It’s December 2019. The beginnings of both a new year and a new decade are just on the horizon — and winter has decided to settle in early here in Illinois. 

This year, the Chicago area got a thick dusting of snow as far back as Halloween, and temperatures in early November rang in at record lows. Monday, November 11 saw temperatures descend to a record-shattering low of 13 degrees. Just a day later, November 12 would set a new daily low of 7 degrees, making it “the coldest temperature ever recorded so early in the season,” according to the Chicago Tribune. 

Winter in Chicago is a famously tough time of year — and this season is shaping up to be one of the frostiest stretches in recent memory. As the weather gets colder and the patches of ice spreading around town get thicker, it’s important to take some key steps to prepare your home, so it’s safeguarded from the worst that the winter weather has to offer. 

Earlier in the fall, we explored some of the most effective ways to get your home ready for the winter season, including taking basic steps like bringing in your outdoor furniture, winterizing doors and windows, and making sure your HVAC systems are serviced and ready for the cold weather

Once your home is prepped and ready to go, there are still some key steps you should take before each cold snap and heavy snowfall. Here are some last-minute moves you can make to get your home ready when the Chicago forecast predicts snow, wind, and subzero temperatures: 

1.) Prepare a Winter Safety Kit

You never know what might happen! When snow and ice are headed your way, take some time to restock your home’s cold weather emergency kit with helpful items to have on hand in case of a power outage, including flashlights, candles and matches, extra batteries, portable phone chargers, a first aid kit, blankets, and plenty of food and water (for yourself, and for any pets in the household). You might also want to stash a kit in your vehicle, complete with practical necessities like a shovel, a windshield scraper, bottled water, road salt, a first aid kit, a flashlight, and a warm blanket or sleeping bag. 

2.) Prevent Frozen Pipes

During the fall, be sure to take a walk and winterize all of your outdoor plumbing elements by disconnecting hoselines, turning off spigots, and draining your water lines completely. Before a serious bout of winter weather, focus your attention on your indoor plumbing. During particularly brutal stretches of cold weather, Chicagoland-area pipes have been known to freeze, expand, and burst — which can cause serious amounts of damage, and lead to costly repairs. Before a particularly rough round of snow or frigid winter temps, take some time to care for your pipes by applying insulated pipe-wrap or foam to your exposed hot and cold lines, including those in your garage and basement. Always make sure your water shut-off valve is easily accessible, in case of an emergency. Open the cabinets in your kitchen and bathroom, and allow for a slight drip in your faucets to help keep water flowing. If you start to notice one of your pipes freezing, shut off the water immediately, and use a hair dryer, space heater, or heat lamp to gently thaw the pipe, before it has a chance to burst. 

3.) Get Your Driveway and Sidewalks Ready to Go

A clean walkway can be a lifesaver in tough winter conditions — literally. Slip and fall accidents are quite common in the winter, particularly in households with young children and elderly family members. As the winter weather circles in, prepare your driveway, sidewalk, and walkway. Make sure to refill the fuel tank or charge up your snowblower, and have at least one working shovel ready to go. Many experts recommend working in stages to clear snow and ice, going out at routine intervals to clear away the frozen stuff as it accumulates, rather than waiting for the entire deluge to fall. And before ice appears, consider using your favorite de-icing products on your steps and walkways. Rock salt, sand, and clay-based kitty litters can help provide traction. Look for products that are compatible with your stone surfaces, and which will be safe for your lawn, garden, and pets. 

4.) Avoid Ice Dams

Ice dams are a common sight around Chicagoland. This winter weather phenomenon generally occurs when the rising heat inside your home causes your roof to warm up, melting snow and ice. As this snowmelt starts to flow, it often refreezes along edges and eaves, forming large and weighty mounds of ice which can lead to leaks, cracks, and other damage. 

At the start of the cold weather season, be sure to clean your gutters and downspouts, to make sure that melting snow is able to flow safely away from your home all winter long. Look for gaps and seams that may allow heat to escape upward, such as open spaces around light fixtures, vents, and pipes. You may also consider sealing up your attic with additional insulation. Not sure if you have ice dams? During cold and frosty periods, take a look around your roofline. If you notice large icicles, this could be a sign that ice dams are forming. 

5.) Conserve Indoor Heat

Around the Chicago area, winter weather can cause utility bills to skyrocket, even as homeowners and their families start to feel the chill creep inside. Before the cold snap strikes, create a plan to keep your household’s heat where it belongs — indoors. 

Keep doors and windows (including your garage door), closed as much as possible. Avoid running exhaust fans, as these can pull warm air out of your home. Keep interior doors closed, to strategically trap in heat in the rooms where you need it most. Finally, look into applying winter-ready window coverings and thermal shades to your windows, which can help trap in heat and prevent drafts. 

How Windy City Home Inspection Can Help You Make It Through a Chicagoland Winter

Whether you’re buying a property, selling a property, or just need the best information for how  to maintain your property, Windy City Home Inspection has an inspection for you — during the winter, or all year long. 

With Windy City, you can expect a competent, thorough inspection that covers all the bases and never cuts corners. The inspectors at Windy City Home Inspection, Inc. are licensed by the State of Illinois, certified, and insured. Each home inspection is backed by our signature Warranty and Protection Plan. Furthermore, we pride ourselves on our superior customer service. If you ever have questions, even years after your home inspection, we will be here to answer them — even if it means returning to your home.

At Windy City Home Inspection, Inc., we perform inspections to the highest standards — yours. Backed by a consulting team with more than 60 years of experience, Windy City Home Inspection is committed to excellence. Have a question? Let us help.