Winterizing your vacation home is best accomplished when you develop a checklist of tasks that need to be completed and then follow that list faithfully. The major areas a winterization list should include:
1. Plumbing. Plumbing is one of the most important areas to address when winterizing a vacation or seasonal home. If the furnace fails, any water in the house could possibly freeze and cause major damage. Make sure the water system is turned off at its supply point and any pipes are cleared to prevent possible freezing and bursting. Further, the toilet as well as the shower and sink traps should be flushed and protected with non-toxic antifreeze.
2. Appliances. Appliances need winterizing attention, too. It’s also important to drain any appliance that may hold water, including the water heater, washing machines, dishwashers or icemakers. Also make sure the refrigerator and freezer are properly defrosted and propped open to prevent mold and mildew from growing. Unplug all devices that don’t need to be powered and shut off the gas valves for any gas appliances.
3. Furnace. The thermostat should be turned down to about 55 degrees to help prevent freezing problems unless the home is an area that doesn’t get too cold in the winter. If the heater will be turned off over the winter, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for winterizing the system.
4. Structural repairs. Check the roof and siding to make sure it’s secure and intact. If a shingle or piece were to blow off while the house is empty and go unnoticed, it could cause bigger water or structural damage problems. Examine the exterior around windows, doors and any pipe openings and caulk any areas that could let air, water, bugs or rodents into the house.
5. Outdoor work. When winterizing, be sure to clean up the yard and trim back bushes from the home to make it harder for burglars to hide. Secure all outdoor furniture in a locked garage or shed.
6. Indoor cleaning. Thoroughly clean the house before closing it for winter to help prevent mold, mildew or insect and rodent problems. Remove all perishable items and any boxed food that animals could eat. Move electronics, TVs or computers from plain sight so anyone looking in the windows won’t see them. Consider removing any other small valuables from the premises altogether.
7. Security. Make sure all windows including storms are closed and locked and sliding doors are secured with bars in the track to prevent entry. Check door locks to make sure the latch plates are screwed into the wall studs and not just the doorframe. Close the curtains and if any neighbors are permanent residents consider giving a trustworthy one a spare key to check on the place. If there are no permanent residents nearby your vacation home, arrange to have someone check on the place weekly, or consider installing a security system that is monitored remotely.
8. Insurance. It’s important to do an insurance check-up with an insurance agent or broker to make sure the home’s policy adequately covers the home while it is closed. Seasonal or vacation homes often require a specialized insurance policy that addresses the specific situation of a homeowner who only occupies a home for part of the year and closes up and winterizes that vacation home the rest of the year.