With winter fast approaching, I think it is timely that we talk about what needs to get done to your home in order to prepare for freezing temperatures.  For those of us that live in cold climates, it is imperative that you get things done prior to the first deep freeze.  Over the years, I have made a few mistakes and have lost some nice ceramic pots and blown out a few sprinkler system pipes.  So, here are some things to keep in mind before Old Man Winter comes calling:

Clean out the gardens and prepare plants for winter.  You will appreciate this in the spring.  Extra mulch where needed and cutting back dead plants will help ensure that they come back next year.  A very interesting mulch I have found is called Cocoa Mulch.  It is the husks from cocoa plants and in the sun and with a bit of water, your yard has the faint smell of chocolate!  It looks great in large pots, also.

Store the outdoor furniture properly.  This will help you save some money!  All those great pads for your chairs and loungers?  They need to be properly stored.  Even without snow, that sun can be brutal and those pads are expensive. Same thing for umbrellas.   Also, is that a glass table top that you have?  I had one shatter under a snow load and started storing mine on its side.  If you lose a glass table top, good luck replacing the glass. It is so expensive that you will wind up buying a whole new set. That doesn’t have glass!

Ceramic needs to be stored away properly.  If you like those ceramic pots and that chiminea (outdoor ceramic fireplace), they need proper storage.  Make sure they stay dry all winter.  They can be cold, but have to be dry.  So, cover them completely or store in a shed, just making sure that they are completely dry beforehand. It is the water within the clay of the ceramics that causes cracks and then they degrade over time.  For cold climates, fiberglass works great for outdoor flower pots and cast iron chimineas last for years and years.

Drain the landscaping water system.  Remember to open valves up and allow that water to completely drain from the system.  A “stop and dump” valve with a back-flow preventer at the water supply is the best thing for this.  Do it early but not too early.  With fall typically being dry, your yard needs the moisture before the snow falls.  Consider draining the sprinkler system and hand watering for a few weeks.  But make sure those hoses get put away.  Speaking of which…

Unhook that hose!  Quick before any hard freezes come along. Even with “frost free” water spigots, you will wind up with leaks if you let that hose stay hooked up all winter.  There is a small amount of water that is stored inside the valve and unhooking the hose allows it to drain. The expansion and contraction of that water is what causes that valve to eventually fail.

Drain those hoses.  About 5 years ago, I noticed smoke in my backyard early one cold winter morning. Looking over the fence, I found the side of my neighbor’s house fully engulfed in flames!  We called 911 and I hopped the fence, but could not put water on the fire because both my hose and his were completely frozen solid.  I learned my lesson.  If you ever really NEED a hose…make sure you can use it.

Don’t forget to clean out the gutters.  Ugh.  I hate cleaning out the gutters. But what would you rather have, a few hours less time on that Sunday afternoon, or replace gutters that got damaged from the ice dam in the worst part of winter?  Leaves and pine needles add extra weight and cause ice dams that will eventually damage those gutters.

Add insulation to problem areas. Sometimes it’s a particular window or door. Other times it is attic access doors.  Hardware stores have some amazing products for the do-it-yourselfer.  From expanding -foam insulation and pipe insulation kits to whole window sheeting, take a look and ask for a recommendation at a hardware store.  And go local if you can!

Test your heating system.  Before hard winter hits, change the filters and run the furnace.  Do it while you can air out the house afterward.  Don’t forget that dusty, burning smell that comes with running your furnace the first time each winter.  Also, don’t forget to make sure the chimney flue is where it should be and that furniture is away from floor registers or heating elements.

I don’t know about you, but these are the things that I have learned living in an area that has all 4 seasons. And season 4 can hit pretty hard at times!

San Francisco Peaks After A Heavy Snow Fall


How to leave a home unattended for awhile (not all winter, but for “awhile”):  

  • Turn off the main water supply to the house.  Just in case you have a power failure and the pipes freeze.
  • Turn the thermostat to 58 degrees or higher.  This prevents drywall damage and allows heat to penetrate the walls to keep pipes from freezing. 
  • Open all cabinets that have sinks or plumbing underneath. This allows the warmer air to keep those pipes warmer. This is especially important for sinks located on an outside wall.
  • Open all bedroom doors and closet.  Again, this allows warmer air to circulate.
  • Use a house check service to make sure everything is OK. Contact me for a recommendation.

That’s it!  Stay warm all winter!  Next up:  How to “Winterize” a home and leave it all winter!  Perfect for those that have second homes or are thinking about getting a second home. 

Gary Nelson is a lifelong resident of Flagstaff, Arizona and is the Delegated Associate Broker at Realty Executives of Flagstaff.  Find your own part of Flagstaff at www.GaryNelsonGroup.com.