How Much Does It Cost to Winterize a House?
Whether it’s caulking windows or having an HVAC system inspection, the cost to winterize a house can range from $200 to $1,000 on average. But the benefits of preventive maintenance outweigh the up-front costs.
- It typically costs between $200 and $1,000 to winterize a house, depending on the extent of the project.
- Some of the main factors that affect the total cost include the size of the home and the type of winterization project required for the home.
- Winterizing a home has several notable benefits, such as water damage prevention, reduced energy costs, break-in prevention, and winter storm preparedness.
- Homeowners can likely perform some basic winterization tasks as DIY projects, such as caulking around windows and doors or replacing furnace filters. However, certain tasks, such as gutter cleaning or HVAC inspection, are best left to a professional.
A warm and cozy house with reduced energy costs is achievable for most homeowners during the winter months. New homeowners may be unaware of common home winterization tasks, while seasoned homeowners might be interested in new tips for staying warmer without raising the thermostat. But how much does it cost to winterize a house? The exact cost could be anywhere from $200 to $1,000, according to HomeAdvisor. Each year, the amount a homeowner spends to winterize a house could change depending on which projects need attention.
Some of the most common and easy tasks involved in home winterization include cleaning gutters, adding weatherstripping to doors, caulking leaky windows and doors, and changing furnace filters. However, savvy homeowners will want to look at other parts of their home and yard to ensure everything is shipshape for Jack Frost’s arrival.
Sprinkler systems, HVAC units, plumbing, and roofs are just a few other items that will need to be inspected, repaired, and prepared before a small problem becomes a disaster. The average cost to winterize a house is a broad range to accommodate the potential for more expensive repairs, but many homeowners find ways to save money on annual winter maintenance.
Factors in Calculating the Cost to Winterize a House
Homes, apartments, townhomes, vacant houses, mobile homes, and mother-in-law apartments over the garage—all types of dwellings benefit from an up-front effort to make sure they’re ready for freezing temperatures and potential piles of snow. There are numerous factors that influence how much a homeowner could spend to winterize a home, from the size of the home to the part of the house or utilities that need inspection and preparation.
David Steckel, home expert at Thumbtack, has some sound advice for homeowners. “For winter specifically, I recommend prioritizing chimney and HVAC maintenance,” he says. “Book these projects ASAP to make sure you are ready for the cold weather and have access to the pros before everyone else starts calling them.”
Homes with older infrastructures often benefit from having their HVAC system serviced or ensuring there’s adequate insulation on their pipes. Roofs can be inspected for leaks before the snow alerts a homeowner to the problem. Weatherstripping is easily installed on drafty doors, and a bit of caulk can go a long way in reducing the effects of a breezy window. If there are no major winterization projects to worry about, homeowners can expect to stay closer to the lower end of the $200 to $1,000 estimate.
|Home Winterization Task||Average Cost|
|Additional insulation||$3,000 to $7,000|
|Boiler drain and service||$200 to $600|
|Chimney cleaning||$100 to $300|
|Furnace filter replacement||$10 to $30 each|
|Gutter guard installation||$591 to $2,197|
|Insulated curtains||$28 to $90|
|New storm windows||$2,000 to $5,000|
|Pipe insulation||$100 to $1,000|
|Programmable thermostat||$20 to $150|
|Roof inspection||$100 to $600|
|Seal and stain a wooden deck||$550 to $1,050|
|Seal concrete||$0.10 to $0.16 per square foot|
|Sprinkler winterization||$55 to $120|
|Weatherstripping or caulking doors||$35 to $95 per door|
|Window insulation film||$20 to $65 per window|
It goes without saying that a larger home tends to come with higher costs for just about everything. The same holds true for the cost to winterize a house. Large homes tend to have more windows and doors to be inspected as the most common culprits for poor temperature control. If drafty air is discovered, there are a few steps homeowners can take to winterize windows.
- Caulk any visible gaps or holes along the window frame.
- Hang insulated curtains to keep cold air out and warm air in.
- Add weatherstripping along the windowpane to ensure a strong seal.
- Put up window insulation film to block the cold air without losing the view.
These are some of the easiest ways to winterize a home on a budget, but they’re only a start. Homeowners with large houses may also need to evaluate the amount of insulation in their attic space. Adding insulation can benefit the entire home so the HVAC system isn’t constantly competing against the temperature in the attic all year long.
