Homeowners Guide to Winter Weather Preparation

Contributions by 3 experts

Updated: May 22, 2024

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As temperatures drop and the weather grows unpredictable, the urgency to winterize your home increases. The colder months can create freezing pipes, hanging gutters, fires and power outages. So, what should you do to prepare for winter? By conducting simple and timely safety measures, such as purchasing extra home insurance coverage, performing energy audits and fixing structural defects, you can ensure your home is ready for the winter months.

Winter Damage Fast Facts


Jumpstart your winter weather preparedness plan with some quick facts about the most common disasters during the wintertime.

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The total insurance losses from winter-related catastrophes nationwide spiked by more than $15 billion in 2021.

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Although common insurance claims from winter-related issues include pipe bursts, house fires and ice buildups, statistics show that 19.9% of homes were damaged by freezing and water damage and 45.5% by wind and hail in 2020.

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Statistics show that fatalities during the colder winter months have steadily increased by 8–12% in the past few years.

What to Expect When Winter Arrives

When searching online, you’ll find different responses to the question, “how can I protect myself in the winter?” Winter weather safety measures and risks vary depending on your state’s climate, living space, lifestyle and household setup. While some tips may be valuable, following generic preparedness plans can yield negligible results.

To properly prepare, assess the risks your household faces. After all, common weather catastrophes during the winter include varying emergencies, from house fires caused by heating equipment to roofs collapsing under snow accumulation.

5 Common Winter Hazards

Familiarize yourself with the most common winter hazards. A disaster prevention strategy has to address a specific issue before you can consider it effective. While universal safety measures keep you safe to an extent, you should tackle particular hazards and risks to ensure your household’s safety during the winter.

Ice damming

Ice dams put the overall structural integrity of your roofing at risk. They could even cause permanent damage to your gutters, drains and shingles if you leave snow and water to build up on the roof and freeze.

Pipe bursts

Frequently inspect your plumbing system during winter. Frozen pipes are generally more prone to leaks, cracks and ruptures since the ice weakens their overall integrity. Otherwise, the leaking water could cause flooding or electrical shortages.

Power outages

States with a lot of snowfall often experience winter power outages. Natural elements like strong winds, ice buildups and harsh storms damage power lines. Unfortunately, most modern homes heavily rely on electricity. A power outage could compromise your heating, communication, plumbing and cooking devices.

House fires

With people frequently using heating equipment, ice can build up, compromising power lines. Additionally, with homeowners setting up holiday decorations, house fire risk increases. Always check your living space for potentially unaddressed fire hazards.

Unsafe driving conditions

Prepare your vehicle before driving in the winter. Slippery roads, poor visibility and harsh storms create terrible driving conditions. Negligence could lead to traffic accidents.

Top 5 Snowiest Cities in the US

Weather conditions greatly vary across the U.S. The average daily temperature nationwide ranges from 71.5°F to 28.1°F, depending on the state. And as you might have guessed, winters tend to be harsher in colder areas.

If you live in any of the following states, we strongly recommend taking extra measures to combat winter hazards.

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    Syracuse, New York

    With Syracuse nestled just south of Lake Ontario, it experiences one of the harshest winters in the U.S. The city’s snowfall averages 127.8 inches, piling up around 10–11 feet of snow.

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    Erie, Pennsylvania

    Like Syracuse, Erie is near Lake Erie, a large body of water, so it also experiences harsh winters. The city’s annual snowfall averages 104.3 inches.

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    Rochester, New York

    Snowfall averages vary in this part of northwestern New York state. South Rochester only experiences about 70–90 inches of snowfall per year, while east Rochester snowfall averages well over 100–120 inches.

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    Buffalo, New York

    Although Buffalo only experienced 77.2 inches of snowfall in 2021, more recent statistics show that the city is currently averaging 97.4 inches.

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    Boulder, Colorado

    Don’t interchange the weather forecasts in Boulder and Denver. Although they’re 25+ miles away from each other, their weather conditions vary greatly. The annual snowfall in Boulder averages 77–109 inches compared to the 47–60 inches in Denver.

An illustration of a professional planning a winter weather preparedness strategy.

How Homeowners Can Prepare for Cold Weather and Storms

Once you understand common winter hazards, you can start planning your winter weather preparedness strategy. This includes preparing your cars for the winter roads, checking your home for structural defects, scheduling medical checkups to minimize the risks of getting sick, evacuating the elderly if needed and reviewing your emergency funds.

1. Winterize your home

Before starting with anything else, it’s essential to winterize your living space. Statistics show that winter storms cause more than a billion dollars worth of yearly insured losses. The damages stem from various issues. To jumpstart your renovations, focus on the most common winter-related complications like ice damming, snow buildups, wind damage, pipe bursts and hail damage.

