Preparing your West Coast Home for Winter

Dated: October 16 2023

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California winters may be mild compared to what other parts of the country experience, but the weather can still take a toll on local residences. When a home isn’t properly winterized, any heavy storms and occasional freezes can cause everything from dry rot and roof leaks to cracked water pipes and crawl space flooding. That’s why, even here in California, it’s crucial to perform preventative winterizing measures on your home and property in the fall.


To help you cover all the pertinent bases, we’ve compiled a guide to exterior and interior home maintenance. We hope this will help you learn about what you need to know to prepare your California home for winter.


Starting with the exterior:


Inspect and maintain nearby trees.

Inspecting and maintaining nearby trees is the first step in exterior home maintenance. Begin by assessing the trees' health and trimming any large branches near your home, as stormy weather can lead to roof damage and clogged gutters caused by fallen leaves and branches. If you're unsure about the health of the trees, consult a certified arborist for guidance.


Clean and inspect your roof.

Next, focus on your roof. Clear it of leaves, branches, and debris, paying special attention to valleys and areas where debris can accumulate and cause leaks. Inspect the roof's shingles, seals, and flashings around penetrations like pipes, vents, skylights, and chimneys. Replace any worn-out elements before winter, as the summer heat can cause premature wear and tear.

Don't overlook your gutters and downspouts; remove debris to prevent clogging and overflow that could damage your roof, siding, and windows during heavy rains.


Seal exterior gaps and cracks.

Seal gaps and cracks in your home's exterior, including those between siding panels and door/window trim, to prevent air transmission, water intrusion, and pest infestation. Use paintable latex caulking for smaller gaps and plastic foam filler for wider openings.


Touch up failing paint.

Inspect the condition of your house paint and touch up deteriorated areas to maintain its protective qualities. If the paint is in poor overall condition, consider scheduling a professional repainting job before winter.


Clean window tracks.

Clean window tracks to prevent water damage. Ensure weep holes are clear, allowing rainwater to drain properly.


Test exterior lights.

Test all exterior lights and replace bulbs if necessary, ensuring good visibility during the darker winter months.


Check your deck.

Check the condition of your wood deck's paint or stain, repainting or restaining it if needed to protect it from rainy weather. Store outdoor furniture and cooking devices for the winter.


Address drainage issues.

Address drainage issues by ensuring gutter downspouts drain away from your home and consider installing surface drains or French drains as needed. Consult a drainage professional for expert solutions.


Adjust your irrigation timer.

Adjust your irrigation timer settings and consider adding rain sensors to prevent water waste. Be mindful of freezing temperatures; turn off the main water valve to your irrigation system and empty connected hoses when frost is expected.

Put your garden to bed.


Prepare your garden for winter by pruning shrubs, removing signs of disease, clearing debris, and planting a cover crop to sustain the soil for spring.


Close your swimming pool.

Winterize your swimming pool by cleaning out leaves and debris, removing equipment, and adjusting the filter's timer for reduced operation.

In addition to exterior preparations, stay tuned for our upcoming article on winterizing the inside of your home.


Interior maintenance:


Service your furnace.

Many homeowners take their central heating systems for granted, but this can be a risky move. Service your furnace regularly to ensure it operates efficiently and safely, especially before winter arrives. Neglecting furnace maintenance can lead to reduced efficiency, higher energy bills, and safety hazards. Take these proactive steps to maintain your furnace:

  • Test your furnace early. That way, if it’s not working properly, you’ll have time to fix it before it’s needed.
  • Check your furnace filter and change it if needed. To get better air filtration, consider upgrading to a filter with a MERV rating of 9 or higher.
  • Have your furnace inspected and serviced by a professional. This will ensure your system is working properly and rule out any potential hazards.

Maintain your fireplace.

If your home has a fireplace or wood-burning stove, you’ll need to make sure it’s ready to perform throughout the winter. When a fireplace or stove isn’t maintained, it can lead to safety hazards like chimney fires or carbon monoxide poisoning. That’s why it’s always a good idea to have yours professionally cleaned and inspected in the fall.

Inspect your water heater.

Being without hot water is never fun, but the displeasure is compounded during colder times of year. You can reduce the chances of water heater failure during winter by performing an inspection in the fall. In addition to checking for water leaks at connections and in the drip pan, clean the air intake screen to ensure the burner is receiving enough oxygen. Furthermore, if you haven’t flushed your water heater’s tank in more than a year, it’s a good time to do this as well. 

Check and upgrade safety devices.

Along with the increased use of heating devices during winter comes an increased chance for house fires, gas leaks and other potential hazards. To safeguard yourself and your loved ones, make sure smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are placed throughout your home and test them for proper functionality. If you’re still using conventional battery-operated detectors, consider upgrading to the new standard models. Instead of relying on conventional batteries, today’s smoke and CO detectors are equipped with built-in, tamper-proof batteries that have a 10-year life span. The goal of this design change is to minimize human error (i.e. forgetting to replace the batteries) and thus reduce the number of fire-related deaths caused by negligence.

Besides making sure smoke and CO detectors are functioning properly, make sure you have at least one fire extinguisher in the house. Residential fire extinguishers should be rated for all fire types—look for an A-B-C rating on the label. Verify all fire extinguishers in your home are in working condition and replace any that are more than six years old.

Weatherproof doors and windows.

Putting weather stripping on the insides of doors and windows will provide additional protection against air transmission from outside your home. While weatherproofing your windows, look for moisture on the insides of the panes—this may be a sign that the window’s seal has deteriorated. If the issue persists, consult a window professional.

Seal your attic floor.

Besides poorly insulated windows and doors, one of the most common ways conditioned air escapes the home is through gaps between the attic floor and the living space below. A good way to prevent this is to have your attic floor professionally sealed. By improving insulation and caulking gaps and cracks, attic floor sealing will simultaneously increase your in-home comfort and decrease your heating bills. But that’s not the only benefit this simple home improvement measure provides.

Test interior lights.

With winter’s reduced daylight hours, it’s a good idea to make sure your home’s interior lights are functioning properly. Go around your home, test all light fixtures and replace any bulbs that look dim. If you want to save money on your electrical bills, consider upgrading from incandescent lighting to LED. LEDs last thousands of hours longer than incandescent bulbs and expend a fraction of the energy, so they’re a worthwhile investment.



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Larry Fleischman

Larry entered the world of Real estate and worked alongside a longtime industry leader. Larry now heads up The Fleischman & Associates Team. Larry is a long time resident of Santa Clarita where he cal....

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