All homes come with insulation in the walls to protect pipes from freezing and to promote energy efficiency. However, some pipes need a little extra insulation depending on their location. Winterizing home plumbing is a task that can’t be overstated for any property owner.
Older homes may have areas where the pipes are more exposed, such as crawl spaces and attics. When temperatures drop, those pipes become easily susceptible to freezing and bursting. Adding a little extra insulation for pipes that are exposed can save homeowners a major headache and costly repair. UL-listed heat tape is recommended for most exposed pipes inside a home or garage, but any plastic water pipes will need to be wrapped in thermostatically controlled heat tape.
HVAC Inspection and Repairs
A smooth-running HVAC system is another key element that lets homeowners enjoy a comfortable home during the colder months. For those who don’t have regular maintenance visits, scheduling an HVAC inspection is recommended before winter arrives. An HVAC inspection cost averages about $320, but it’s ideal for identifying worn-out parts that need to be replaced before the system breaks down.
Furnace companies are typically extremely busy as soon as the weather turns chilly, so homeowners might prefer to book one of the best HVAC companies (such as Aire Serv and Dr. Energy Saver) in late summer when prices may also be lower. The service technician can also replace dirty filters and clean out the ducts to help reduce any built-up dust and dander.
Thermostat Adjustment or Replacement
Primary residences and vacant homes both benefit from a smart or programmable thermostat. If a home is still using an older style of thermostat or if it’s become unreliable, homeowners are advised to replace it with a more efficient unit.
Programmable thermostats are helpful for managing temperatures throughout the day and night, which means homeowners can spend less money on heating an empty house. Installing a new thermostat usually costs around $20 to $150 depending on the unit, brand, and style.
Fireplace and Chimney Inspection
Fireplaces and chimneys are often taken for granted: a fire is lit, the room warms up, and the smoke rises through the chimney. However, if a chimney is not properly maintained, it can pose health risks and even danger to residents of the home. A wood-burning chimney needs to draw all smoke up the flue and out of the house, and an oil or gas stove will need to send any chemical byproducts up and out as well.
Chimney inspection cost depends on the type and size of chimney, the number of flues, and how accessible it is. Most homeowners will spend around $300 for inspection, while chimney repair cost averages between $160 to $750. However, the cost of inspection and repairs is worth it to ensure a safe environment for an evening by the fireplace.
Water and Gas Line Cutoff
Owners of vacant houses are advised to add a few extra tasks to their home winterization checklist. Two suggested tasks are to turn off the water line and the gas line. This is important to prevent any potential accidents that could occur while the house is unoccupied. A broken water main that goes unnoticed for days or weeks would become a costly disaster. A plumber can help ensure all appliances and toilets are drained of water. Failure to turn off the gas line could lead to a dangerous gas leak.
Replacing old weatherstripping is an easy task to complete and a low-cost project for homeowners. Sometimes no weatherstripping exists in the first place. If it feels as though the windows are draftier than usual, homeowners can call a handyman to add weatherstripping to windows and doors. The cost for replacing weatherstripping averages $35 to $95 per door, but removing and replacing it for an entire house could cost between $200 and $600.
Window and Door Caulking
Another easy way to insulate windows for winter is to add fresh caulk around windows and doors that have cracks or gaps. These seemingly small cracks can have a big impact on energy efficiency, so the effort is worth doing. It’s also one of the cheapest ways to winterize a house. The cost of hiring a handyman to caulk doors can average between $35 to $95 per door.
Sump Pump Repairs or Replacement
Sump pump owners are usually well aware of the need to keep a sump pump maintained. It’s one thing to have a kitchen pipe burst, but it’s another to have a sump pump backing up in the house. Homeowners will want to budget between $45 and $200 per hour for a plumber to ensure the sump pump is ready for winter temperatures. Those who are looking into sump pump costs for a new property will want to factor in yearly maintenance costs as well.
Homeowners who want a fully winterized property have a number of tasks they can consider doing before Old Man Winter makes an appearance. These tasks could include anything from draining outdoor faucets to sealing cracked concrete. The cost for each winterization task will vary by geographic location and home size, among other considerations.