2. Conduct vehicle and tire maintenance

Ensure your vehicle safety by having a trusted mechanic and tire shop examine your vehicle before winter. During the winter, strong winds and snow buildup create unsafe roads. Statistics show that more than 24% of traffic accidents nationwide occur on slippery winter roads annually.

Your mechanic should suggest ways to winter-proof your car. Although safety measures vary from motorist to motorist, at least expect to shell out for new winter tires and windshield wipers.

3. Protect household members’ health

Schedule an appointment with your family doctor. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu activity in the U.S. peaks during winter months, so you’d do well to safeguard your household against common infections. Otherwise, you and your loved ones might spend the holidays sick and in isolation.

4. Review your finances

Take another look at your emergency finances. Although winter safety measures mitigate risks, you can’t wholly eliminate the possibility of catastrophes and accidents. It’s best to plan for the unexpected by building an emergency fund.

You should generally have enough finances to cover at least four to six months of expenses without working. Also, review your insurance policies. Purchase extra coverage to qualify for claims in case of property damages, road accidents or illnesses.

5. Stock up on emergency supplies

Consider purchasing groceries in bulk. With the holidays fast approaching and snow building up on public roads, going to the supermarket will gradually become more challenging. You’ll have fewer chances to get groceries.

To maximize your winter emergency preparedness, stock up on essentials like toiletries, canned goods, dry grains and batteries. Winter storms can make it impossible to go outside.

An illustration of homeowners insurance that covers winter damages.

How Being Insured Can Protect You Against Winter Damages

How else can you protect your house in the winter? Besides safeguarding your living space against common winter weather risks, we strongly recommend bolstering your homeowners insurance policy. Most comprehensive homeowners insurance policies only cost around $1,500—2,500 per year. Although the premiums might seem steep, note that it’s a fraction of what water and ice-related claims cost. Take this chance to revisit the coverages and limitations of your policy.

Benefits of Homeowners Insurance During Winter Weather

To help you reach an objective, informed decision, it’s essential to understand the benefits of having enough homeowners insurance coverage during the winter.

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    Coverage for emergencies

    Map out your insurance policies so that most winter-related accidents and injuries are covered. Otherwise, your hospital bills could skyrocket to several grand.

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    Claims for home repairs

    If your house gets damaged during a snowstorm, your insurer will likely cover most water and ice-related damages. Make sure to document all the repairs done.

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    Protection for your finances

    It’s good financial foresight to build an emergency fund for your household. However, delay your first withdrawal for as long as you can. If you don’t want your money to run dry quickly, you will do well to rely on insurance plans and policies instead.

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    Customizable policies

    Basic insurance plans often have rigid limitations. Fortunately, you can talk to your insurer about boosting your homeowners insurance policy. Make sure to address common winter weather risks.

Limits and Exclusions

Homeowners insurance covers several winter weather risks, but there are limitations. You can’t expect your policy to pay for everything that happens to your household or living space during a winter weather emergency. Familiarize yourself with the limitations. That way, you can draw up alternative solutions.

For instance, homeowners insurance doesn’t cover power outages. If a storm hits your area with a blackout, you’re responsible for whatever damage it does to your home and the appliances inside it. Also, homeowners insurance doesn’t cover rainwater flooding. You likely can’t file a claim unless the water damage stems from a pipe burst.

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Review if you have a named or open peril policy. Many named policies have rigid exclusions on wind and hail damage, so you might have to upgrade your coverage.

How to Stay Safe During Extreme Cold Weather

Unless you live in one of the coldest states in the U.S., you likely won’t experience a thunder snowstorm. They only occur a couple of times per year. With that said, you still can’t wholly dismiss the risks, and it would significantly help if you and your loved ones knew what to do during a storm. Remember: Emergencies leave no room for error. Making even a small mistake could lead to grave, possibly fatal, accidents.

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Staying Safe Inside Your Home
  1. Monitor household members. Watch out for common signs of winter injuries and illnesses. Address the sick promptly.
  2. Winterize your home. Install insulation, repair ceiling/window drafts, fix roofing damages and clean out the pipes at least a few weeks before winter. Otherwise, you’ll put your house at additional risk.
  3. Hire a professional to check your heating system. Poorly maintained HVACs are fire hazards, especially if you have various electronic devices like appliances and holiday decor around your living space.
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Staying Safe Outside Your Home
  1. Travel with a responsible, trustworthy buddy that you can rely on during emergencies, especially during harsh winters. Brief them on your pre-existing medical conditions, so they know what to expect.
  2. Wear the appropriate winter clothing. Tightly woven scarves, insulated jackets, thick gloves and thick earmuffs will go a long way in keeping you warm.
  3. Walk and drive slowly. The roads are very slippery during the winter, especially if it snows where you live. Investing in winter tires can help keep you safe on the roads if you have a car. Although they can be pricey, a solid set will last several years.

