19 Tips for Winterizing Your Garage and Areas Around Your Home
As fall moves into polarly winter, it’s that time of year again to begin making preparations for the cold weather.
We will assume you already have taken the necessary precautions in your home — modern or weather-stripped windows, sealed gaps on your front and back doors, etc. — so we want to touch on the often-forgotten steps of total home winterization. This includes the garage as well the outside parts of your home such as the patio and the yard.
Below are 19 tips for winter-proofing your garage and your home’s exterior areas. These might look like big chores now, but compared to having to clean snow/mud/salt mixtures from your garage floor or having a frozen pipe burst, taking these steps will potentially save you both time and money.
Winterizing Your Garage
Insulate your garage door.
Your garage loses a lot of warmth simply via conduction across the surface of your garage door. Over the course of the winter, that can bring your garage’s temperature down close to outdoor temperatures, which is particularly unpleasant if you live in a place that regularly sees -10 or -20 in the winter.
One of your first lines of defense is to insulate your garage door. Pennsylvania’s Jaydor Company has a helpful post that describes what you can do for wood-and-panel doors, flat doors and steel doors.
“Foam board is the most popular option, and it’s sold in rigid panels that can then be cut to size,” Jaydor writes on its blog. “Place them in the recesses between the frames of your garage door. For extra protection, considering installing two layers. Foam board insulation has an R-value of between three and six, so it is worth the money. R-value refers to insulation’s ability to resist heat flow. The higher the R-value, the better a material’s insulating power.”
Insulate your walls, too.
Insulation manufacturer Johns Manville has some of the best insulation installation tutorials around. Their tutorial for installing garage insulation covers both exterior walls and knee walls.
Upgrade your weather stripping.
Most people tend to go with the cheapest option when weather stripping, and in many cases the cheap option works fine. Fine Homebuilding Magazine’s Gary E. Carson, however, reports that basic weather stripping isn’t enough for his garage in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
“Door-bottom edge stripping is usually shaped like a flattened-out U with one long leg and one short leg,” he writes. “As the drawing illustrates [pictured in the linked post], I install the stripping on the top and side jambs with the long leg lightly pressing on the door. I hold the strips in place with plywood battens 1/4 in. thick by 1-1/4 in. wide. Once the battens are screwed in place, I use a razor knife to trim the short legs flush with the battens.”
You can also just install a weather seal.
England’s Ultimate Handyman has a very nice video tutorial on how to install a seal at the threshold where your garage door meets the ground. This is a great way to not only keep out the cold, but all rain, insects and anything else that could find its way under your garage door.
Cover and seal your switches and outlets.
This is one most people would never have thought of, but ConservationMart.com estimates that 2% to 5% air infiltration comes from outlets on outside walls.
Consider installing a heater.
A heater is a big expense, and it might require an inspection before you can install it. However, if you need to regulate the temperature of your garage — say you work in there frequently, or you store temperature-sensitive items — it is a sound investment.
The Family Handyman has a nice review of what kinds of heaters work best, and it also detail how you should install them to optimize air flow.
Get a water heater insulating blanket.
This tip isn’t so much about maintaining the temperatures of the garage as it is reducing your hot water bill — particularly if your water tank is in the garage.
HouseLogic.com recommends using a water heater blanket only for older models. Here is how you can check that: “Look on [the tank’s] label to see if it has an R-value of at least 24. If not, you should insulate your tank. With these older models, an insulating blanket can cut heat loss by 25% to 45% and save 4% to 9% on the average water-heating bill.
“Insulating blankets are easy to install and inexpensive ($20). When dressing your tank for saving energy, be careful not to block the thermostat on an electric water heater or the air inlet and exhaust on a gas unit.”
If you have a newer water heater, though, you don’t need a blanket; in fact, trying to use one could actually cause serious problems.
Also, cover your pipes.
Covering any exposed pipes adds on top of the benefit the insulation blanket on your water heat will provide, but more importantly it can keep pipes from freezing and bursting. Overhead Door instructs readers how to cover their pipes properly in their own tips post for winterizing your garage.
“Insulate exposed pipes by wrapping them with plastic or foam pipe wrap. Wrapping pipes with newspapers or old towels, then securing with duct tape, is a good money-saving alternative. Finally, ensure that any pipes traveling from inside or outside water lines are shut off and purged before outside temperatures drop below freezing.”
Caulk around your garage door.
Caulking the perimeter of your garage door is not particularly different from doing the same to your windows. However, it can seem intimidating to first-timers.
Fortunately, Lindsay Ballard — who now runs a home improvement blog called Makely — put together the perfect video tutorial back in 2011 that shows step-by-step how to weatherize your garage door:
Waterproof the garage floor if you have not already done so.