- Drain faucets and hoses. A common cause for broken faucets is when a garden hose is left connected to the faucet during a night of freezing temperatures. One of the easiest tasks a homeowner can accomplish is simply unscrewing the hose from the faucet and allowing them both to drain.
- Blow out any irrigation systems. The cost to winterize an irrigation system is very much worth it since those pipes are more exposed than indoor pipes. The water will need to be blown out of the pipes and the main water turned off. If water remains in the pipes near the main control valve, it can freeze, expand, and burst the pipes. Many homeowners also choose to insulate these exposed pipes for added protection. The process to winterize a sprinkler system costs between $55 and $120 depending on geographic location and how many sprinkler zones there are.
- Rake and fertilize the lawn. Homeowners can also winterize their lawn. Raking up leaves and thatching any dead grass can help improve the spring growth. Adding a little fertilizer is also beneficial for a lawn to stay healthy through the cold months.
- Fill cracks and seal concrete. Winterizing concrete is another good idea for homeowners who are already seeing cracks or surface spalling happening. Filling in the cracks and sealing the surface before the rain and snow make a regular appearance can help prevent a costly concrete replacement down the road.
- Clean the gutters and downspouts. Another item homeowners will want to winterize is their gutters. Fallen leaves and other debris can wreak havoc on gutters if they cause snow and ice to accumulate rather than flow unimpeded. The $160 average gutter cleaning cost is worth the price to hire a pro with the right equipment to safely reach the gutters. The larger the home, the more gutters to clean, and the higher the cost. Researching the best gutter cleaning services (such as Window Genie or Men In Kilts) can help homeowners find the right price for their budget. Homeowners can ask about gutter guard costs to cut down on future costs since they prevent leaves from piling up each year.
Cost to Winterize a Home by Type of Home
Homeowners who are considering the question “How much does it cost to winterize a house?” will need to make decisions based on the type of home they own. A primary residence and a vacant home (such as a summer vacation home) will have different needs for winterization services than what’s required for winterizing an apartment. However, the cost to winterize a mobile home will be about the same as the cost to winterize a smaller, traditional home.
|Home Type||Average Winterization Cost (Materials and Labor)|
|Primary residence: basic maintenance||$200 to $250|
|Primary residence: repairs or upgrades||$250 to $1,000|
|Vacant home||$100 to $200|
Primary Residence: Basic Maintenance
While the list of winterization tasks can be extensive, most homeowners will only need to take care of a handful of items every year. These tasks generally fall under the usual basic maintenance requirements that go along with homeownership. Hiring a pro to do some or all of these tasks may cost between $200 and $250.
- Add insulation to windows or attics;
- Blow out sprinklers and turn off main water;
- Caulk windows and doors;
- Clean gutters;
- Clean, inspect, and repair chimneys;
- Inspect the HVAC system;
- Replace furnace filters; and
- Trim branches away from gutters.
Primary Residence: Repairs or Upgrades
In some cases, more immediate repairs or upgrades will be needed to make sure a home is ready for cold temperatures. A chimney may need to be repaired or waterproofed or an HVAC system may need several new parts. Homeowners who use a boiler might also need to schedule a service to flush it before winter. Any major repair that occurs during a home winterization project could push the cost higher than the upper range of $1,000, though simpler repairs are likely to be much less.
The answer to “How much does it cost to winterize a vacant house?” is $100 to $200 on average. Most winterization tasks for a vacant house can be done rather easily since all that’s primarily involved is shutting off water and gas lines. All standing water will need to be drained from the house, and irrigation systems will need to be blown out too.
Cleaning gutters and caulking leaky windows and doors are other tasks that homeowners will want to complete. If the home is in a region where heavy snowfall is possible, it may be worth having the roof inspected for an average cost of $100 to $600.
Benefits of Winterizing a House
Though homeowners may be apprehensive about the cost to winterize a house, the benefits far outweigh the up-front cost. It’s much easier to inspect and repair appliances, systems, roofs, and pipes before inclement weather sets in. Those repairs often lead to reduced energy costs as well.
Many home winterization companies offer lower prices before winter to encourage homeowners to schedule maintenance before demand skyrockets. Finally, foul weather is masterful at exposing and magnifying problems that have gone unnoticed, so it’s a wise idea for homeowners to stay on top of home winterization tasks.
