Winter Readiness Checklist

Posted by on Oct 4, 2015 in Health and Safety, Product Information | 39 comments

Winter Readiness Checklist

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This post – Winter Readiness Checklist – was actually going to be about cleaning up the Herb garden, but then I thought “Who will care?” Real gardeners have their own methods and non-gardeners will see the topic and leave.

Therefore with my original plan shot down I decided to still focus on Fall chores, but include all the tasks that need to be done to be ready for winter.

Yes, there is the yard cleanup – failing to tend to flower-beds and herb/vegetables gardens at this time is just asking for bug and weed problems in the Spring – so that must be done.

If you live in an area with deciduous trees, like we do with having four huge maples surrounding the house, the leaves do need to be cleaned up.

There is also the matter of cleaning the lawn and garden tools/equipment and draining the gas out of any power equipment before putting them away for the winter.

But there’s more to Winter Readiness. As a matter of fact, there always seems to be so much to do that it’s easy enough to overlook some tasks. This Winter Readiness Checklist was designed to overcome that by listing the things that need attention, preferably before snow and ice hamper our movements.

Winter Readiness Checklist For In the Home:

  • Stock Up: If you don’t have a garden then this is the time to stock up on fruits and vegetables at the very best prices. With a little bit of planning, freezing fruits and vegetables could supply healthy produce all winter long without having to pay inflated costs;
  • Heating Check: Check the heating source, make sure the oil or propane tanks are filled and filters replaced. If wood is the heating source, get it now and store it inside if at all possible – have the chimney and stove-pipes cleaned. Make sure there is a safe place – like a metal barrel – to dump the  ashes. Never assume they’re all burned out because there are usually a few hot coals left. If there are supplementary heat sources – electric, propane, gas-fired heaters – check them over or have them checked to make sure they are in safe operating condition; 
  • Keep the Heat in: Check for any drafts from windows or doors. Using an incense stick helps with this – if there is draft you’ll see the smoke moving. If there are drafts, now is the time to caulk or add/replace weather-stripping. Insulated drapes are an additional option;
  • Humidifier Check: If you use a humidifier over winter, check the manual for the recommended annual inspection – replace worn parts to keep it operating the way it should;
  • Home Safety Check:
    • Check your Smoke and Carbon Dioxide Detectors. Are there enough of them to alert your family no matter where they are in the house? Do they need new batteries? Is the CO detector installed properly? I was surprised to discover ours had to be 20 feet away from a heat source. (Amazing what you learn when you read the instructions.)  Always keep an extra supply of batteries on hand.
    • Do you have a Fire Extinguisher near the exits. There’s no sense having one if you can’t reach it when there is a fire. Do you have a Fire Escape Plan? Is there a way to escape from every room in the house?;
    • Are there secure locks on all your doors and windows? 

Winter Readiness Checklist for the Exterior of the Home:

  • The Foundation: Take some time and carefully walk around the house checking for cracks in the foundation, gaps where the foundation and siding meet, openings for pipes or cables, and around the windows and doors; Repair as needed (lots of instructional videos on the Internet);
  • Outdoor Faucets: Drain the faucets before the first frost – do the same with hoses and put them away for the winter; 
  • Air Conditioner: For outdoor ones, have a good cover to put over it, indoor window ones, remove from the window, clean and put away;
  • The Roof: It may be worthwhile to have a professional check your roof and make emergency repairs if needed. Clean out the eavestroughs and make sure the downspouts aren’t clogged. Just run the hose into the eavestrough and see if the water is discharging the way it should. If this isn’t done you could end up with ice build up behind the trough, damaging the roof and possibly leaking into the house;
  • The Walks: Make sure that walks and steps are safe and that railings on steps and decks are secure. Winter is a time when slips are not uncommon, falling against a loose railing and having it give way could cause serious injury.

Winter Readiness Checklist for Vehicles:

October is Car Safety Month and in 2014, The Automotive Industries Association (AIA) of Canada’s Be Car Care Aware program and the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) teamed up to help vehicle owners prepare for winter by supplying them with five vehicle maintenance tips to consider to keep vehicles running efficiently and reduce its environmental impact:
  • Keep your vehicle properly tuned for optimum performance. Regular tune-ups can fix serious maintenance issues, such as a faulty oxygen sensor which can improve gas mileage by up to 40 percent;
  • Check your tires. Check your vehicle’s owner’s manual to find its optimal tire pressure, and check the pressure whenever there are significant changes in temperature.
  • Check your vehicle’s gas cap. Gas caps that are loose, damaged or missing can cause gas to evaporate.
  • Replace dirty air filters. Replacing a clogged air filter can improve your vehicle’s efficiency by up to 10 percent.
  • Have spark plugs checked and replaced if necessary. A misfiring spark plug can reduce your vehicle’s fuel efficiency by up to 30 percent.