Recognize Hypothermia Signs

  • Back and muscle pain: Shoveling snow for hours on end could take a toll on your back muscles.
  • Head injuries: Slip and fall accidents are higher during the wintertime. Watch out for head injuries and concussions since they’re sometimes hard to spot, especially if the injured has a hat.
  • Low body temperature: Patients suffering from hypothermia have abnormally low body temperatures, so they’ll feel cold, exhausted and on the brink of collapsing.
  • Sudden dizziness: Old, poorly maintained furnaces could leak carbon monoxide, so watch for signs of poisoning like sudden exhaustion, confusion and nausea.

How to Handle Unexpected Damage to Your Home

How do people prepare for harsh winters? Besides safeguarding their living spaces against winter weather risks, they also know how to fix structural damages. Of course, you don’t necessarily have to study carpentry. But it would help if you knew who to call or what services to get if your house gets damaged. If you experience an unexpected home emergency during the winter, there are several steps you can take to quickly stop further damage from occurring.

  • Pipe bursts: Once you hear a pipe burst, go straight to the main water supply and turn off the valve. It’s crucial to act quickly to avoid flooding your home.
  • Frozen pipes: Turn the faucets on so that water runs through your frozen pipes. To hasten the thawing process, use a hair dryer or heat pad on the blockages in your plumbing system.
  • Ice damming: Pour hot water over the snow and ice on your roof. Don’t let the ice buildup, or it could cause roofing issues, including collapse, if it worsens.
  • Snow buildup: Frequently plow your driveway. It’s dangerous to drive and walk on slippery, snow-filled pavements.
An illustration of a homeowner preparing what he needs to do after winter weather passes.

What to Do After Winter Weather Passes

Knowing the steps to take after a harsh winter is just as important as understanding what you should not do in the winter. Assess all areas of your life. Regardless of whether an emergency happened, you should take this time to re-evaluate the winter weather preparedness strategy you followed. Strive to create a better one for next year.

Know What to Do After Winter

Tend to your property. Even if your house isn’t severely damaged, prolonged exposure to natural elements like rain, snow, wind and hail still leads to minor complications.

Clear the snow

Shovel the snow in your driveway. Not only does snow buildup make walking challenging, but it also covers up possible structural issues and damages.

Inspect your property

Once your driveway is clear, inspect your property. Check the garden for fallen limbs, climb up on the roof for missing shingles, assess your plumbing system and take note of any unusual defects.

Review your finances

Take a moment to review your finances. Check what damages insurance covers, then assess if you have enough funds to repair the ones that aren’t.

Take action

After making a thorough assessment, start working on the repairs. Ensure that your house is in tip-top shape before the new year starts, or else the unaddressed damages might worsen.

Consult your insurer

If you have damage, call your insurer first. Double-check that they’ll cover the damages your house or property sustained over the winter. Otherwise, prepare your emergency funds.

Fix what you can

Start fixing minor issues like shoveling the piles of snow, looking for missing shingles and sweeping fallen leaves.

Contact trusted professionals

Consult with trusted contractors. We suggest interviewing at least three to four professionals before making a decision.

Expert Insight on Maintaining Your Home During Winter Weather

Preparing for winter and its aftermath can be tricky for anyone who has never had to think about it before. We’ve asked a few industry experts for their insight on what to do and how to prepare for the winter.

  1. What are some ways homeowners can mitigate the risk of winter weather damage on their homes?
  2. What type of home insurance should homeowners get to prepare for winter?
Alex Capozzolo
Alex CapozzoloCo-Founder of SD House Guys
Matt Teifke
Matt TeifkeFounder and CEO of Austin Real Estate Brokerage
Linda Chavez
Linda ChavezFounder & CEO of Seniors Life Insurance Finder

Resources for Protecting Your Home from Winter Weather

For more information on how to protect your home from winter weather, we suggest going through the following official resources:

About Nathan Paulus

Nathan Paulus headshot

Nathan Paulus is the Head of Content Marketing at MoneyGeek, with nearly 10 years of experience researching and creating content related to personal finance and financial literacy.

Paulus has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of St. Thomas, Houston. He enjoys helping people from all walks of life build stronger financial foundations.