Winter weather can put a strain on your patience – and it can put a strain on both your home’s exterior and interior. If you don’t keep up with the routine maintenance (plus a little extra) during the cold weather, you can end up with some costly repairs coming up this spring.

What’s the best way to protect your home from the damage that comes with cold, sleet, ice and snow (not to mention that pesky freeze-thaw-freeze cycle that’s common this time of year)? We have some ideas for you!

If you want to keep your home in tip-top shape this winter, here is our guide:

1. Get Your Heating System Checked

If your heating unit is going to conk out on you, the odds are high that it will be right in the middle of the night on either a weekend or the coldest night of the year – so get an inspection and tune-up.

A pro will not only check for any safety issues but also make sure that all of the small preventative measures are handled. Hoses, drainage systems that leak, the vents, the heat exchanger and other items may need to be updated – but the expense of those updates is nothing compared to what it could cost you if the entire unit breaks down in the middle of a cold snap.

2. Have Your Chimney Cleaned

There’s nothing more comforting in the middle of a cold winter night than the warm glow of a fire in your hearth – but you won’t be able to enjoy that if your chimney is clogged with soot, leaves or an old bird’s nest that’s gotten trapped up there.

If you haven’t done so already, hiring someone to do the inspection and cleaning should probably be at the top of your list (before any more logs go on your fire).

3. Check Those Smoke Alarms and Other Warning Devices

We cannot stress enough how important it is to make checking your smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors and radon detectors at least yearly. If you didn’t check your devices when Daylight Saving ended, make it part of your end-of-the-year routine.

Along with replacing the batteries, you should also look for the button on each device that allows you to run a test alert. (If your alarms are older models without these, it may be time to replace them altogether.)

4. Add Insulation to Your Water Pipes

Extreme cold snaps can cause the water in your pipes to freeze – and a broken pipe leads to flooded basements, washrooms and other major messes.

To prevent problems with your pipes, make sure that you never set your thermostat lower than 55-62 degrees, even when you aren’t going to be home during the day or plan to be gone for the weekend on vacation. (Lowering your thermostat when you aren’t home does help on the heating bills, but you also don’t want to let the house get overly frigid.)

You can also add a little extra insulation to any exposed pipes in your basement. A quick trip to the local hardware store and a few hours’ worth of effort can make sure that your pipes are protected.

5. Clean Your Gutters and Watch for Ice Dams

One of the biggest problems you face with winter weather and your home is a buildup of ice around your eaves. These ice dams are incredibly heavy, and they can do massive amounts of damage to your roof, crack your siding and cause structural problems with your chimney.

The main key to avoiding problems is to make sure that your gutters are clean before the snow falls. When gutters get filled up with leaves and debris, that causes water to back up and ice dams can form more easily. If you haven’t already had your gutters cleaned for the season, now is the time to do it.

You may also want to invest in a roof rake. These can be used to gently clear snow from the lower parts of your roof before ice dams can form.

6. Seal Up Any Air Leaks

Air leaks are energy wasters – and, aside from the fact that they can leave your house with strange cold spots, energy waste can cost you a lot of dollars. Walk around your home and see if you feel any influx of cold air when you pass certain windows or doors. If you do, it’s time to get out the caulk and weather-stripping and seal things up.

If you have a screened-in sun porch or a closed-in patio, this is also a good time to think about hanging plastic inside the screens. That will help keep the snow off your porch or patio when the winter winds are blowing and provide a little extra barrier against the chill for your home.

7. Get Your Emergency Kit in Order

The occasional winter storm is a Midwest inevitability – so it’s just smart to be ready. Thanks to stormy weather, power outages across the nation have doubled every five years since 2000 – and they’re not slowing down.

You need to have some basic supplies on hand: emergency candles (the kinds that come in a tall glass jar so that you don’t need to look for holders or worry about wax dripping on anything), lighter, non-perishable food items that can be eaten without cooking (think “granola bars” and “crackers and peanut butter”) and enough potable water for everybody in the household. Make sure that you also know where there are plenty of extra blankets, just in case they are needed.

We know that it sounds like a lot, but you can do these tasks and forget them while you settle in for a long, cozy winter here in Indy!

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