John Pozadzides from GeekBeat.tv posted on his personal blog a few years ago about his own experience coating his garage floor with epoxy (it was easy, he reported) and recommended that everyone else do the same.
We agree. Wants the snow starts to fall, anything vehicle you pull into your garage is going to track in caked-up mud, salt and slush. Deal with that now, before it becomes a problem.
You might not want to fill in your floor’s contraction joints.
The contraction joints in your garage floor will move about, especially in the first years after your garage is built, as the earth below settles. Some homeowners want to fill those in after a while, and that’s fine under certain circumstances.
All Garage Floors explains why:
“Filling the joint is not an issue if you are covering your garage floor with vinyl composite tile and isn’t even necessary for garage mats or interlocking tiles. However, if you plan on painting your garage floor or doing an epoxy coated floor, you can potentially create some cosmetic problems with that seamless looking floor later down the road.”
Prep your gas-powered tools for winter.
This includes your lawn mower, your Weed Eater, and anything else with an internal combustion engine. Once you park them for the winter, clean them, drain the oil, replace any parts, and let them run until they use up all the gas in their tanks.
Jacks Small Engines, an online supplier of parts for outdoor power equipment, has the most thorough tutorial we have found on winterizing your machinery.
Here is a tip we cannot stress enough. The same way you put away your shorts and beach gear for the winter, you should put away your spring and summer stuff for the season. Then, pull all of the things you will likely need for winter (a shovel, a snowblower, a salt bucket) forward for easy access.
We put together a post of our own recently that we hope will provide the inspiration needed to get your garage organized. The difference is so stark: Your garage goes from a place you try to avoid to a year-round functional, usable space.
Winterizing Around the Exterior of Your Home
Cover your outside air-conditioning unit … partially.
Rick’s Heating and Cooling in southwestern Ohio does not recommend purchasing a cover for your AC unit. Instead, the company recommends that you put a piece of plywood on top of the unit; otherwise, covering the whole thing could create a vapor lock and trap moisture inside.
By taking proper precautions in the winter (and keeping the area around the unit free from leaves during the fall), Rick’s Heating and Cooling estimates a lifetime of between 15 and 20 years for a good AC unit.
Clean out your gutters.
Gutter maintenance is important for the early winter because you will need your gutters to be able to handle any snow melt and get that water off of your roof. The problem is cleaning gutters is one of most homeowners’ least favorite chores.
If you are in the same boat, check out this post from East Coast gutter service Harry Helmet, which shows five ways you can clean out your gutters without having to bother with a ladder.
Don’t forget to winterize your chimney and fireplace.
“Winterize” means something very different for fireplaces and chimneys, which get the majority of their use in the winter.
Philadelphia-area chimney sweep Lou Curley posted some helpful tips in August about preparing your home for wood heating. This includes making sure there are no overhanging limbs that could damage your roof or fall into the chimney, getting up on the roof to inspect the integrity of the chimney, and even calling in a certified chimney sweep once per year to make sure that system is working properly.
Cut off water to outside faucets and winterize your sprinkler system.
To avoid problems with frozen pipes, it’s best just to cut the water supply to any faucets or spouts (such as the one from which you run your water hose) on the outside of the house.
If you have a sprinkler system or an irrigation system, there are a few more steps you need to take. The best tutorial on winterizing those systems we have found comes from Houston-area shop Sprinkler Warehouse, who offer a four-step process that involves turning off the water, shutting down the controller, removing the backflow preventer and then getting the water out of the lines.
The devil is in the details, and that’s why Sprinkler Warehouse’s tutorial is the size of a small book. Bookmark that one if you have a sprinkler or irrigation system.
Clean and store the furniture on your patio.
It’s time to pull your deck chairs and table off the patio, disassemble them, and clean up all the cushions and hardware. And unless winter grilling is your thing, it’s probably time to bring the grill inside, too.
Houzz has a nice eight-step checklist for making sure you get all aspects of your patio prepped for winter.
Get your lawn ready for winter.
If your lawn is more than a tangled mess of vegetation, you will need to take some specific steps to protect it against winter weather. Your grass and plants still require year-round care if you want them to look good in the spring.
International lawn care company Weed Man points out that the entirety of autumn is when your lawn would naturally begin to winterize itself. You can help by first fertilizing during the autumn so plants can retain an extra storage of nutrients during the cold months.
Weed Man also recommends aerating your lawn and raising the blade on your mower about a half inch for the last mowing of the season. “This will help the foliage prepare for winter and avoid damage from disease,” the company writes.
“As well, the clippings from the final mowing should be left on the lawn as mulch only if a mulching mower can be used. This will protect the delicate crowns of the grass plants, and provide valuable nutrients for the lawn.”
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