The Winterized Getaway: Protect your vacation home from seasonal threats
Outside the home
+ Clear all gutters so that rainwater, melting
Whether youll be visiting again soon for winter fun or saying farewell until summer, nows the time to ensure that your vacation home stays cozy and secure as outdoor temperatures dip. Water leaks, bursting pipes, structural damage and invading varmints are all possibilities when youre away for any period of time, so make an around-the-house tour with the following checklist.
Outside the home
- + Clear all gutters so that rainwater, melting snow and ice can successfully flow away from the structure instead of forming ice dams and dangerously seeping into walls and ceilings. If falling leaves, needles and other debris are season-long threats, consider adding gutter-guard screens to keep the system clear.
- + Trim trees and remove dead branches to prevent property-damaging breaks caused by the weight and force of winter winds, snow and ice.
- + Tune up any loose entry steps and railings, and add non-skid strips to treads for a better foothold during wet weather.
- + Shut off your homes water supply at the main valve, which is usually found on the front, street-facing side of a structures lower level (if its located in a crawl space and difficult to get to, your plumber can add an extension to put it within reach).
- + Make sure all hose bibs are turned off at their inside valves, and leave faucets open to drain away any lingering water that could freeze and break fixtures later.
- + Store all outdoor furniture, cooking appliances and recreational gear, or protect items with weather-proof covers.
- + Keep rodents from making themselves at home in your hideaway by covering chimneys with screening and blocking any possible entries in the foundation or around the eaves.
Inside the home
- + Except for such essentials as the heating system, security system and outdoor lighting, all electrical components should be shut down. Use carefully marked breakers in your homes circuit box as a guide, and also unplug all appliances from outlets.
- + While youre away, adjust the heat to a minimum of 62 degrees to maintain proper interior humidity and prevent the development of molds and mildew. You might also like to add such helpers as a freeze alarm and remote climate control; both of these can be operated via phone from your primary residence.
- + With the main water supply shut down, drain indoor faucets, toilets and tanks, and pour a small amount of non-toxic marine antifreeze into toilet bowls and drains to prevent other surprise breaks.
- + Make sure your smoke, fire and carbon monoxide alarms are in working order, and consult your home security provider regarding the addition of heat and moisture detectors that can alert you to unexpected developments.
- + Bump up insulation in the attic, basement and crawl spaces. A well-insulated attic can prevent heat from escaping through the roof to temporarily melt ice and snow, where it can refreeze to form a base for more chilly volume and lead to ice damming or a roof collapse. Plenty of insulation in basements and crawl spaces will help to keep pipes from freezing.
- + Empty and defrost the refrigerator, leaving the door ajar and the unit unplugged.
- + Discard any food, toiletries or medications containing liquids that could freeze, and place food packaged in paper or plastic in sealed metal containers to prevent snacking by visiting varmints.
Note: Tom Kraeutler is the Home Improvement Editor for AOL and host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program. To find a local radio station, download the shows podcast or sign-up for Toms free weekly e-newsletter, visit the programs website.