Winter Storm Preparedness Guide

It’s 24 hours before the big storm is supposed to strike—is your home ready for the weather? Winter storms can bring extended power outages, and of course, may keep you homebound for a few days. And naturally, wind and ice pose a threat to your home and physical safety as well. Here’s what you need to do when ice, snow and sleet are in the forecast to make sure you’re covered before the first snowflake falls.

a lonely house covered with snow

Make Sure You Have the Necessary Supplies

If you live in an area where snow is commonplace, then you probably already have a lot of these in your garage or shed. But for those of us who are new to this whole snow thing, a freak storm can seriously catch you offguard. At a minimum, you’ll need the following:

  • A snow shovel for digging out your car and your sidewalks.
  • Rock salt and sand for walkways and stairs. Make sure it’s petsafe if you have critters or young kiddos running around!
  • An ice scraper for your car windshield. (Don’t be like this guy!)

You also might want to have a few things to keep yourself comfortable in case the power goes out or in the event that you’re trapped at home for a few days. That means:

  • Non-perishable food
  • Firewood or another independent heat source
  • Flashlights
  • Candles and matches
  • Warm clothing and blankets
  • Bottled water

snowy houses in the sunshine

Get Your Home Ready

Okay, now that you’ve braved the lines at the grocery store, it’s time to get your house ready for the deep freeze ahead. A couple of tasks you might want to consider:

  • Install storm windows outside or place insulating plastic film over the interiors of windows.
  • Trim dead branches that could pose a hazard in the wind.
  • Wind up hoses and bring in outdoor chairs and toys.
  • Cover your houseplants or bring them inside.
  • Turn your faucets to a slow drip to prevent your pipes from bursting.
  • Make sure pets are inside before precipitation starts to fall.
  • Park your car in the garage if hail or sleet may be an issue.

It’s not a bad idea to have your roof and heating system inspected this time of year, as well. This will help you avoid leaks and heating loss during extreme weather events. If you have time, clean your gutters, as well, since they provide vital leak protection by funneling runoff and snow melt off your roof and down to the ground.

cozy slippered feet by the fire

Stay Safe During the Storm

A lot of these suggestions seem obvious, but it never hurts to repeat them, since every year someone ignores common sense and gets themselves into serious trouble. For one thing, stay off the roads if they’re not safe to travel on. The local news can help you stay updated on road conditions in your area, but if you can avoid leaving home, do it.

Also remember not to overdo it when you’re outside shoveling. Clearing snow by hand is exhausting, draining work, especially when the weather outside is frightful, and it can be easy to overexert yourself or hurt your back. So go easy with the shoveling. Do it in shifts if you have to.

When you do go outside, make sure to wear several layers of warm, dry clothing, including mittens or gloves and a water-repellent outer layer.

For more tips on winter storm safety, Ready.gov has a huge checklist of safety guidelines. Stay warm and keep safe everyone!

Everything You Need to Know About Storm Windows

All across the US, it’s starting to get cold for real. And not thin-crust-of-frost-on-your-car-windshield cold. We’re talking serious, bone chilling frigidity. But if your home’s windows are starting to fail, you’ll be hard pressed to find comfort in the warmth of the indoors. But modern replacement windows can cost thousands of dollars when all is said and done, which just may not be in the budget, especially this time of year.

Storm windows offer a middle ground between freezing all winter long and purchasing brand new windows. A sort of “window for your windows,” storm windows can provide protection, better energy efficiency and improved comfort for older windows—at a fraction of the cost of replacements. Here’s what you need to know about them.

snowy home in the woods

What Are Storm Windows Anyhow?

The term “storm windows” actually covers a broad range of window coverings—from reusable low emissivity glass to temporary plastic films. But all of these options have the same basic goals: protecting your home from bad weather and improving the insulation of your existing windows.

Interior Vs. Exterior Windows

One of the biggest decisions you’ll need to make when you install your storm windows is whether you need interior or exterior storm windows. The difference between them is fairly self-explanatory: one is hung on the outside of your home, while the other sits inside. Most homeowners prefer interior windows to exterior—they’re easier to put on and remove. And they sit just inside the primary window, so they’re typically a little bit more energy efficient, as well. However, if you’re looking to protect your home from extreme weather, you may find that exterior is the way to go, since these units are often much sturdier than interior storm windows. Keep in mind that exterior storm windows are a lot more expensive, however. It may be worth your time to compare the costs to the price of new windows at this point.

What Types of Windows Are There?

