How to Protect Your Home During Extreme Cold Weather

If possible, you need to prepare for extreme weather before it comes. (DepositPhotos)

Extreme cold weather can be hard on both you and your home. Here are some tips to put into practice when freezing weather, snow and ice hit your area.


Frozen pipes can lead to burst pipes, an expensive problem. Take steps to prevent pipes from freezing.

Protect Pipes Before They Freeze

Frozen pipes can lead to burst pipes. Before that happens, disconnect and drain all garden hoses and cover outside faucets with insulating foam covers.

Then turn off the water to outside faucets, if available, and open valves on the faucets to let them drain.

Finally, turn off the sprinkler system and blow compressed air through the lines to drain them.

Butcher block countertop with modern kitchen faucet and apron sink
Always drip hot and cold faucets in the kitchen and bathroom during extreme cold weather.

You’ll also need to close or cover foundation vents under the house and windows to basements. Also, close the garage doors.

Then tackle this to-do list:

  • Insulate exposed pipes (both hot and cold) under house with foam pipe insulation.
  • Open the cabinet doors under sinks.
  • Drip hot and cold faucets in kitchen and bath. Drip single-control faucets with the lever set in the middle.
  • Set the icemaker to make ice if the water line to it runs under the house.
  • Don’t forget to check on pipes to your washing machine in the laundry room
  • Locate water main cut-off valve, and have a cut-off key handy.
  • Use a hairdryer, heat lamp, electric heat tape, or a portable space heater to thaw frozen pipes that have not burst.
  • Keep the faucet open when thawing frozen pipes to allow water to begin flowing through it.

After the weather has warmed above freezing and any frozen pipes have thawed, turn off dripping faucets and monitor your water meter to check for unseen leaks.


Close-up of three pairs of feet, mother, father and child, with warm socks, beside a wood-burning fire
(©Sunny studio, Adobe Stock Photos)

Tips to Stay Warm in Your Home

If you’re looking to stay warm during the winter (and who isn’t), have your furnace inspected before cold weather arrives. Inspect the heat exchanger for cracks, install a clean air filter, and check the thermostat to see if it’s working properly.

Inspect fireplaces, and chimneys before using, and have them cleaned if needed.

Keep drapes and blinds closed, except when windows are in direct sunlight.

Put up storm windows, or install sheet plastic window insulation kits on the inside of windows.

Cover or remove any window air conditioners.

Insulate electrical outlets and switches on exterior walls with foam seals available at home centers.

Caulk any cracks or holes on the outside of your house.

Repair or replace weather stripping and thresholds around doors and windows.

Run paddle ceiling fans on low in reverse (clockwise when looking up) to circulate warm air.

Put draft snakes on window sills, between window frames, and against doors.

If you heat with propane or fuel oil, make sure the tank is full.

If you heat with wood or coal, have plenty of fuel on hand.

Snow falling on house and causing too much buildup

How to Protect the Outside of Your Home

Clean your gutters and downspouts before cold weather arrives to prevent ice from forming in them.

Spray an ice repellent solution on steps and walks before freezing weather arrives

Check antifreeze levels in cars. Add if needed, then run the engine to circulate the new antifreeze through the radiator and engine block.

Add freeze-resistant windshield wiper fluid, and spray to circulate it in lines.

Check air pressure in tires, since cold weather causes the pressure to lower.

Bring in container plants, add mulch around plants, and cover plants that are prone to frost damage. Remove covering when temperatures warm above freezing.

Drain birdbaths and fountains

Gently sweep snow off plants and shrubs in an upward motion with a broom.

Use rock salt, sand, or clay based kitty litter on walks and drives (NOTE: Salt can damage grass and other plants).

Don’t overdo it when using a snow shovel.

Stay off your roof during freezing weather, but once the ice and snow have melted, inspect your roof for any damage.


How to Stay Safe in an Ice or Snow Storm

  • Stockpile nonperishable food and water.
  • Refill prescription medications in advance of storm.
  • Fill the car with gas.
  • Charge cell phones.
  • Have flashlights, batteries, a weather radio, and a manual can opener on hand.

A portable generator can come in handy when the lights go out, but take precautions to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning when using.

Make sure you have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and the batteries powering them are fresh.

Have a working fire extinguisher on hand for emergencies.

A chain saw can come in handy for removing broken limbs after an ice storm.