Tips for Keeping Your Vacant Home Safe

Are you a snowbird who leaves your home for half of the year, a landlord with multiple residential properties, or a real estate agent with lots of listings you are responsible for? If so, then winterizing to keep your empty home safe during the winter months is a challenge that you are very familiar with!

What are the best ways to keep a home warm and ready for the cold months without experiencing water damage and emergencies that can cause costly repairs? Read on to discover tips to winterize your home.

Winterize Your Plumbing

Frozen pipes and water damage are some of the most common issues that homeowners experience during the winter months. To protect against burst pipes, standing water, and eventually mold damage, take the following precautions.

  • Have a plan before you start winterizing. Make a checklist of every tap and valve so you don’t miss anything and end up cleaning the mess up later!
  • Start by shutting off the main water valve, then move to the water pump, and finally the water heater.
  • Open up all valves and taps, making sure that you hit everything on your list. These will stay open throughout the winter.
  • Next, open the drain valve on your hot water tank and let it discharge until it’s empty. Take a look at your tank – if it doesn’t have a floor drain, you will need to connect a garden hose to it before you drain it.
  • Flush all toilets and remove as much water as possible from the tanks and bowls.
  • Add antifreeze to your sinks and tubs – this will prevent water from freezing and cracking in the water traps.

Prevent Frozen Pipes

Once you’ve taken a look at the plumbing and drained water from the pipes, it’s time to think about the pipes themselves. Identify the pipes that are most likely to freeze – this means pipes that are located near outside walls and windows, inside crawl spaces or near unheated areas of the home.

It is also really important to check for cracks or openings in floors, ceilings, and walls. If you find any while you’re looking, caulk them to keep the cold air out. Take these steps to winterize pipes to keep them from freezing:

  • Use insulation sleeves, foam pipe insulation, or wrapping to keep pipes warm and insulated during the winter. Make sure there aren’t any gaps that are without insulation since cold air will sneak in and affect the pipes in these areas.
  • Look at the outside of your home and make sure that all visible cracks are sealed. Like we talked about earlier, cold air will enter through cracks and when it’s inside, it will cause your pipes to freeze. Caulk these cracks or use spray foam to fill them.
  • Keep the building heated to protect the pipes against the cold.
  • Crawl spaces should be insulated properly. All vents that lead to the outside air need to be blocked by cardboard or wood.
  • Drain hose bibs and insulate the covers. These are often forgotten and can burst in the middle of the night!
  • Heat tape is a great method to prevent frozen pipes, but be aware of the safety hazards associated with using this method.

Keep Neighbors On Alert

Before you leave for your extended vacation, let neighbors know that you’re on your way out. Have them keep an eye on your home, watching for flooding, fire, but more importantly, for any break ins.

Mail, Lights, and Locks

Stop all mail, or have it forwarded to your second home before you leave. Nothing says a home is vacant more than an overflowing mailbox.

Keep lights on timers. They are inexpensive and can be easily purchased at any home improvement store.

All doors, windows, patio doors, sliding doors, etc. need to be locked and secured. A trusted neighbor should have a spare key in case of an emergency, but be certain that everything is locked up tightly before you leave for a long period of time!

McMahon Services is Here in an Emergency

Here’s the thing – no matter how much you plan, emergencies happen. That’s why McMahon Services is here to help. We service all areas in Northern Illinois and assist with water and mold damage, and our emergency services are ready to go 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call us at any time.