional come in and remediate at the first sign of mold growth,” he says.

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Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor at U.S. News & World Report, where she writes consumer-focused articles about the homebuying and selling process, home improvement, tenant rights and the state of the housing market.

She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.

Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at dthorsby@usnews.com.

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