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How to prepare your home for snow and ice

November 23, 2015
Be sure your home is ready to handle the added strain of heavy snow and ice this winter.

Winter weather has arrived and many parts of the country are already seeing low temperatures and snowfall. If you want to keep your home warm and toasty, and keep your friends and family safe from falls and injuries while walking outside, then make sure you take care of these crucial winter maintenance items.

Roof and attic

Simple maintenance items can go a long way toward preventing costly damage. As the Insurance Information Institute noted, cleaning out your gutters before cold weather sets in can prevent ice damming, a condition where frozen water becomes trapped on the roof and later seeps into your home's walls or crawl spaces. Installing gutter guards and trimming back surrounding trees can also cut down on debris in your gutters and help prevent ice dams, the institute noted.

"Cleaning out your gutters before cold weather sets in can prevent ice damming.”

According to This Old House, the roof is also a way for heat to escape your home. If you have an unsealed attic hatch or whole-house fan, be sure to cover them with weatherstripping. Adding installation to your attic floor can also help lock in heat to the inhabited areas of the home.

Walkways and driveways

With winter weather comes snow, ice and an increased risk of injury related to slips or falls.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency suggested homeowners should give special care to their walkways during cold weather. Rock salt and other environmentally safe products can be used to melt ice, and sand can be used to add traction.

"Rock salts and other environmentally safe products can be used to melt ice.”

As Redfin reported, another option is to install a snow melting system in your driveway. These systems use electronic cables or hydronic tubing that heat the pavement with the flip of a switch, and some systems can even be programmed to turn on automatically once the temperature falls to a set level.

When clearing driveways and walkways, it's also important to be mindful of injuries that can be associated with shoveling snow. As the Occupational Safety and Health Administration noted removing snow increases the risks for back injuries, heart attacks and dehydration. OSHA advised warming-up your muscles before shoveling and taking frequent breaks inside heated areas. Be sure to use proper posture:  keep your back straight, lift with your legs and do not twist your upper body. Whenever possible, try to push the snow instead of lifting it.

Air leaks

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, one of the best ways to save money and warm up your house in the winter is to eliminate air leaks by caulking, sealing and weather stripping. Easy and affordable ways to eliminate air leaks include adding weatherstripping under doors and around window seals, and covering your kitchen exhaust fan when not in use. For larger gaps around windows or doors, you can use a foam sealant.

More ambitious energy improvements include replacing all single-pane windows with double-pane varieties or installing storm windows.