Protecting Your Home During Extreme Cold Weather

Streetside view of a suburban home during a winter snow storm/extreme cold weather
Prepare for extreme weather before it comes. (Willowpix, Getty Images Signature)

Extreme cold weather can really take a toll on both you and your home.

This type of weather is characterized by bone-chilling temperatures, high winds, and frozen precipitation like snow and ice. And let’s not forget about wind chill, which can make those already frigid temperatures feel even colder.

And if that’s not enough, extreme cold weather can also bring other types of frozen precipitation like freezing rain and heavy snow, which can cause blizzard conditions. But fear not, because I’ve got some tips to help you stay safe and protect your home when the mercury drops.

Here are some tips to stay safe and protect your home when extreme weather hits your area.

In This Article:

Hands installing water pipe foam insulation ahead of extreme cold weather
Wrapping exposed pipes with foam pipe insulation helps prevent freezing. (nsj-images, Getty Images Sigature)

Protecting Pipes Before They Freeze

Extreme cold weather can lead to frozen pipes. And once they freeze, they can then burst, causing extensive damage to your home.

Before that happens, disconnect and drain all garden hoses and cover outside faucets with insulating foam covers.

Then turn off the water to the 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 extremely cold weather. (3 Echoes Content Studio)

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 your 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 the pipes to your washing machine in the laundry room
  • Locate the 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.

Find Peace of Mind As a Homeowner with a Home Warranty

Close-up of three pairs of feet, mother, father and child, with warm socks, beside a wood-burning fire
Doubling up on socks is a great way to keep your feet toasty without spending a dime. (©Sunny studio/Adobe Stock)

Tips to Stay Warm in Your Home

If you’re looking to stay warm during extreme cold weather (and who isn’t), here are some tips to help you out:

  • 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 dodgers 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.

Close up of snow pile on the edge of a roof after extreme cold weather, ready to fall down
After the extreme cold weather passes, use a snow rake to remove heavy snow from your roof and prevent damage to your home. (SkyF, Getty Images)

Tips to Protect the Outside of Your Home

Protecting the outside of your home during extreme cold weather is just as important as keeping the inside warm. Here are some tips to help you do just that:

  • 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 the air pressure in tires, since cold weather causes the pressure to lower.
  • To protect your garden from freezing temperatures, 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.

Hurricane Kit
Keep a supply of non-perishable food on hand — along with water, flashlights, and batteries — so you’re ready for extreme cold weather. (Alex Kosev via

Staying Safe During Extreme Cold Weather

The best way to stay safe during an ice or snowstorm is to be prepared. 

Firstly, stockpiling non-perishable food and water is essential. Make sure to refill prescription medications in advance of the storm and fill your car with gas. Charge your cell phones and have flashlights, batteries, a weather radio, and a manual can opener on hand.

A portable generator can be a lifesaver when the power goes out, but be sure to take precautions to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning when using it. Make sure you have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms with fresh batteries.

Additionally, have a working fire extinguisher on hand for emergencies. If you live in an area with trees, a chainsaw can come in handy for removing broken limbs after an ice storm.

Remember, safety is the top priority during an ice or snowstorm. You can keep your loved ones safe during extreme weather by following these tips and staying prepared.

Further Reading


    • As long as the wiring (extension cord?) and fixture are adequate and the bulb isn’t near combustible material, it should be okay. A better solution might be to use several smaller watt bulbs and spread them out in the crawlspace.

  1. Question: My husband and I recently relocated to Raliegh, NC and we love it. However, we are apartment renters and our energy bill just doubled from December to January. Unfortunately, the apartments are not insulated very well. What steps can we take to lower our bill.
    Here’s what we’ve done so far:
    1. Purchased energy saver drapes for bedrooms (2)
    2. Turn of the water heater when not in use (probably should do it more).
    Thanks, thoroughly enjoy your show.

  2. Just wanted to clarify something. You stated to add antifreeze to your car if needed, then let the car run to
    circulate the new antifreeze in the crankcase. Unfortunately, if the antifreeze is in the crankcase, you are in for a Long cold winter. Oil goes in the crankcase, antifreeze goes in the radiator and engine block. Do Not mix up the two.

  3. I know cat litter will give you & your vehicle traction, but
    will it help melt ice, or should it be used together with rock salt? Thanks. Marty.

