Winterizing Your Vacant Home

December 5, 2018

Have you ever come back from a week or two away and realized that you forgot to take the trash out before you left?

It’s no fun returning to a house that stinks to high heaven. Nor is it fun to stress about your house while you are away for weeks or months at a time, particularly when inclement weather strikes and you’re wondering how your gutters are holding up.

This one’s for you, snowbirds and winter travelers – as the cooler, wetter weather sets in and you prepare to head to sunnier climes, follow these tips to leave your house in prime winter shape.

  1. Keep your thermostat set to 50-55 degrees at minimum. We’ve personally seen the effects of burst pipes that froze because vacationers turned their heat off completely during a cold snap, and it’s not pretty.
  2. To ensure that your pipes are truly safe (like in case your furnace stops working), shut off your water at the main and run faucets and toilets until they’re dry. To be extra sure, leave the faucets open to prevent pressure build up in case any remaining water freezes. Just remember to close them when you turn the water back on!
  3. Put insulating covers on all outdoor spigots. Conversely, remember to take these off in the spring. They make lovely homes for yellowjackets.
  4. Turn off your gas line to prevent leaks that could cause explosions (or at least a heck of a gas bill).
  5. Close and lock all windows and doors. A window left cracked open could let in rain, snow or trespassers of any sort. Make sure to check the weather stripping under doors – you’d be amazed how small of a hole rodents can fit through.
  6. Clean your gutters and downspouts! They control the flow of rainwater and snowmelt to protect your roof, walls, foundation and landscape. When gutters are clogged, all that water has to go somewhere, and often times that means a leaky roof or water damage to the interior or exterior of your home.
  7. Unplug everything, including the fridge if you’ll be gone for an extended period of time. Many appliances still draw power, even when they’re not in use; leaving them hooked up also risks damaging them in the event of a power surge.
  8. Have your mail forwarded, held, or collected by a trusted friend. Stop delivery of newspapers or have someone pick them up so that it’s not obvious to strangers that nobody is home. This is one of the top things that thieves look for when considering a target.
  9. If you have a fireplace or wood stove in your home, close the flue damper to keep weather and critters from making their way inside.
  10. Store all nonperishable foods in airtight containers and remove all perishable goods from the house (and don’t forget to take out the trash!). You want your kitchen to smell appealing to dinner guests, not flies and rodents.
  11. Remove valuables and put them in a safety deposit box, or keep them at home in a locked safe if you prefer. Check all door and window locks, and arm your security system. It’s also not a bad idea to notify the police department that the property will be vacant and provide them with emergency notification numbers. If you know your neighbors, let them know you’ll be away – but also be sure to tell them about anyone you might have check on the property so they don’t get mistaken for a thief!