Whether your seaside sanctuary is a second home primarily used for summer vacations—so you plan to batten down the hatches and secure it for the season—or your coastal cottage is your family’s primary residence and you will be riding out the winter there, owning a home in a seaside community means taking the time to start winterizing your beach house properly. Failing to perform the proper preventative measures before snow, ice and freezing temperatures arrive could cause your home to incur major damage over the cold winter months—the effects of which can be both time-consuming and costly to repair or replace. When you’re preparing to winterize your beach house this season, make sure the following items are on your to-do list.
PROTECT YOUR PLUMBING SYSTEM
When it comes to winterizing your beach house, few tasks are more important to take care of than properly protecting your plumbing from the potential devastation that can be caused by freezing temperatures. Because the vast majority of beach houses were originally built as vacation homes that would primarily be occupied during the warm spring and summer months, many homeowners find that their property’s plumbing lacks the appropriate amount of insulation to protect the pipes from becoming frozen and ultimately bursting open. If you’re a year-round resident and will be residing at your property during the winter, perform a thorough examination of the insulation surrounding the interior and exterior pipes throughout your beach house—including those in attics, utility rooms and crawl spaces—to check for missing, damaged or insufficient insulation that could put the pipes at a higher risk of freezing up when cold weather strikes.
If you don’t plan on spending any time at your beach house yourself this winter—and you also don’t intend to make the property available for potential vacationers to rent out for a week or two—winterizing your beach house is a relatively quick and easy process. While you should always make a habit of routinely examining your home’s pipes each winter to ensure that anything exposed to the elements is adequately covered by insulation, the only surefire way to protect your pipes from bursting when the temperature dips below freezing is to prevent any water from traveling through them in the first place. Before you vacate your home for the season, simply switch off the property’s main water supply, then open all interior and exterior faucets—including showers and bathtub faucets—to completely drain any remaining water out of the pipes.
Neglecting to properly prepare your plumbing system when winterizing your beach house for the cold months to come could result in catastrophic damage if water inside a pipe freezes to the point of expansion—causing the pipe to burst and potentially costing you thousands of dollars in water damage (not to mention an extremely high water bill), particularly if the leak goes undetected for an extended period of time.
ADD INSULATION TO WINDOWS, DOORS & OTHER SUSCEPTIBLE AREAS
Regardless of whether you are staying at your residence throughout the winter months this year or you’re closing it up and heading out of town until spring, checking to make sure windows, doors and other susceptible spots are properly insulated is a key component of winterizing your beach house. When doors and windows lack proper insulation, drafts of cold air are permitted to penetrate your property through small gaps or leaks along their edges—and the warm air inside your house is allowed to escape, causing costly energy bills that can easily be avoided by taking a few preventative measures.
Although many homeowners assume the insulation found around their doors and windows is sufficient as is, it’s imperative to examine the condition of your home’s insulation and weatherstripping every season to ensure it isn’t damaged. Keep in mind that older homes that have not been maintained properly—as well as homes that are used as vacation rental properties and therefore experience more use and higher rates of wear and tear—are much more likely to sustain damage to doors and windows than gently used primary residences. No matter which type of property you own, the first step to winterizing your beach house is a thorough examination of all at-risk areas, which range from windows and doors to attics and chimneys.
CLEAN AND INSPECT YOUR CHIMNEY
One item that is often overlooked by homeowners who are in the process of winterizing their beach house is cleaning and inspecting their chimney—a task that is extremely important to undertake at least once each year, particularly if a proper examination wasn’t performed before it was first used in the fall. According to the National Fire Protection Association, failure to clean chimneys is a leading cause of home heating house fires. From leaves, twigs and pine cones to bird nests and tree branches, a wide array of debris can easily make its way inside your chimney and begin to obstruct the airflow. In addition to these types of blockages, the buildup of flammable material caused by incomplete combustion can also create dangerous conditions and fire hazards that need to be taken care of before the chimney can be used to keep your family warm during cold weather.
Although it’s possible to perform a quick look inside your chimney yourself to check for debris, deterioration and damage, experts say a chimney check shouldn’t be considered a do-it-yourself job. In order to ensure your chimney is cleaned correctly and that the system is in good working order, contact a professional to handle this winterization task for you. Hiring an experienced professional will not only prevent you from overlooking damage or debris that could result in a catastrophe once the chimney is used to heat your home; it will also provide you with the peace of mind that comes with knowing this important beach house winterization chore was performed correctly.
EXAMINE YOUR ROOF AND GUTTERS
When it comes to the massive amount of water damage that can occur along the roof if you don’t know how to winterize your beach house properly, prevention is a key component of protecting your property. Check the entire length of your gutters to ensure they are clean and free of any leaves, branches or other types of debris, which can create potentially dangerous clogs. If debris—particularly wet leaves—is left unchecked and permitted to build up inside your gutters, it can add a considerable amount of weight and cause them to leak, crack or even tear loose from the roof.
Likewise, when water is prevented from draining properly due to clogs in your gutters, it can lead to the formation of ice dams when temperatures drop below freezing. Once an ice dam has formed, it can have devastating effects on a residence—ranging from broken gutters and missing shingles to destroyed roofing and major flooding inside the attic or top-level living space—if the problem isn’t remedied immediately because the water trapped behind an ice dam can flow under the shingles on your roof and leak into the house, potentially damaging the ceilings, walls, floors and insulation. Water damage can be catastrophic and costly, so if you own a home along the coast, your best bet is to prevent it from occurring in the first place by properly winterizing your beach house this season.
In addition to checking for clogs inside your downspouts and gutters, be sure to inspect the rest of the roof for any damaged or missing shingles, which can lead to leaks in those locations during rain showers or snowstorms. While you’re winterizing your beach house by performing your roof check, don’t forget to examine the flashing—the thin, weatherproof pieces of metal that are installed around windows, doors, gutters, chimneys and other exterior joints—to ensure it is functioning correctly and diverting runoff away from vulnerable areas of the roof.
SECURE YOUR OUTDOOR SPACE
Once you’ve wrapped up the to-do list of tasks inside your home, the last step you need to take when winterizing your beach house is to secure the items in your outdoor space. Bring patio and deck furniture indoors to prevent it from being damaged during inclement weather and to avoid it being blown about in high winds. If you are unable to move outdoor furniture inside your home, a garage or shed, be sure to secure it sufficiently in a safe spot so that it doesn’t come loose and get lost—or cause damage to other parts of your property during winter snowstorms or nor’easters.
TIP: WINTERIZING YOUR BEACH HOUSE WITH THE HELP OF A FRIEND OR NEIGHBOR
If you own a beach house but won’t be riding out the winter at the property, consider finding a friend, a neighbor or someone located nearby who can periodically check on your home upon request to check for damage and report any necessary repairs back to you. You can’t put a price tag on the peace of mind that comes with knowing someone is ready and willing to keep a watchful eye on your home away from home this winter until you can finally return to your slice of paradise in the springtime.