How to Protect Your Home from Winter Storms

You can never be too prepared for winter. Learn how to defend your home so you can weather any storm.


  • Step 1: Have your chimney inspected before you use your fireplace. You don't need to have it swept every year, but you need to have it inspected for debris that could cause a fire inside the chimney.
  • TIP: Make sure water to outside lines is shut off at the inside valve before winter sets in.
  • TIP: Install a protective cap with a screen on your chimney to prevent debris from entering.
  • Step 2: Sweep a wood stove, if you have one, several times a year to prevent acidic creosote from rotting the mortar and metal damper.
  • FACT: Ten inches of snow melts down to about an inch of liquid rain.
  • Step 3: Test or change the batteries in your smoke detectors to warn you of fires related to increased use of utilities, your fireplace, or your wood-burning stove. Protect your home before the winter freeze and save energy and money while you rest comfortably indoors.
  • Step 4: Make sure pipes that pass through your crawlspace, basement, garage, or other unheated areas are insulated with foam, fiberglass insulation, or heating tape. This protects them from bursting in the event of a freeze.
  • Step 5: Remove your window screens and replace them with storm windows, which offer an added layer of protection from the cold. If you don't have storm windows, you can use a plastic sheeting window insulation kit.
  • Step 6: Check for air leaks in the areas around door and window frames and around recessed lighting and electrical outlets. Caulk around them to prevent expensive heat loss through the winter months.
  • TIP: Check for leaks and misaligned pipes as you're cleaning the gutters, and make sure the downspouts are carrying water at least 10 feet away from the house's foundation.
  • Step 7: Fire up your furnace before winter hits. It's normal to smell a strong odor at first, but it should dissipate quickly. If the smell doesn't go away, shut down the furnace and have it inspected. Also, check your basement and attic pipes and ducts for pinches and gaps. Repair pinches and close gaps with metal-backed tape.
  • TIP: Have your ducts professionally cleaned every couple of years to rid them of dust, dirt, and pet hair.
  • Step 8: Add insulation to your attic so that you have at least 12 inches of insulation. Ceiling joists are typically between 9 and 11 inches, so if you can see the joists, you should add insulation.
  • Step 9: Clean your gutters after the leaves fall in autumn. Scoop out all of the debris and then wash them out with a garden hose. Rain and melting snow can wash debris into your downspouts, causing ice dams and forcing backed-up water to seep into your house.

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