Winter storms are like unexpected guests: they demand your attention, but a touch of preparation can allow you to accept and even enjoy their presence. A well-prepared host or hostess always has supplies on hand for a quick, light meal with carefully paired beverages. Likewise, certain preparations can help you welcome winter’s icy blows, as boreal climate schadenfreude sets in. This common seasonal emotion arises when one feels cozy inside a toasty, safe home while holwing nasties swirl outside the threshold.
Various levels of winter preparedness exist. Most home and business owners know to maintain a disaster kit including a store of non-perishable food, blankets, and the like. Many even check fire extinguishers and smoke alarms regularly, knowing that fires more often occur in the winter. Truly prepared owners think to check the functionality of snow removal equipment and alternative emergency heat sources. Fireplaces should be cleared, snow-blowers tested, and fuel purchased. The savviest owners prepare the building itself to stand up to inclement weather. Here are a few steps you can take to fortify your home or business against the most formidable winter storms.
Keep Moving: Maintaining Flow, Even in the Dead of Winter
- Clean out gutters. Although you may dread lugging out the ladder, a few minutes of work in the crisp autumnal sunshine can save you from hours of damp, bone-chilling work exposed to the elements later, after debris-heavy gutters burst. Keep your gutters functional, and you’ll keep your basement dry and your foundation solid.
- Pad your Piping. Frozen pipes are winter’s psychological thriller—will they burst? If so, how long until you can take a hot shower? And how many greenbacks will you have to slap down to return to the civilized state of indoor plumbing? Increase your peace of mind by padding your pipes before winter hits. Newspapers may be wrapped around pipes to block out the cold. Covering the newspaper with plastic will block out moisture as well. When thermometers take a nose dive, leave your faucet dripping to encourage flow. Finally, sit back and enjoy your new-found confidence—right after you locate the water valves, so you know how to shut off water if your pipes do happen to spring a leak.
Winterizing Your Nest: Stopping Up Your Home’s Nooks and Crannies
- Install Insulation. Scope out your buildings rarely used spaces, such as attics. How’s the insulation up there? Apply the same healthy criticism to your walls. Properly installed insulation reduces the amount of heat that escapes your home.
- Layer your Windows. Windows are crucial conveyors of natural light, a precious commodity in the dark winter months. However, windows are also a major location for heat loss. Install storm windows to provide an additional later of insulation. The second layer of glass in storm windows creates a strip of still air, which prevents heat from escaping. Covering windows with plastic from the inside is an alternative, less costly method for reducing heat loss.
- Caulk or weather-strip doors and window-sills. Once again, it’s not surprising that windows and doors are the biggest culprits in allowing heat to escape. Like the measures listed above, caulking and weather-stripping can saves energy and money by keeping heat in, boosting the efficiency of your home’s heating system. It can also reduce the likelihood of water seeping into your basement or attic causing water damage.
Plan for the Unexpected:
Tragically, even the best-insulated homes with smooth pipes and clean gutters are no match for some winter storms. Consider your area’s history of natural disasters, and plan accordingly.
- Procure Flood Insurance. Flood plains are a tempting choice for real estate development—their flat, open nature makes them easy to transform into welcoming neighborhoods. However, their low elevation also increases the likelihood that rising water will reach homes, especially during spring thaws. If you are in a flood-prone area, consider purchasing flood insurance, which is not included in most home owners insurance policies. Ask your insurance agent about the National Flood Insurance Program if your home is in a flood plain.
- Prepare Landscaping. Take a worse-case scenario tour of your yard, scanning for branches or trees that might break off and fall on the house. Trim away dead branches that could break when weighed down with winter ice and snow. Some pruning projects are just too large for individuals, so don’t hesitate to contact an arborist for a professional opinion.
Follow these steps, and you’ll be prepared when the season’s first shocking storm system rolls through.
~Ben Anton, 2008