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But not before you’re ready

In Idaho, fall heralds the annual harvest, a blaze of turning leaves, hunting season, and sudden cool nights. Residents of the Treasure Valley and mountain towns of south and central Idaho welcome the close of fire season, and an end to the summer plague of mosquitoes and flies. Whether you’re a snow lover or snowbird, winterizing your home or cabin in snow country is an annual and unavoidable homeowner responsibility.

Make A List:

First, make a winterizing list. Although several winterizing jobs require a professional, many simple tasks can be done by the homeowner. Prioritizing these tasks by calendar dates is a good idea.


Because of freezing, first things on the winterizing list would have to do with water. Start outside, since fall brings cold snaps that freeze up water at night. Sprinkler systems, and irrigation that includes a pump, need to be shut down and drained. It’s best to have a professional use a high output compressor to blow out the sprinkler system to put it to bed for the winter.  When outside water demands are finished for the year, the water system can be shut off by closing down the levers that deliver water to the pump or pressure system. Usually there will be an on ‘off’ lever that opens and closes the water source. Close that down completely. For a sprinkler system, this shut off valve will be found in the ground, usually in a sunken section of large vertical pipe, with an X style shut-off valve at the bottom. The long-necked valve key will shut off this X shaped valve. For a pump system, the water source will be specific to the type of irrigation; it may shut off at a head gate, or perhaps in a county box, or at the actual water source, such as a pond or creek. Before draining any water system, the water source must be turned off.

Once water is suspended, open the drain valves on a pump, or open the back-flow valves in the ground box of the sprinkler system, and let the water drain out. This will safeguard a pump, valves, sprinkler heads, and pipes from damage and cracking during fall snap freezes. This will prevent the valves in the ground boxes from freezing before the sprinklers are blown out. Draining the system but not blowing it out early can be especially important in dry, high prairie areas where trees and plants don’t go dormant early. A late season dry-spell could create a need to turn the water on, and completely winterizing the system too early in the fall could mean disaster for trees or landscaping. In that case, simply turning off the water source, opening the valves and draining the system will safeguard it until November or December.

Outside water for animals or livestock is challenging. Water containers and tanks need to be cleaned and winterized, and heaters installed to keep water from freezing.  Water sources must be free of leaks. Hoses should be unscrewed from the faucets after every use, even on frost free faucets. If a hose is left attached to a frost-free faucet, the faucet cannot drain properly as it is designed to do when it is shut off, and the faucet can freeze and be damaged. Short hoses are ideal because they drain easily. Check the gaskets in the hose ends are present. Frost-free faucets must shut off completely; a leaky faucet prevents the pipe from draining and causes damage from freezing. Drain all hoses not used in the winter and store them where they are not buried by snow.

Although most pumps and newer water systems are deep in the ground, or otherwise protected from the elements, some older, exposed systems need to be wrapped with insulating material, and covered for the winter. Older pump houses might require use of a heat lamp to prevent freezing. Be sure this is replaced every year, in the fall.

Roof & Rain Gutters:

Leaves and other debris must be removed from the roof and gutters before the first snow or the buildup will clog the roof or rain gutters, preventing proper draining. The homeowner can clean the valley and gutters on a low roof with relative ease and a sturdy tall ladder, but a high or steep roof should be cleaned by a professional. If a roof valley is prone to ice damning, heat tape should be installed to prevent snow and ice buildup in that spot. Anytime a roof doesn’t drain properly, damage to the inside of the roof and house can occur. Remember, heat tape works on electricity. If a house or cabin is closed down for the winter, the electrical system must remain on for heat tape to work.

Chimney & Wood Stove Pipe:

If the home has a wood burning stove or fireplace, it should be cleaned annually by a professional chimney sweep. This removes creosote buildup that can cause chimney fires.

Easy Home Weatherproofing

These small weatherproofing jobs require little special skill but can make a real difference once cold weather arrives. By doing these things before the snow flies, you’ll save yourself time, trouble, and probably money:

  • Clean gutters and downspouts in mid-fall and double-check them before winter.
  • Replace the filter in your furnace.
  • Close any vents in your home that may have been opened for the warm weather.
  • Disconnect hoses from outside faucets and turn off the water.
  • Buy a snow shovel and other winter supplies before the messy weather hits.
  • Keep extra water and canned food in storage just in case.
  • Test your heating system, so that you know it will work properly when you need it.
  • Give your deck a fresh coat of sealer to protect it from the winter elements.

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