For more detailed information, click on this link:

  • Snow Tires: Snow tires were not covered by the AIA/CAA article but if you live in snow country this is something to seriously consider. Last year, on our way to have our tires changed from all-season to snow-tires, we had a difficult time pulling away from an icy corner. The way home, after the tire changeover, felt much safer.
  • Vehicle Emergency Kit: Review your car’s emergency kit and do NOT store it in the trunk!

Winter Emergencies: With the weather changing, ice-storms and associated power outages are happening more often. What would you do if you had no power for a week? Would you have heat, food (and a way to cook safely), do you have emergency contacts and a way to contact them – that is,  a way to charge the phone (or have a landline), do you have a portable or wind-up radio to listen to what’s happening outside, how about  a light-source? Do you know First-Aid and CPR training, is your first-aid kit well stocked? Take some time to think about not having power and how you would manage, always keeping safety in mind. And always keep a good supply of the right kind of batteries on hand. May not hurt to throw some in the car’s glove compartment either.

Finally, check your snow removal equipment – snowblower, shovels, rakes – make sure they’re in good shape and in good running condition and put them where they’re going to be easy to get to. Having to fight huge snowdrifts in order to get to the removal equipment can’t be much fun.

One last thing – just for nice. With everything sealed up tight for the winter, the house can start feeling stuffy. There are a number of plants that help purify the air – my favourites being lemon thyme, orange mint and lavender. Besides making great air fresheners, every time you touch them you release their wonderful fragrance – that alone can bring comfort to a dull winter day.

I hope the winter readiness checklist will act as a guide for carrying out all those necessary tasks and provide you with a safe and warm winter.

Talk to you again next week,


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  1. I am currently living in Southern California and consequently do not have to worry about snow or obscenely cold temperatures during the winter. That said…

    I was living in New Orleans when it was hit by Hurricane Katrina on 29 August 2005. Katrina knocked out my electricity in short order, and the water went out two days later; it took me about a week to get out of the city, so I know what it’s like to go a week without power. As you correctly point out, batteries are a must-have in that situation: you’d also want to have on hand, amongst other things, matches, candles, bottled water, and some canned food items that don’t need to be cooked. I’ve been there.
    (FYI, a full account of my Katrina experience is posted here.)

    • Andy, I did read your post about your experience with Katrina. Listening to the news reports at the time. which focused mostly on the looting going on and the loss of possession. Very little reporting of how people actually coped with it…or not.
      I worked for years for an organization that is a member of the community emergency response team so I’m always trying to inform people to be prepared because you never know what lies ahead.
      We still hear reports from time to time that life in New Orleans is not totally the way it was before Katrina and that certain sections have not been repaired. I guess for the politicians it no longer is a priority since it has lost its news appeal.

  2. When I read your list, Lenie, I’m so happy I live in an apartment in the south now. The last two winters I lived in New York City were brutal. Cold and snowy. I am going to visit for a week in February and I dread the thought of bundling up.

    • Jeannette, when I wrote this post I thought of you all nice and warm in sunny Florida. Since this is your first year without any snow i’m wondering if your trip to New York in february won’t actually be something you may end up enjoying. Will be interested to hear what you think after your trip. In the meantime enjoy where you are.

  3. Wow! what an impressive List Lenie. Thank you so much
    You are a legend Lady
    Thnaks for sharing and I will definitely forward the link to friends and family.


  4. Well Lenie, I never did get my herb garden planted this year (although I bought some seeds) but I did run across a miniature electric hot house in the basement and think I’m going to get seedlings growing in the winter for a head start. This article was almost as good. It reminds me that after 6 years of owning a truck with a plow, I now need a few good shovels to take it’s place. Thank God for teenagers.Bring on winter in Boston!

    • Kire, winter in Boston is similar to winter here and as long as you’re prepared for the worst, it’s actually enjoyable. Course, I don’t have to drive on those icy roads anymore – I have the choice of staying home. I wasn’t quite as prepared to greet winter when I was still working.
      Our teenagers now have teenagers of their own so no longer much help to us but it was good while it lasted.

  5. I’m thankful that we usually don’t have a bad winter down here. I hate cold weather. I still will use this advice though.

