How to Prepare Your House for Winter

How to Prepare Your House for Winter

With cold weather approaching, it’s time to take a couple days and get your home ready for the winter weather. To help you get started, here is a checklist with some of the most important tasks to get your house ready for the snow and cold.

Check for Leaks

In the winter, you want to make sure your home is a fortress. You don’t want any of your precious heat escaping, and you don’t want any of the winter weather getting in. To help you figure out your home’s leaky spots, you can hire a professional to do an energy audit on your home. This is a great option if you don’t have the time, or the desire to climb on your roof.

Windows: Swap out your screen windows for storm windows. During that process, check around your windows to make sure they are well sealed. To help identify small gaps, carefully hold a lit match or lighter a couple inches from the frame of the window. Move the flame around, always making sure it’s a safe distance from surfaces and fabrics, and watch for the flame to “dance.” If the flame moves, there is air movement in that spot. Use caulk to seal around the frame, or use a plastic window insulation kit to cover an entire window.

Heavy curtains will help keep more heat from escaping through your windows.

Doors: Replace your screen doors with storm doors. Again, check the seals during that process. If you can see any light around your doors, you have a significant gap for warm air to escape. Even if you can’t see any light, you still want to check the rubbery weather stripping around the door. If it’s brittle or cracking, it’s not doing its job. Installing a new weather stripping kit from a hardware store is a quick fix to make sure your doors are sealed.

Ducts: As time goes by, seals on duct work can come loose. Check your duct work to make sure your ducts aren’t letting any heat out into your attic, which can cause snow to melt and refreeze as ice dams on your roof.

Roof: Before winter arrives is a great time to check your roof for the season. Climb up (or at least get on a high ladder) and examine the shingles. Replace any that are missing or broken.

SEE ALSO: Who Knew's How to Prepare Your House for Winter

Make Sure Your Heating Systems Work

Furnace: Before it gets too cold, have your heating system checked out by a professional. The first really chilly day of winter is not the time to figure out your heater isn’t working. Have a heating and air company come out, check the systems, and change the filters, and you’ll be ready for Old Man Winter when he arrives.

Water Heater: The end of fall is a great time to drain your water heater. This should get done once a year, so if you haven’t done it recently, make sure you do before you find you only have really cold water in your house.

Chimney: If you have a chimney, make sure you sweep it (or have it professionally swept) before lighting any fires for the season. Removing the excess soot, as well as the birds and animals that made their homes in chimneys throughout the year, will help prevent fires and smoke damage. Also, examine the damper to make sure it’s still looking good. If it’s bent or warped, warm air will be able to escape through the chimney.

Reverse Ceiling Fans: If you have ceiling fans, now is the time to reverse them. Putting them in reverse will help blow down warm air that would otherwise be stuck near the ceiling, which will likely mean you can turn your heat down a degree or two.

If your fan runs on a remote, there is likely a button on the remote to switch the direction. If your fan runs on a switch, look for a small toggle or switch on the fan motor to make the change.

Be Ready Outdoors

Gutters: Make sure your gutters are ready to handle the winter precipitation. Empty the fallen leaves and anything else that has gathered in the gutters. Make sure they are secure to the roof, and repair them as needed. Also, make sure the drain pipe from your gutters is long enough and directing winter rains and melting snow away from your home’s foundation.

Water Lines: Prevent burst pipes by turning off all exterior water lines or insulating the pipes. If you have a sprinkler or irrigation system, drain the lines to make sure no water is left to damage the underground lines.

RELATED: Domestic CEO's Fall and Winter Home Maintenance Checklist

Tools: Be ready to get yourself out of the house by making sure all your winter tools are in good working condition. Turn on the snow blower, visually check the shovels, and stock up on salt or deicers. Having everything in its place and ready to go will give you a good start on digging out from a big blizzard.

Prepare Your Safety Kits

Pantry: During the winter, it’s always a good idea to keep extra food supplies in your pantry in case a big storm prevents you from getting to the store. Boxed and canned foods are the best because they take no electricity to store (in case that goes out), and have a long shelf life. Stock your pantry with a week’s worth of pastas, canned fruits and vegetables, soups, rice, beans, and bottled water, and you’ll be ready if the big one hits your town.

Boxed and canned foods are the best food to keep in stock because they take no electricity to store (in case that goes out), and have a long shelf life.

Lights: If a winter storm takes out your electricity, make sure you are ready with flashlights and candles to light your home. Keep flashlights in every room, and teach your kids where they are in case they need to find them in the dark.

Heat: If you have a wood burning fireplace, keep a solid stash of wood ready in case your power goes out. If you are in an area prone to losing power, you may also want to invest in a generator to run your furnace a couple hours a day during power outages. A good stash of blankets and comforters will help you get through chilly days and cold nights.

