Winterizing Your Home: Dos and Don’ts

by Stacey Doyle on December 8, 2008

The dos and don’ts of winterizing your home.

Now that the winter is on its way, it’s time to make sure that your living space can handle the season. Contractors know your concerns and may try to dupe you into costly updates you don’t really need. To avoid signing up with unscrupulous contractors who may bill you for unnecessary home services, let’s review these tips for winterizing your home.

winterizing your home
Photo by Robbie1.

Tips for Winterizing Your Home

Let’s get ready for winter!

DO work with qualified professionals when having work done to your house. If you’re handy, it will save you money to do the work yourself, but if you need expertise, make sure that you find reputable people to help you address your home requirements. These online services may be able to help you find the right help:

  • Angie’s List is a site and online community where you’ll find thousands of unbiased reviews and reports of service companies. Service providers included in the site range from handymen to health service professionals. Join here!
  • Service Magic is a site that focuses on connecting homeowners with prescreened service professionals. The site even has a specific category for “winterizing your home” and finding the right workers for this job. Join here!
  • ReliableRemodeler is a contractor referral service. Once you submit a description of your project to the site, you’ll be matched with 4 local contractors; you’ll then receive free estimates.

DON’T forget to check with the Better Business Bureau on background information of the service providers you are considering for your winterizing job. Do your due diligence.

DO have your furnace and ducts inspected by a professional to ensure everything is working properly. Last minute furnace repairs can be very expensive, especially if the burner breaks down on a holiday.

DON’T get a new furnace or burner without getting a second opinion. In some instances, it may be sufficient to repair the old furnace or add insulation to keep your home warmer. We added insulation to our attic and pipes last year. This year, we are using about 1/3 less oil to heat our home!


DO have your chimney cleaned and get a cap or screen for the top of the chimney to keep birds and rodents out. Last year, we had two squirrels trapped in our chimney for Christmas Eve. It sounded like Santa was stuck in there and the kids were so upset! By the time we got a chimney inspector to check out our chimney the day after Christmas, it was already too late and we could only clean out a rather icky scene. We immediately had a cap put on the fireplace in order to avoid this problem in the future.

DON’T hire fly-by-night chimney sweeps. Often they try to scam you into a new chimney liner or other expensive fixes you don’t really need. Hire a sweep certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) to ensure you don’t get scammed.

DO ensure that the damper on your fireplace opens and closes freely and that the mortar between bricks is in good shape.

DON’T keep wood near your home because it attracts termites, bugs and rodents. Store wood in a dry location, away from the exterior of your house. Now when people end up with pests, they usually try home remedies to get rid of them. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. If your bug problem becomes bigger than you can handle, then it’s best to bite the bullet and get a termite control company to help you out before any more damage is done.

DO inspect your home for cracks and openings and seal them. Use weatherstripping around doors and windows and cover windows with plastic shields. Switch out summer screens for storm windows.

DO add insulation to your attic to keep hot air from escaping to your roof and causing ice problems (or what is called an “ice dam”). Service Magic tells us more about it here. Insulate all plumbing pipes to avoid freezing. Also, fix any broken roof tiles that you find.

DON’T rush to spend money on a completely new roof. A minor repair does not mean that a major replacement is required. Get a detailed assessment and get a second opinion before you invest thousands of dollars in a new roof.

DO clean out the gutters and downspouts to get rid of debris that could freeze and cause clogs during cold weather.

DO look for cracks in the foundation and seal them to keep rodents out.

DO know where your water main is located in case you need to shut if off during an emergency.

DO clean out and get rid of stuff you don’t use. Give your unneeded items to charity before the holidays. You’ll make someone else’s life a little easier and happier while you keep your living space organized. We had kept a lot of our children’s old unused items in our basement. So when we donated 18 bags of beautiful clothing and toys to the local Goodwill, we (along with our kids) felt great about the cleanup!

While you’re winterizing your house, make sure to look for applicable programs to reduce costs. State, government and community programs exist to help you pay for heating, electricity and home improvements. The Citizens Energy website offers plenty of information about national and state programs you might be eligible for.

With proper planning, a warm winter is an affordable reality!

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