  4. I just saw James De ask if you can use anti freeze on ice on a driveway or deck and wanted to tell him a bag of ice melt is much cheaper and safer. I have a feeling anti freeze is toxic for animals and not a good idea. I just bought a huge 50 lb. bag of rock salt for $8. Antifreeze must be about $5 a gal

    Another subject:

    I watched a cool youtube video recently where a man made a box using coke cans, black paint, some 2x4s, plexiglass and some flexible hose and caulking and he made a sort of solar panel which heats up his crawl space and garage. It could be painted so that it looked nicer and the guy only uses it in the winter but it really made a huge difference in the temperature inside his garage. I thought I would mention it because it was interesting. I thought it would be a great summer project to build one with my son this summer and to see if it works next winter. HAVE YOU EVER BUILT ANYTHING LIKE THIS?

  5. looking for advice on insulating outside oil tank which froze up and cost $500 to have the home heating oil company come and defrost with a blowtourch.

  6. We are planning a build in southern Quebec. This will be a summer cottage built on sandy soil near a lake. The contractor is telling us that we will have to heat the basement in the winter to avoid damage. Is there any alternative construction options that will offset paying a very high electric bill 9 months of the year? We have thought of solar panels, but have not done any research yet. There is also the consideration that the solar panels may be damaged by hunters. If heating the basement is the only alternative, how high do we have to set the thermostats?

  7. Had roof replaced recently with insulation removed from attic rafters. Water line to attic humidifier system closed off. Heard 3 loud bangs up there over past couple hours with no problem visible. Any guesses? Thx!!

  8. Great tips. Just info: The last cold snap we had,Mobile AL,the air pressure in my truck tires lost 5-6 lbs pressure. Never have seen this before. (Tires only 2 yrs. old)thanks got the tips!!

    • Hi Ron,
      Glad you enjoyed them. I lived in the Mobile area, too, and have had the same thing happen in winter with my tires. It’s always happened when the weather gets cold, but it’s more noticeable now with tire sensors that alert you when the pressure is low.

  9. I have a cottage with windows that face the lake. To protect the bay window, I have used plywood till now. Is there a permanent installation e.g. Storm screen or awnings that I can use? I hate drilling holes for the plywood every winter. Many thanks.

  10. I have a condenserate line from my furnace thats gravity fed to the outside (its 94% efficient) when it gets below 12 degrees it can freeze so I put a tilted foam ice chest over the outside pipe. Inside I put a “T” in the line going up with an inverted “U” pipe configuration to drain into a gallon jug. the “T” must be put in the line below the drain coming out of the furnace. I hope thats clear.

  11. Antifreeze kills animals, including pets! ! My cat died from Antifreeze poisoning she got from somewhere else! Do not use! !!

  12. We have pipes to the washer in a standard 2×4 wall on the north side of our slab foundation home. In cold weather, either the water to the washer or the drain to the sewer freezes. We have opened the wall and put more insulation, added an inside vent to allow house heat keep the area warm, placed a small electric heater behind the washer, and after every wash day add travel trailer antifreeze in the drain. Pipes still freeze. How do we correct this problem?

  13. I have the same problem as above:

    We have pipes to the washer in a standard 2×4 wall on the north side of our slab foundation home. In cold weather, either the water to the washer or the drain to the sewer freezes. We have opened the wall and put more insulation, added an inside vent to allow house heat keep the area warm, placed a small electric heater behind the washer, and after every wash day add travel trailer antifreeze in the drain. Pipes still freeze. How do we correct this problem?

  14. After a hard freeze (Texas) with temps overnight in the teens, what is the safe temperature the next day to turn the dripping indoor faucets?
    I’ve searched for the answer to no avail.
    Jackie Martin

  15. It is a good rule of thumb that you drip water inside at around 20 degrees or colder make sure drains are not covered with dishs and are clear

  16. Thank you for another informative blog. The place else may I am getting that
    kind of info written in such a perfect manner?
    I’ve a challenge that I am just now running on, and I have been at the glance out for such info.

  17. I recently just moved into my new home, and the location is extremely cold during window days. I’ll make sure to check on the fireplaces, and chimneys before using, and have them cleaned if necessary. Although, I am also thinking to have a heater installed in my new place since I don’t want to overuse my fireplace.


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