Water Damage Prevention
There are times when extreme weather foils even the most prepared homeowner, but in most cases, ensuring pipes are well insulated is enough to prevent them from bursting in the winter. The benefits here are fairly obvious since the damage from broken pipes can be extensive and expensive.
Preventing water damage through proper home winterization efforts is worth the steps a homeowner takes. Otherwise, homeowners may be stuck with additional costs to repair plumbing, remove and replace drywall and flooring, or purchase new furniture.
Reduced Energy Costs
Any tip to reduce energy costs is helpful for savvy homeowners. So while an HVAC service cost may feel like an unnecessary expense, it’s helpful to prevent a more costly breakdown at an inconvenient time. More importantly, a furnace that runs efficiently thanks to proper maintenance can save money. Those savings are even better when an efficient HVAC system is paired with a well-sealed house containing caulked windows, weatherstripped doors, and insulated curtains.
Winter Storm Preparedness
Depending on the home’s geographic location, ice storms or heavy snow could be a regular occurrence that necessitates regular winter preparations. Homeowners can make preparations in the fall to lessen the burden of any potential disasters by taking care of basic winterization tasks.
An early, heavy, wet snow could cause a leaf-laden tree branch to fall on the house unless it’s properly trimmed back. And it’s much less costly to repair a leaky roof in the fall than in the winter when access is much more limited due to frequent snow.
Winterizing a House: DIY vs. Hiring a Professional
Homeowners typically have one of two reasons in mind when they consider DIY projects around the house: save money or keep busy. Sometimes it may be both reasons at once. Besides, it never hurts to find a way to save a little money, and experienced DIYers often enjoy keeping busy with renovation and repair projects. Naturally, a long list of potential winterization items will include some items that are simple enough for an avid DIY homeowner to tackle. Caulking cracks around windows and doors, installing insulated curtains, and replacing furnace filters are generally simple tasks that are also fairly low cost.
According to Steckel, “For winter projects in general, I typically recommend hiring a pro due to the increased risks that winter often brings, including treacherous weather that can lead to injuries or major DIY flops. As the seasons change, it’s crucial to remain proactive about home maintenance, particularly in the fall and winter.”
For homeowners with less time or mobility, hiring a handyman can be an alternative solution. The average hourly rate for hiring a handyman is $25 to $100, but a handyman may charge an average of $10 to $200 per project.
Experienced homeowners may even try to clean their own gutters, though it’s advisable to leave that to a professional who is accustomed to safely working on ladders. Most of all, homeowners are encouraged to be proactive around their property and check for holes, leaks, exposed pipes, overhanging branches, or other potential concerns that could be resolved.
More pressing or serious tasks need to be addressed by a professional. For example, HVAC systems and plumbing can only be inspected and repaired by a licensed and qualified repairman. Hiring a pro is also the best route for other things such as winterizing a pool, repairing a fireplace or chimney, or inspecting a boiler.
How to Save Money on the Cost to Winterize a House
In most cases, homeowners won’t need to spend thousands of dollars on winterizing their home. Still, it can’t hurt to save a few dollars on any project around the house. There are several tips that can help homeowners find ways to keep the cost to winterize a house more in line with their budget.
- Install a smart or digital thermostat. A new thermostat can help maintain a more efficient home with better temperature control throughout the day. It’s also easy for homeowners to control a smart thermostat when they’re on vacation and need to raise the temperature to prevent pipes from freezing during an unexpected cold snap.
- DIY simple jobs. Most homeowners can shop for and install weatherstripping, draft stoppers, insulated curtains, or window insulation film.
- Set up regular maintenance. Ask a local service company about maintenance plans they may offer to help keep an HVAC or boiler system running smoothly. Prevention and early identification can save homeowners from having to pay for a costly emergency visit to replace long-worn-out parts that could have been taken care of earlier.
- Schedule tasks over time. Sometimes it’s overwhelming to pay for several maintenance projects at one time. Instead, make a list of all the tasks that need to be taken care of and plan them out over several weeks. A deck or concrete patio could be sealed in August, while the furnace could be checked in September.
