Winter is one of the most wonderful times of year: beautiful snow, cozy weather, festive decorations, and holiday parties with friends and family. But with all that fun sometimes come problematic forecasts that can really throw a wrench in your plans. And when that happens, you’ll need to take the necessary steps to be prepared when an ice or snowstorm hits.

From buying gasoline for a generator to trimming back trees that surround your property, these five tips will help you get your home ready for the winter:

1. Inspect surrounding trees, your roof and gutters

When you begin to winterize your home, start outside. Observe the trees that surround your home, driveway, garage and nearby power lines. If you have branches growing over these areas, damage may occur if there’s snow or ice buildup. Also look for branches that rub together and any dead limbs. You can identify dead limbs by checking for dead leaves, areas without bark, or spots with mushrooms.

Next, inspect your roof. It’s best to have your roof inspected by a professional annually to ensure that small issues don’t become big problems. Roofing professionals will check for curling, buckling, tearing or missing shingles; rusted, dented or damaged flashing; and secure gutters that are clear of debris. It’s important that your gutters are cleaned before an ice or snowstorm as debris can freeze and cause roof damage.

2. Ensure your home is covered from damage caused by snow and ice

It’s never a bad time to review your home’s insurance policy, but before winter hits is a better time than any other. If low temperatures cause a pipe to burst or the weight from snow and ice causes a tree to fall onto your property, you’ll appreciate the peace of mind that your home is covered.

To be ready for a winter storm, you’ll want to check your insurance policy before winter sets in. Ensure your policy includes peril coverage to protect your home from weather-related damage like frozen plumbing, damage resulting from the weight of snow and ice, and damage caused by water seepage from your roof.

3. Tune up your furnace and boilers

Furnaces and boilers should be looked at monthly, but it’s especially vital to call in the professionals for an inspection before winter hits. Inspections help to ensure that your furnace and boilers are operating safely and efficiently, and they help to prolong use. A professional can also determine if there are any gas or carbon monoxide leaks.

4. Insulate your windows, entryways, pipes and attic

If you’re a homeowner during the winter, your first concern might be frozen pipes. That’s why it’s especially important to insulate exposed pipes alongside walls or unheated areas, as water can freeze and cause the pipes to burst if the temperature drops below 32 degrees. Insulating pipes is easy, too. Most hardware stores have pipe insulation, and all you need to do is cut it to fit the length of the pipe, wrap it around and then secure with duct tape.

Windows and entryways are often the culprits that cause cold air to seep into your home. If you notice cold air around closed windows and doors, consider replacing the weatherstripping, which is used to seal gaps. Old or damaged weatherstripping can cause warm air to escape and let cold air enter. If you’re unsure which areas in your home are creating a draft, hold a lit candle along your windows, baseboards and entryways. If you see the candle flicker, you’ve found a draft.

Although it’s a short-term solution, you can also use plastic film to effectively insulate your windows during colder weather. And if you live in an especially cold climate, try adding Bubble Wrap over the film for extra insulation.

If your home has an attic, ensure that it’s well insulated to prevent heat loss and ice dams. Ice dams form when heat escapes into the attic and warms up the snow that’s sitting on your roof. When the melted snow refreezes into ice, water can get trapped under the roof’s shingles and cause water damage inside of your home.

5. Equip your home with supplies

Milk and bread will only go so far if you and your family are stuck inside because of an ice or snow storm. You’ll of course want to prep your home with nonperishable food items, water, flashlights and blankets, but also consider items like battery backups and a first-aid kit.

For the outside areas, make sure that you have a snow shovel, ice pick, salt, salt spreader and gas if you have a snow blower or generator.

Illustrations by Dan Sipple.

Winterize Your Policy

Make sure your home insurance is ready for the rigors of the season.

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