Though occupied homes can also benefit from a quick winterization, vacant houses are particularly prone to damage during extended periods of freezing temperatures. By winterizing a vacant house, you are protecting your investment, and keeping it in good condition so it can be sold, rented or otherwise inhabited at a moment’s notice without worry of unforeseen issues.
Here are nine steps to help winterize your vacant home:
1. Turn Water Off (at the Street)
It is important to keep the water services active so you can complete any needed inspections and avoid activation charges. However, to keep pipes from freezing or bursting it is recommended to turn them off at the street. You will need tools and a little bit of elbow grease to turn the water off. Click Here to learn how to locate and turn the main water supply off.
2. Drain Plumbing
After turning the water utilities off at the street you want to try to eliminate as much water as you can from your home’s plumbing system. The less water there is, the lower the chances of damage from freezing. Start by draining the sink faucets, tubs/showers, flushing toilets, exterior faucets, etc… Leave the faucets open.
3. Exterior Faucet Covers
Outdoor faucet covers are cheap to buy. Cheap meaning as low as $1 and up to maybe $10 depending on how fancy you want to get. They come in foam, foam insulated with hard plastic covers, and even in the form of nylon bags that just slip over the faucet to keep it protected. These covers can be bought just about anywhere you can buy plumbing material such as a local hardware or home improvement store. Faucet covers are a great value because they can be reused for years before they need to be replaced.
4. Keep the Heat On
It is important to keep the temperature of the home between 55º and 60º while it is vacant. Although you have completed several steps to empty the pipes of water it is virtually impossible to get rid of all the water. This step will ensure that any remaining water has a higher chance of not freezing and damaging your plumbing.
5. Trim Trees
During the winter months, trees tend to become more rigid as the natural moisture in the wood freezes. This means that when a winter storm comes through, the tree is less able to bend with the wind or weight of ice. This causes the tree limbs to be more susceptible to breaking. To avoid tree limbs damaging your roof or property in the winter, keep them trimmed back.
6. Unplug Appliances
To avoid fire hazards unplug all the appliances in the home. This should include: stove, microwave, refrigerator, hot water heater, and washer/dryer. Even if your home has upgraded electrical you could still be combating pests or rodents who are seeking warm shelter and who are prone to chewing on electrical wires.
7. Close flues and dampers
Closing the flues and dampers in your home will help in two major ways. One, you will keep more heat in the home which will protect your plumbing from freezing and two, you will keep pests and rodents out. Ensure you let any new tenants know that the flues and dampers are closed when they move in.
8. Weather Stripping / Caulking & Sealing
Windows aren’t the only places where cold air and water can sneak in and wreak havoc. Check your doors, too. You can apply weather stripping to your doors to make sure that they keep cold air, rain and snow out. Inspect your foundation for cracks, and seal any that your find.
9. Periodic Checks
If your property is vacant ensure that you have someone going to visually inspect the property every one to two weeks. While at the property you want to look for signs of pests/rodents, weather damage, and compromised security.
Winterization can seem like a lot of work but it is a strong preventative maintenance tool that can save you and your investment thousands of dollars. If you do not have the time to dedicate to winterizing your property, you can always hire a professional. Allegiance Property Management offers winterization of vacant home for Owners at $125 per property.
Article by Alexandra Scanlon; Owner/Operator of Allegiance Property Management
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Allegiance Property Management serves the local Boise, Eagle, Meridian, Nampa, Caldwell, and surrounding Treasure Valley. We not only focus on assisting homeowners find great, long term tenants but also assist investors in ensuring their assets are continuously performing within their portfolios. We are here to meet the needs of all our clients.