Winterize Your Second Home or Vacation Home Checklist
I saw my first snowflakes this morning and knew winter is already here before Thanksgiving. Have you had your second home or vacation home fully winterized yet? Freezing temperatures, icy winds, snow, sleet and power outages are on the horizon. Avoid the heartache, expense and stress of burst pipes, critters moving in and destroyed landscaping. Protect the house for the winter and enjoy and easier stress-free time opening it back up in the spring. The question becomes what to do yourself and what to hire the professionals to take care of for you.
Make a list of what needs fixing. Go room by room. Waiting for parts over the winter is a lot easier than in June.
Check all the outside recreational toys – make plans to have them repaired over the winter.
Make a list of what you want to bring with you next year
Hire a plumber to fully winterize the plumbing and anti-freeze the drains including:
- Shut off Main Water Valve
- Washing Machine
- Outside Faucets
- Hot Water Heater
- Air Conditioning
- Furnace Humidifier
- Hot Tub
- Sump Pump check
- Well Pump
- Water Softener
- Hire a HVAC company to check, clean and service the heating & cooling systems
- Hire a swimming pool company to close the swimming pool. You don’t want them drained all the way around here since the water acts as support for the walls. An inflatable pool cover keeps debris out and gives ice room to expand and contract.
- Hire landscapers to do the dreaded fall yard clean up.
- Hire a snowplow service (ask your landscaper) to keep the driveway clear. You want the fire truck to be able to access your home if something did go wrong.
- Hire a property manager, real estate agent or permanent resident to check on the home regularly.
- Install a security system
- Put all the storms down and/or cover all the vulnerable windows
- Close and lock all the windows
- Lock all the doors
- Remove any valuable belongings like electronics, tools, guns, sentimental items
- Have all the mail forwarded to your winter address
- Stop the newspaper delivery
- Let the local police and fire departments know that you are away and how to contact you.
- Arrange for a property manager, real estate agent or permanent resident to check your summer house regularly
Inside the House
- Leave the heat on.
Many summer homes were built to be year round permanent homes and are not constructed to freeze in the winter. It is also very humid in this area and heat acts like a good dehumidifier and help to prevent that moldy musty smell. You can install a low heat thermostat than can be set at 40F. instead of the normal 55F thermostat to save on fuel. This will also protect your foundation. Several freeze-thaw cycles can lead to a cracked concrete foundation.
- Set up automatic delivery for fuel oil or gas.
- Turn off any nonessential circuit breakers. The first time is tricky but you can go through and label them once and make every other time easier. Consider tagging them with green and red stickers to make the process quicker. The ones to definitely leave on include the security system, front porch light, heating system.
- Clean out the refrigerator. Unplug, clean and leave the door propped open
- Unplug all electronics and appliances
- Turn off the gas (natural and propane) call the company to assist with this. Unless this is your heating fuel.
- Thoroughly clean the house. Remember old stains are harder to get out than new ones.
- Remove any liquid medicines, makeup or toiletries that may freeze to the shelves
- Store any food in metal containers to keep the critters out
- Put mouse traps in the basement and kitchen
- Replace batteries in smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors
Outside the House
- Inspect the roof for any loose shingles and repair them. (Binoculars help)
- Clean the gutters. Build up in the gutters can cause a backup and an ice dam on the roof. Install screens to keep leaves and sticks out.
- Prune any tree limbs near the house. You don’t want those branches crashing through the roof.
- Call the utility company if branches have grown across the lines
- Drain water from outside faucets – Install frost free faucets
- Store lawn furniture, tools and grill
- Bring in any padded items so they won’t become a breeding ground for bugs and mildew.
- Check all the screens and repair/replace any torn ones.
- Winterize your lawn mower by draining out the fuel and store in well-ventilated shed. Run the lawn mower until you are sure all the fuel is spent
- Remove annuals
- Cover perennials with hay
- Mulch flowerbeds
- Protect shrubs from cold winter and falling snow with wooden protection
- Rake the leaves.
- Disconnect hoses.
- Have the chimney cleaned. Cap the chimney.
- Check and replace any loose weather stripping around outside doors and garage doors.
Mice can get through a space as thin as a dime.
- Stop up all holes into the house. Put wire mesh screens on any vents to keep out the chipmunks, birds, squirrels, raccoons, mice, red fox and skunks.
- Put away the bird feeders. There are bears in the area and there is nothing they like more than a free snack.
Now you have a list of what should be done to winterize your vacation home. Impressive list of things to do, I agree. It is well worth the effort to protect your second home investment. I have seen frozen homes and it is a tragic sight. One house froze over the outside door making the job of getting in to turn off the water a challenge that resulted in taking an axe to the door. I suggest making a check off list that corresponds to your property so that nothing gets forgotten now or in the future. For Seacoast New Hampshire and Southern Maine homes I can be called to do a drive by check, contact me at or call 603-610-8511 for more information.
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© Shannon Aldrich, Keller
Williams Coastal Realty