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How To Winterize A Vacant Home

December 9, 2015

houseAre you one of many people who chases the sun? If you pack up for warmer climes in winter, this is information you need.

I found a terrific article on preparing your house for winter if you leave town on vacation during the winter months.  I will summarize here, but it’s worth reading the whole thing. The article goes into wonderful detail.

The article covers five areas to attend to: plumbing and utilities, the kitchen, the rest of your home, outdoor areas, and security.  They suggest you make a check list so you don’t forget anything.  Makes sense to me.

Winterizing your home while you’re away will keep disasters like burst pipes from happening.  In the insurance business, vacant homes are considered high risk for many kinds of losses. If an insured were not to take common sense precautions, not only does the risk of problems increase, an insurance company could refuse or limit claims due to negligence.

Plumbing & Utilities:

  1. Turn off the water at the exterior. Open all faucets and drain all waterlines, blow the lines of excess water, close the sink and tub drains.  Drain indoor or outdoor pools, fountains and other sources of standing water. Follow manufacturers’ directions to drain dishwashers and refrigerators.
  2. Turn down the thermostat to a level adequate to keep the inside temperature above freezing and to keep things dry.
  3. Unplug all appliances, including microwave ovens and TVs.
  4. For long absences, shut off gas hot water heaters completely.


  1. Clean out the refrigerator. Empty the freezer. Wash the refrigerator and freezer thoroughly. Place an open bag of activated charcoal on the inside of the open refrigerator.
  2. Remove all food from the pantry.
  3. Guard against insects and rodents. Wash trash containers. Use a botanical rodent repellent under the sink and on counters.
  4. In areas subject to freezing, remove all bottled liquids because their containers may burst when their contents freeze.
  5. Take all the trash out before you leave.

Rest of Home:

  1. Wash everything: linens, bedding, towels. Open empty drawers and closets; use mothballs in the others. Vacuum carpets and floors to get rid of crumbs or other sources of food that may attract rodents.
  2. Remove all fire hazards.
  3. Close flues and dampers.
  4. Arrange for indoor plants to be watered, if necessary.

Outdoor Areas:

  1. Protect the yard and garden.
    1. Arrange to have the lawn mowed and shrubbery trimmed.
    2. Cover any plants that are frost intolerant.
    3. Arrange to have your garden watered if necessary.
  2. Store outdoor furniture.
  3. Lock away expensive vehicles. Pleasure craft such as boats, ATVs, bicycles, canoes, kayaks and cars should be locked in a garage or storage shed. Block window views into this storage space.

Security Measures:

  1. Lock your house at all entry points. Close window shutters.
  2. Make it look like someone is home. Buy a couple of light timers and set them up to turn on automatically in the evenings.
  3. Do not leave valuables in a vacation home that may attract thieves. Take all small valuables with you.
  4. Stop your mail. Stop any other routine deliveries as well. Pay your bills before you go. Ask a neighbor to be on the lookout for packages which may come to you by UPS, FedEx or any another service.

Finally, have someone make regular check-ins.  Leave them a key and your contact information.

After doing all the things suggested in the article, your home should be safe and secure. And after doing all these things, you really will need a vacation!

At the risk of repeating myself, thanks for reading.

—E. A. Cooke

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