Winter months can test the safety and durability of our homes like no other time of year, especially here in Washington. With all of the rain we get — and our increasingly cold winters — it’s more important than ever to make sure your home is set up to keep you and your family safe and cozy throughout the season.
The guide below will help you check the right boxes to protect against damage caused by unpredictable weather.
Protect outdoor water faucets and fixtures
Frozen pipes are a homeowner’s nightmare, but luckily it’s easy to protect against them during the winter months. First, detach the hose from the water spigot. Then, insulate the pipe. This is an easy thing to DIY — you can use a towel or newspaper to wrap the outside of the spigot. You can also find inexpensive styrofoam faucet insulators at most hardware stores — these create an air pocket around the faucet and perform slightly better than the towel method.
Weatherize windows with a storm window kit
Whether your home is new or historic, adding extra insulation to drafty windows can greatly improve your home’s energy efficiency (and your comfort) by keeping the heat in and cold out. Inexpensive storm window kits are surprisingly effective and you can find them at many hardware stores. The kit consists of crystal clear plastic film and double-stick tape; the only tool you'll need is a blow dryer. First, wash and dry your windows. Line the edge of the window with double-sided tape. Affix the plastic sheet to the tape; then, run a hairdryer over the film. Heating the film makes the wrinkles go away as it shrinks to a taught, temporary storm window.
Check smoke detectors
Winter is a great time to do a smoke detector check as you can keep your slippers on to do it, and the safety pay-off is big — you'll feel great knowing things are working well. To check your smoke detector, find and press the test button on the face of the device until you hear that ear-shattering beep — that means everything is working correctly. If you don't hear anything, that's a sign it's time to replace the batteries. Be sure to test the detector again after replacing the batteries to ensure everything is working correctly. Test the detectors regularly (not just in winter) and a good rule of thumb is to replace the battery once per year.
Protect siding from dirt and mud
Winter’s harsh wind and rain can kick up dirt and leave your siding looking messy. Or, maybe you were overzealous with your gardening in the summer and the soil is touching the siding. Wood siding will rot quickly with moist soil against it, so clear away any dirt from the siding itself. Soil against a concrete foundation is fine, but keep it below the lowest siding board. Brush dirt off of the siding with a broom or rag (go easy so as not to scratch or take off paint). Then, using a hose, spray water in a top-to-bottom motion until clean. Repeat this after intense bouts of wind or torrential rain to keep dirt at bay.
Add outdoor lighting
Slippery outdoor paths can pose double the tripping hazard in dark winter months. Adding exterior lighting to walkways is fairly simple and totally DIY-able. Many lighting systems work on solar power and are light-sensitive, so you won’t have to remember to switch them on each night. For a how-to on installing outdoor lighting, check out our DIY tutorial.
Slip-proof outdoor stairs
Making your outdoor stairs slip-proof can be as simple as applying non-skid tape to each step. If you aren’t a fan of the aesthetic of black tape on your steps, you can also treat outdoor steps with a waterproof coating. To see how it’s done, check out our step-by-step instructions for how to rainproof stairs.
We hope this guide helps you keep your home safe and comfortable this winter season! For more cold-weather tips, check out our tutorial for protecting your fire pit from rust and these window washing tips.