Detectors: Winter means an increase of home fires and carbon monoxide leaks. Make sure you and your family are protected by replacing the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and testing them before winter hits.

All the tasks on this list are important to get done before the snow starts falling. If you don’t have the time to do them all, hire a trusted professional to help you knock a few off tasks off your list. You’ll be thankful that you have everything done and ready as soon as the first big storm hits.

I’m the Domestic CEO, helping you love your home.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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17 Tips to Transform Your Outdoor Space

Whether it's improving your garden or making your patio BBQ-friendly, these clever tips will have you taking your space to the next level, all for practically nothing.

Beautiful Natural Spaces

1. Bring in the Birds
Don’t throw out those net bags that onions and citrus fruits come in! In early spring, fill them with anything that might appeal to nest-building birds: pet hair, human hair, lint, plant clippings. Then tie off the bag and hang so birds can help themselves and nest nearby. You can use the same bags to serve suet to your feathered friends in the winter.

2. DIY Birdbath
Want to try a birdbath but don’t want the expense and commitment of those heavy commercial types? Simply use a sturdy tomato cage as your base, topped with a round drainage tray for potted plants. It’s easy to move and very affordable! Place some colorful marbles or pebbles in the tray before adding water—the brighter the color, the better to attract birds.

3. Get Reddy for Hummingbirds
These fast fliers are attracted to red. But if your garden color scheme is less fire engine and more pastel, you can fake it. Just wire some red silk flowers around the garden until they discover nectar-filled flowers you’ve offered in other colors.

4. Make Your Own Nectar
Don’t spend money on hummingbird nectar when it’s so simple to make! Just dissolve 1 part sugar in 3 parts water, then add a few drops of orange extract or orange juice. Use it immediately, or keep it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

5. The Butterfly Water Cooler
Butterflies like puddles to gather around and drink. Make a butterfly water station out of an old cookie sheet or big saucer lined with gravel. You can also “plant” an old mug up to its rim in the soil, and fill it with water when rainwater doesn’t keep it supplied.

6. Baby Your Garden
Got some old baby gear in the basement or attic? Make your family wonder by getting it out! Then take it outside. Baby gates, spindle cribs, and even the metal springs from cribs make easy trellises you can train flowers or vegetable vines to climb.

7. Stones From a Tree
Having a tree taken down? Put it to good use! Cut some “slices” (about 2 inches thick) to use as stepping-stones.

8. Mulch with Souvenirs
Every beach vacation, we bring home more shells and stones than we can use for decoration around the house. So we now bring many into our outdoor spaces. They make perfect mulch and accents around plants, just like purchased pebbles from home centers (without the steep price)!

Outdoor Problems Solved!

9. A Sweet Concrete Cleaner
Powdered lemonade mix can come to the rescue to help scrub away stains on your concrete! Simply add a few drops of water to the drink mix, just enough to form a paste. Apply the paste to a concrete stain and use a stiff scrub brush to scrub the area clean.

Entertaining Ideas

10. Lanterns for Much Less
Trendy outdoor décor stores sell lanterns for a pretty penny. But you can make your own with all kinds and sizes of jars—from baby food and minced garlic to pasta sauce and even large pickle jars. Once they’re clean with the labels removed, simply place a votive candle in the jar. You can add pebbles or sand to the jar to raise the height of the candle or steady a taller candle. Want a hanging lantern? Fine-gauge wire can be bent to form a handle, with the rest wrapped around the mouth of the jar to secure.

11. Create Your Own Luminarias
Have empty tin cans you can repurpose? Fill them with water and freeze overnight. Once frozen solid, you can use a large nail and hammer to punch holes in a decorative design on the cans. Need a guide? Draw the design you want with a dry-erase marker that you can wipe off later. After the design is complete, simply let the water thaw, empty, and dry the can. Light a tea light inside for your own custom luminaria!

12. Color Swatch Your Lights
White string lights can go from simple to sensational with a trip to the paint counter—or maybe even your junk drawer! Collect some paint swatch strips in fabulous, bright colors. Curl them into cylinders (with the color sides facing out) and secure with clear tape. Slip one sleeve over each bulb on your light string, and attach it to the wire with tape or a small binder clip. Magical mini lampshades for free!

13. Ladder Up
Need more serving space while entertaining? Place plywood planks across the rungs of a stepladder. Runners can cover the plywood for a fancier look. Now you have a tiered serving station for food or drinks that tucks away again until the next time you need it!

14. Protect Those Drinks
Keep bugs out of drinks by supplying cupcake liners. They easily slip over the tops of cans and glasses. And you can pop a straw through them if desired. Put a stack in a mason jar for a pretty display that you can label with the intended use.