  6. We’re having such a mild autumn, scary to think winter lies ahead. Of course, I applaud heartily the need to prepare your vehicle for cold weather – for added incentive, if you live in Ontario, you can get an insurance discount for slapping on those winter tires! I believe Manitoba has a similar program.

  7. This is great! Since I have no herb garden, due to a hopelessly black thumb, this post on winter-readiness is much more helpful to me! I’m sure my winters in New Mexico are a bit milder than yours, but most of the tips still apply. Thanks for sharing!

    • You’re welcome Meredith. I have a saying taped to my computer that says “Understand your audience and tell them something they don’t know”. Glad to know I did that.

  8. Hi Lenie. Having experienced a 36-hour power outage during the summer, we went out and purchased an emergency generator this week. We have electric heat, so can’t afford to be that long without heat. With weather patterns being more severe than previously, we really do have to think ahead and be prepared. Thx for your checklist!

    • Doreen, I can’t blame you. It was thinking about the ice-storms that have been happening over the last couple of years that prompted that section. I can’t imagine anything worse that having no heat for days on end. Food would take second place to that. We had a chimney installed about 15 years ago and bought an airtight woodstove (with a window in the door) which was the best thing ever. We use it for heat, for cooking and just for enjoying watching the fire. It took away a lot of the winter worries, let me tell you.

  9. Lenie you are the list, QUEEN. This is great. Living in LA I can automatically cross off half the items! I love that.

    • Pamela, did you feel a little HaHa while crossing off those items? To me, living where we have the seasons doing all those items is so worth it.

  10. Well, darn it, I still want to read your gardening blog, Lenie! Every autumn I have to think about what should be done and invariably forget something!

    Having lived in Montana for ten years as well as growing up in rural Pennsylvania, I can sure get behind all your tips! Because we live in suburbia, we don’t have a freezer (besides the fridge one, of course) and I miss stocking up on extra summer joys.

    I’m definitely cutting even more lavender and wish I had an indoor plants…I think I have seeds!

    • Rose – lavender seeds are difficult to start. It’s much easier to take cuttings from the lavender plants you have and you can do that right now.

      To start- prepare your materials: Mix together equal parts sand, peatmoss and vermiculite and put this mix into small pots (those small peat pots work best) and water, making the soil damp but not wet. Using a pencil, poke a hole into the soil in each pot so you can gently ease your cutting in there later. You will also need a rooting hormone with fungicide.

      Take side shoots 3-4 inches long – from a branch of the lavender plant – you need to take a small woody piece of the branch with each cutting.

      Strip away the bottom leaves of the sideshoots, about halfway up. Then carefully strip away a little bit of the outer bark (layer?) at the bottom, just enough to make it easier to absorb the rooting hormone. Now dip this into the rooting hormone and carefully push it into the readied pot, leaving the top half above the soil. The remaining leaves should not touch the soil.

      Pat the soil firmly around the cutting.

      Now all you do is put the pots in a sunny spot, keep them misted – never let them dry out – and before long you’ll start seeing new growth which means the cuttings have rooted. Just keep them in a sunny window and keep them misted. If they grow to big, transfer to a larger pot, making sure it has drainage.

      Also take lots of cuttings because only a third will actually grow.

      Good luck – does this help?

      • Your knowledge is amazing! Thanks, Lenie! This will be a weekend project (for husband–I weed, he plants–ahhahahaaha). Thank you so much!

  11. Good information. Most of this I do routinely but you did bring up a couple things I hadn’t thought of.

  12. A complete list of winter preparedness. I hate doing this things because it means long months of cold ahead, but it is much wiser to have done these than not. Even when we have gone somewhere warmer for most of the winter, most of these things still need to be taken off.

    • Donna, everytime I think we have it bad here, I see a weather report from Winnipeg and realize things could be worse. Your winters are really something, aren’t they? I can well imagine that a small thing like failing to drain the outside taps could spell disaster. We find it much easier to take care of things now that wait till the end. This way we can work at our own pace.

  13. Hi Lenie, wow do I remember the days when I lived in the cold weather and all these tips were essential. So, so glad I’m in California now where winter means about 50 degrees at the coldest. 🙂

    • Susan, I love my seasons. Each one brings something unique and for me (now that I’m retired) winter is a time to recharge. Around here life totally slows down so while we do have to work to get ready, it’s well worth it.

  14. UGHHH,
    Living on the east side of Lake Ontario, I get so much snow, I cannot stand it.
    These checklists are important, with snow and frigid temperatures it can mean life and death.
    I know with me, I begin shutting down, and sealing up for winter right after Labor Day.
    Thanks for sharing this important post with us.

