How to Survive Winter in the Sunshine State: Tips for Weatherproofing your Home

Yes, Virginia, it actually gets cold in Florida!

Before I moved to the Tampa Bay, I had no idea that the weather ever dropped to a point where I, born and raised in snowy cold freezing temperatures of the north, would ever succumb to wearing so much as a sweater in Florida. I saw people passing by in their coats and scarves and I was astounded. There was no snow! How could they be so cold?

I quickly learned that temperatures in Florida do drop in the winter! They can even reach freezing. And suddenly, I actually reach for a sweater – I even layer my clothes! I wonder if my blood has thinned, making me more susceptible to the cooler days or is there actually something to wet cold versus dry cold (as what I am used to)? My grandmother grew up in a humid climate and always told me that it’s as if the moisture goes right into your bones. A little research tells us that humidity conducts heat away from the body during cooler weather (and conversely, conducts heat to the body during warm weather). Interestingly, it has been stated that 53°F is the magical number where humidity will make the temperature seem colder or warmer depending on whether the temperature is higher or lower than this number.

So now that the days are actually starting to remain quite chilly and even wet from winter rain, and I can attest to near freezing temperatures in Zephyrhills, Tarpon Springs, Palm Harbor and the like, it is time to weatherproof my home – a metaphorical sweater, if you will, for my property!

Starting indoors, the first thing to do is inspect rooms for cracks and leaks. Fill any cracks or open areas (like around your dryer vent) with appropriate filler like caulk or foam. Check all plumbing for leaks. If you come across a leak, fix it immediately. If needed, consult a professional for help. Next, look for exposed pipes and insulate them. Frozen pipes are usually not a concern for residents of the Florida Gulf as temperatures need to be around 20°F for water to freeze in a pipe and threaten severe water damage. Nonetheless, we all pay heating and cooling bills year round and a well insulated pipe will do wonders for your energy bill.

An often overlooked aspect of weatherproofing your home is attic insulation. As with weatherproofing your pipes, a properly insulated attic can shrink a hefty energy bill. Several energy companies will provide free insulation inspections of your home. Also, there are government programs that exist to help you upgrade the insulation in your home: you pay a portion and the majority of the cost is taken care of by the program. Call your local energy provider today and arrange for an insulation inspection.

In addition to inspecting your plumbing system, exposed pipes, attic and walls for cracks, winter is a good time to have your furnace, fireplace and chimney professionally serviced. A well-maintained system will deliver results efficiently and safely. Further to servicing, before using your fireplace this season, inspect the damper to certify that it opens and closes properly. A beautiful log fire is difficult to enjoy if your home is filled with smoke! On that note, make sure your smoke detector has fresh batteries. It is a good idea to change the batteries twice a year and periodically test your smoke detector.

If you have a gas-log fireplace instead of a traditional wood burning fireplace, be aware that gas-burning appliances in your home give off Carbon Monoxide. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions exactly when using your gas-burning fireplace or any other type of gas-burning appliance. To further protect you and your family, install a carbon monoxide detector and follow the manufacturer’s directions. Finally, if the damper in your chimney has been blocked open to accommodate gas log fumes, a way to alleviate heat loss and prevent drafts is by installing glass doors in front of your fireplace. Please note that doors may remain closed when the fireplace is not in use but must remain open during use.

Even though Florida does not fall victim to snow and ice, there are a few things you can do to weatherproof the outside of your home as well. Winter is a great time to have your trees trimmed and dead trees removed by a professional service. Check gutters for dead leaves and clean them out. Clogged gutters possess a substantial threat for water damage to your home as they will redirect water into your house though the walls and ceiling. If you have any wood outside, like a patio or any furniture, apply a protecting sealant to help prevent water damage and rot. Also, prevent heat loss within your home by checking for any holes in the exterior walls that need filling. If you come across any existing water damage, consult with a restoration company immediately.

A wonderful thing about living in Florida is the ability to enjoy foliage most of the year. However, there are some plants that while they thrive in the moist hot weather most of the year, are extremely susceptible to lower temperature. The best thing to do is to move potted plants inside. If they are too large to bring in, move them closer to your home for added protection or cover them. Many of the tropical trees that we grow in places like St. Petersburg and Sarasota, especially the palm trees, cannot tolerate even a frost. Check with your local nursery for expert advice.

A final word of advice: winterize your pool. Most people prefer to hire a professional when it comes to weatherproofing a pool or outdoor hot tub. From balancing alkalinity to ensuring the water simply will not freeze to keeping the area free of debris, the process can be time consuming and somewhat complex. .Whatever your preference, protecting your pool or spa is an important step that should not be overlooked when weatherproofing your home.

With your home completely weatherproofed inside and out, it is now time to settle in and enjoy the coziness of your home. Sit back, enjoy a cup of hot cider and relax by the fire.

For more information on how to protect your home during the winter and prevent water damage, please contact Advanced Restoration, Inc.

Jon is an expert on restoration and remediation resulting from water, mold & sewer damage.