15. Forget the Ice
Replace the ice for your drink cooler, tub, or kiddie pool with frozen water balloons. To make them, fill the balloons two-thirds full and stick in the freezer. When the drinks are gone and the ice has melted at the end of the day, have fun!

16. Condiment Cleanup
Repurpose inexpensive, clear soap dispenser pumps as condiment servers. You’ll upgrade your picnic table from plastic bottles, and make topping that burger or hotdog easier, with less mess.

17. S’more Solutions
Is it feeling crowded around the fire, or are flames rising too high for kids to toast s’mores? Line terra-cotta pots with aluminum foil. Then add charcoal and light. These handy little cookers allow each person to have their own fire to toast marshmallows with ease. Sticking with one big fire but need to toast a lot of marshmallows for the hungry masses? Use a clean metal rake to fit them all over the fire at once.

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16 Natural Remedies to Relieve Itchy Mosquito Bites

Papaya

Can’t stop scratching a bug bite? Just place a piece of papaya (the fleshy part, not the skin) on it. Papaya contains an enzyme called “papain,” whose protein-digestive properties helps to decompose insect venom, which will stop both itching and swelling.

Vapo-Rub

That jar of vapor rub at the back of your medicine cabinet isn’t just good for breaking up chest congestion, you can also use it to stop mosquito and other bug bites from itching and swelling. Just dab a little on the spot, and you’ll stop scratching in seconds, thanks to the combination of menthol and eucalyptus.

Whipped Cream

Covered in mosquito bites? Get some relief with a surprising ingredient: whipped topping. The same nondairy topping that you’d use for ice cream or pies also helps stop insect bites from being so darn itchy.

Mouthwash

To help reduce the itchiness associated with insect bites, try applying an antiseptic mouthwash (such as Listerine) to the area with a cotton ball.

See also: How to Get Rid of Bad Breath Naturally

Bar Soap

Ease mosquito and other bug bites by rubbing them with some dry bar soap like Ivory. It will provide quick relief from itching!

If you don’t have any bar soap on hand, you could also use hand soap (it’s just harder to keep on the bite!).

Tea

Tame that painful bug bite with a little tea. Soak a bag of black tea in warm water and then apply it to the bite. The tannic acid will help reduce swelling and pain.

Alka Seltzer

If it’s bug season and your family has got the itch, apply this solution to the affected areas for relief: Add two tablets of Alka Seltzer to a half a glass of water. Use a cotton ball to rub this into your bites, and let it sit for 30 minutes

Milk of Magnesia

Want to eliminate the itch from a bug bite? Look no further than the milk of magnesia in your medicine cabinet. Dab a little bit on the spot, and the antacid will stop the itchiness in its tracks.

Hemorrhoid Cream

You may have heard that hemorrhoid cream can relieve undereye puffiness, but did you know it could also help your mosquito and other bug bites? Applied topically, it will reduce the pain and the swelling of an insect bite.

Deodorant

We love this quick fix for an insect bite! Just rub antiperspirant or deodorant over the spot and the itch will go away. It contains some of the same ingredients as anti-itch creams.

Related: 6 All Natural Ways to Get Rid of Body Odor

Antacid

Here’s a clever use for that roll of antacids you’ve got at the bottom of your purse: an itch reliever! Crush one tablet with enough water to make a paste and spread it over any itchy spots for relief, especially mosquito bites.

Thousand Island Dressing

We know this one sounds a little goofy, but it actually works. The next time you get a bug bite, try applying a little thousand island dressing to stop the itch.

Toothpaste

Have a bug bite that won’t stop itching? Get relief with a dab of toothpaste (the white, non-gel variety works best) and it will take the itch away as well as a dab of calamine lotion does.

Rubbing Alcohol

A great way to stop mosquito (and other) bites from itching is with a dab of diluted rubbing alcohol. In fact, ammonia is the main ingredient in many of the itch-relief products currently on the market. Just mix four parts water for every one part alcohol. You can also use ammonia in place of the rubbing alcohol.

Caution: Don’t apply rubbing alcohol or ammonia if the skin is broken near the bite! It will sting.

Meat Tenderizer

If you’ve just come back from a long weekend camping, you’ll love this tip. Use meat tenderizer to treat insect bites! Moisten a teaspoon of tenderizer with a little water and rub it immediately into the skin. Commercial meat tenderizers contain papain, the same enzyme as papaya. It actually decomposes insect venom, easing itchiness and swelling.

Aspirin

The next time you get a bug bite, crush an aspirin tablet and rub it into damp skin. The active ingredient in aspirin, salicylic acid, is an anti-inflammatory, and it will reduce the pain of the swelling and itching. 

Just for fun: How to Solve Your Biggest Summer Problems

For more ways to deal with insects and bites from all around the internet, check out our Bug and Pest Natural Remedies board on Pinterest. And don’t forget to follow us on Instagram!

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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