Prepare the house for the winter

While the first flurry of the season can be a striking sight, with branches covered in crystalline icicles and yards layered with fluffy blankets of white, by the time the snow builds up over the winter, it can wreak havoc on your home. If you don’t safeguard against the cold, problems can range from the pesky, like climbing gas costs, to the downright worrisome, like flooded basements. “Whether you live in a house on the water or a home in the country, prepping a residence for the winter is one of the most important tasks for homeowners,” says Stephen Fanuka, who worked with Beyoncé and her mother, Tina Knowles, on the remodel of Queen Bey’s former New York City apartment at One Beacon Court. “Pick two or three jobs to tackle each weekend so you don’t overburden yourself. If you start in early December, you’ll be done by Christmas.” Now is the time to set aside your holiday gift list and start checking off the items on Fanuka’s guide for an improved home this winter. See below for his top tips.

1. Trim your trees

“I always tell my clients to prune the trees and shrubs in their yards,” says Fanuka. “If there are any dead branches hiding in there, they could break off and go right through a window of your home during a snowstorm. You want the trees to be dormant before you start trimming, so the later in the winter, the better off the vitality of the tree. However, it’s not going to kill the tree if you do it in late fall. Once completed, take a look to make sure the branches are a good distance away from all windows.”

2. Reroute your ceiling fans

“If you have ceiling fans in your home, you can actually create an updraft by reversing the direction of the airflow,” says Fanuka. “Picture heat blowing from the ceiling vent: It’s blowing in a downward path, and if you switch the direction of the fan, it’s going to push and spread that hot air down to the surface of the room. This will allow you to increase the temperature by a degree or two, saving you not only energy but also money.”

3. Insulate doors and windows

“It’s all about energy,” says Fanuka. “You want to keep your heating costs as low as possible, and one way to achieve that goal is with insulation. Put your hand against doors and windows to see if you feel cold air coming through any cracks. If so, you can buy self-adhesive insulation strips, also known as weatherstrip tape, and stick it right on the doorframe. Sometimes, around the windows, caulk from years before may have dissipated. Go ahead and recaulk those openings, but remember to only caulk the outside perimeters, not the windows themselves.”

4. Review the roof

“You want to check your roof for missing shingles or holes,” says Fanuka. “If there is any damage to the roof, water from melting snow will find a way to get into your home during the winter. You also want to make sure your roof is stable enough to withstand heavy snowfall. If you have a flat rooftop, then blow the leaves, pine dust, and anything else off of its surface because those items trap in moisture when it rains, which, in fact, can create even more damage to the roof itself.”

5. Avoid freezing pipes

“Preventing pipes from freezing is one of the easiest tasks to complete in preparation for winter,” says Fanuka. “First, measure the diameter of the pipe and then go to your local hardware store and buy foam insulation wide enough to accommodate the pipes. Once you place the insulation over the pipe, you are finished. Keep in mind that you also need to be concerned about the water pipes that are against the exterior of the home and automatic sprinklers. With sprinklers, the pipes burst from frozen water stuck inside, so be sure to get all the water out or else you may have to buy a whole new irrigation system the following year.”