- Plan ahead. Many service companies offer discounts to inspect or repair appliances and mechanical systems in the offseason. This helps them alleviate demand during the early weeks when cold weather hits. And it benefits homeowners who won’t have to wait several days for a service tech to get their chilly house back to normal.
- Ask about discounts. Always ask about any discounts that may apply to special categories such as seniors, military personnel, and first responders.
- Get a home warranty. A policy from one of the best home warranty companies, such as American Home Shield or AFC Home Club, could help cover the cost of repairs to major home systems and appliances such as a furnace or AC unit.
Questions to Ask About Winterizing a House
When it comes to homeownership, there is no such thing as asking too many questions. The more questions a homeowner asks a service provider or general contractor about winterization tips, the more confident they’ll feel about the process and the security of their house.
- Are you licensed and insured?
- How long have you been in business?
- Do you offer a free estimate or a free inspection?
- What kind of warranties do you offer?
- Do you have any regular maintenance plans available?
For HVAC companies
- How soon can you inspect my HVAC system?
- How much will it cost to inspect?
- Do you recommend cleaning the ducts in the fall or spring?
- Will you replace the filters? If so, what will that cost?
- Do you have manufacturer parts on hand in case my furnace needs repairs?
- Should I repair or replace the unit?
- Can you install a smart thermostat? If so, what will that cost?
For general contractors
- What areas would you inspect for home winterization?
- Will you check the interior attic and the exterior roof for leaks?
- Can you insulate my attic? If so, how much will that cost?
- If you find any exposed pipes, what is your recommendation for insulating them properly?
For gutter cleaners
- What do you charge for cleaning gutters on a 2-story house?
- What kind of access will you need?
- How long will it take to clean my gutters?
- Will you clean up the mess of leaves and debris?
- Will you also inspect the roof, gutters, and fascia for any damage?
- Can you install gutter guards? If so, what will that cost?
For chimney repair services
- Are you certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America?
- What do you include in the inspection?
- How long will the inspection take?
- Will my chimney need to be repaired or replaced?
- How will you protect my house and yard during the inspection and repair process?
- Should I avoid using my fireplace until it can be inspected?
- Will I need to wait to use the fireplace after a repair is completed?
- What should I watch for that may indicate additional repairs are needed?
For handyman services
- Do you charge an hourly fee or a flat fee per item or service?
- Will you bring all your own tools and equipment?
- If I purchase the materials such as weatherstripping, what would you charge to remove the old weatherstripping and replace it?
- How long will it take you to complete the job?
First-time homeowners may be overwhelmed by how many projects could be on a home winterization task list. Even experienced homeowners may have additional questions about the cost to winterize a house. There are several frequently asked questions and answers that can help homeowners clarify details and build confidence to tackle winter preparations with ease.
Q. When should I winterize my house?
Long before the first freeze arrives, homeowners are encouraged to get started on their winterization projects for a few reasons. First, it’s much easier to inspect and access areas of the home and property before rain, ice, and snow make an appearance.
Second, family members will appreciate that the furnace turns on as expected when that first nippy fall day arrives. Third, most homeowners put off winterization tasks, which creates a backlog of demand for service professionals during the first cold weeks of winter.
Q. Is it safe to put antifreeze in pipes?
There is only one kind of antifreeze that is safe to put in a home’s pipe. It’s labeled RV antifreeze because it’s suitable for sewage systems in recreational vehicles and homes. The type of antifreeze that goes in a car to keep the radiator running smoothly in the winter is not suitable for residential plumbing. It’s made with ethylene glycol, whereas RV antifreeze is made with propylene glycol. When in doubt, it’s always a good idea for homeowners to speak with a plumber first.
Q. At what temperature do pipes freeze in your house?
Pipes are susceptible to freezing at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, since that’s the temperature at which water freezes. It’s worth noting that wind chill can cause colder temperatures, and certain areas of a house can also be colder than average.
When temperatures approach the 32-degree Fahrenheit mark, homeowners can take measures to protect their pipes from freezing. Pipes should be insulated already, but allowing a slow drip of water to flow through the faucets can also help prevent freezing.
Q. What is the best temperature for a vacant house in the winter?
When a house is empty for at least several days, it’s recommended that the thermostat be kept at 55 degrees Fahrenheit. This is warm enough to keep the pipes warm, but cool enough to be energy efficient.