    • Oh William, I well remember your tough winter last year and all the problems you had to deal with. I guess that even with being totally prepared, Mother Nature can still catch you offguard. They’re forecasting a milder winter this year – I hope they’re right but since they’re often wrong in getting the next day’s forecast right, I’m not really relying on it. For your sake I hope they’re right.

  15. Great post, Lenie! I like that you mentioned the cars being serviced. Maintenance is so important. I created a winterizing your home checklist that helps us remember what to do, like turn off the outside water valves so they don’t freeze. It’s helps a lot. Thanks for sharing.

    • Sabrina, there really is a lot to do but so much better to do it now than leave it for later. Car safety is a big issue with me, you hear to many horror stories about people trapped in their cars and freezing to death. Prevention, so important.

  16. Reading your list Lenie makes me realize how simple life is for those of us who live in warm climates! I have neither a heater or an air conditioner … I have lots and lots of windows that remain open pretty much 300 days a year. Ironically I really do enjoy the cold weather, especially in the mountains, but purely as a visitor. 🙂

    • Marquita, there is good to be said on both sides. I love my seasons, even the snowy one and I can’t imagine living where it’s summer basically all year round. But you are absolutely right – life is simpler if you don’t have to do all those pre-winter chores. My husband and I were just talking about moving into a condo sometime where everything is taken care of for you, but frankly it would be a real heartbreak to move from here. Not for a few years yet, I hope.

  17. Well, we totally don’t have winter where I live. However, I totally want to fill my home with lavender plants. That sounds totally wonderful!

    • Erica, filling your house with those aromatic air purifying plants is the best. In addition to the live plants, When I cut down my herb garden I always let lemon verbena (very strong lemon scent) and lavender stalks dry and then put the dried leaves in baskets and bowls around the house. When I walk by I just put my hand in to stir them up and the scent comes right back to life. Wondrful.

  18. You have certainly done your homework – this list is absolutely thorough.

    I check the boiler and smoke alarm. We do not have a carbon monoxide reader but know of it’s importance.

    • Phoenicia, it is now a law to have carbon monoxide detectors in the house, although with an oil furnace and a woodstove, we’ve had one for quite a few years before the law was passed. When I was working I was heavily involved in community safety groups and I guess what I learned there has stayed with me.

  19. Wow, what an impressive list. Delighted that I don’t have to do all that since I live in an apartment and just call the maintenance department if there is a problem. And I have not had a car since 1988. Who needs a car when you live in central London,UK? MUCH cheaper and easier to take taxis everywhere. And now, back in Sweden, I find it’s much better in every sense to walk and when necessary take go by train, buses or fly.

    • Catarina, it’s certainly easy to understand why busy people like Condo living – everything is taken care of. I can’t see us giving up our place anytime soon although I will admit it’s getting harder all the time to keep it up. Of course, living in a rural area with vast distances between towns, we have to have a car, like it or not. And the not forward thinking government decided getting rid of most of the train tracks was a smart move. I think now they’re starting to realize their mistake.

  20. As usual, I am over the top impressed with the thoroughness of this list. It also reminds me how glad I am NOT to have to do this anymore!!! LOL No, even as a renter I do my part…get the furnace checked, etc. And although I do not live a cold climate any longer, I still do the car check and carry a blanket in my trunk. Best thing ever? I love the idea of purifying the air with lemon thyme, orange mint and lavender! That’s a new one and I am glad to hear about it!

    • You know Jacquie, I wouldn’t give up my seasons for anything, even though getting ready for winter does seem to require a lot of work. I love the changes and every time another season comes, I’m ready for it. In another couple of weeks, my yard is going to look absolutely gorgeous with the sun shining on the coloured leaves of the maples. Can’t beat that.
      Glad you picked up on the air-purifiers. I love those. Anytime you’re feeling the least bit blue just stick your face in one of them and Goodbye blues, Hello life.

  21. Oh my! This makes my nostalgic for the 34 years I lived in Santa Barbara where there were no seasons, just events! (earthquakes, floods, etc.) There would be a very few winter days when the temp was in the 50s. That’s it. No, summer vegetables wouldn’t grow, expecially tomatoes but that was minor. Oh well, my hubby loves seasons.

    • Hi Beth, wait until you retire and winter becomes another season altogether. I used to dread it coming on because of the horrid winter driving but now that I’m retired, I can watch the blizzards happening from my chair in front of the fire. Two different worlds completely. And when it comes down to it, what’s a little snow compared to earthquakes and floods?

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