Just like regular windows, storm windows consist of an outer frame that holds a sheet of insulating material. Frames may be made out of:

  • Vinyl
  • Aluminum
  • Wood

There are benefits—and drawbacks—to each material. Wood, for example, offers better insulation, but may warp over time. Aluminum is extremely durable, but won’t do a lot for your home’s insulation. Vinyl is fairly sturdy and more insulating than aluminum, but may fade or otherwise deteriorate in appearance after a while. Essentially, it all comes down to what you consider important in a window.

Likewise, storm window panes can be made out of plastic or glass. Glass, as you’d guess, is much more durable, but is also heavy and difficult to manage. Glass offers better visibility, but it’s fragile, too, meaning it can shatter in extreme weather. Again, it’s about your situation and what’s best for your home.

What Other Special Features Do They Have?

Storm window manufacturers produce specialized units that can be used to protect against a number of hazards. These inc:

  • Polycarbonate plastic or laminated glass. Both of these are resist shattering, making them a good option for security or for extra protection and during extreme weather.
  • Energy efficient coatings. Low-emissivity glass can improve your home’s energy profile and are often less expensive than new windows with the same energy ratings.

Other Things to Look For

To get your money’s worth, you’ll also want to make sure you windows have the following features:

  • Multiple positioning stops. This way you can control the amount of air you let into your home.
  • Quality weatherstripping. Weatherstripping around the windows reduces heat loss, which can lower your energy bills.
  • Predrilled holes. These make installation easier and protect the glass during the process.
  • Removable half-pane glass and half-screens. These are significantly easier to clean than non-removable counterparts.

Have more questions about storm windows? Connect with us on Facebook or Twitter and let us know!

Get Winter-Ready in 7 Easy Steps

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. Whoever wrote those lyrics obviously wasn’t a homeowner! Winter snows may be picturesque, but they can do a number on your roof, sprinklers, and heating bills—at least if you’re not prepared, that is! Luckily, you aren’t powerless in the face of nature. These seven steps will get you ready for the snowy days ahead—no matter how frightful the weather gets!

snowy house

Inspect Your Roof

Roof leaks are unfortunate in any kind of weather, but in winter ice and snow, homes are at a particularly high risk for water damage. That’s why it will pay now to inspect your roof for missing, cracked or warped shingles and rusted flashing. Or just hire one of the pros to have a look. Roofers can safely check over your roof—and know how to spot the telltale signs of a problem before it begins.

Prep Your Sprinkler System

Water sitting in your sprinklers is a recipe for disaster—dealing with a burst pipe is no one’s idea of a good time. To prepare your irrigation system for the weather ahead, disconnect your hoses from faucets to let the water there drain out. Then drain and wind the hoses for winter storage. Next, hit up the sprinklers. Shut off the water at the main valve and turn off the automatic controller. Remove the drain valves to get rid of an excess water. Then disconnect the sprinkler heads and shake out any remaining water. Put them back on and let the weather do its worst!

Clean and Repair Your Gutters

Late fall is the perfect time to get your gutters cleaned and working in tip-top order, for several reasons: they’re likely brimming with leaves and debris this time of year and you’re going to need your drainage system clear and working when winter precipitation heads your way. Inspect your system to ensure that all gutters and downspouts are connected, without any apparent damage. Then hop on a ladder and use one of these quick techniques to get rid of collected leaves and sludge fast.

Tune Up Your Heating System

Few things are worse than waking up on a cold day to find out your heater’s stopped working. Prevent this kind of chilly surprise by giving your heating system a tune up now, before the worst of the cold weather hits. First off, change your furnace filters—it can make a big difference on your unit performance. Next, hire an HVAC professional to check your system levels, electrical connections and generally ensure that no looming issues are right around the corner. Worry-free heating? How cozy does that sound!

Seal Around Windows and Doors

Even a very small crack in window and door seals can have a big impact on your home’s energy bills—and your overall comfort, too! If you find any gaps large enough to fit your fingernail in, you might just need to re-caulk and reseal. Luckily, this is easy to do. Scrape out the existing caulk and reseal it with a bead of smoothed-down silicone sealant. For extra comfort, apply foam tape around the moving parts of all windows and doors, and add a sweep to your door for maximum comfort. Voilà! Instant improvement!

Trim Trees and Bushes

Tree branches loaded with snow and ice are at risk of falling—and when your home is in their path, it can spell trouble for your roof. Take care to trim tree branches and bushes now, after the growing season has ended. Hire an arborist or tree trimming service to do the high-up work, or to handle anything around power lines. You just might skirt disaster!

Stock Up on Winter Supplies

Don’t siege the store with the rest of the pre-storm shoppers for winter supplies like shovels, salt, or wood for the stove. Get these items ahead of time and save yourself the headache when storm predictions hit your area. With your supply cabinet stocked up, you’ll be able to handle anything the winter dishes out. Let it snow, indeed!