If your vacation rental is located in a cooler climate, then there are several measures you’ll need to take to ensure it’s totally prepared for winter weather. Whether you prefer to maintain the property yourself or enlist the help of professionals, here are 16 ways to get your vacation rental ready for the cold winter months. We’ve separated these tasks into indoor, outdoor, and guest experience-related categories.
- Let’s start with the outdoor tasks:
- 1. Seal Exterior Wood
- 2. Check Drainage System
- 3. Seal Masonry and Hard Surfaces
- 4. Clean the Gutters
- 5. Prepare Doors and Windows
- 6. Trim Branches
- 7. Secure Handrails
- 8. Check Heating System
- 9. Complete Chimney Maintenance
- 10. Double-Check Fire Safety Measures
- 11. Inspect Pipes
- 12. Seal the Attic
- 13. Keep Temperatures Steady
- 14. Create a Storm Preparation Sheet
- 15. Plan for Snow Removal
- 16. Stock Up on Coffee and Tea
- Main Takeaways
Let’s start with the outdoor tasks:
1. Seal Exterior Wood
To keep your exterior wood looking good and well-maintained for years to come, you’ll need to seal it before winter weather hits and potentially damages it. The most important areas to seal are doors and around windows, as these are especially prone to rot. If you have a wooden deck, you’ll want to protect it for the winter as well, even if it’s made from treated or rot-resistant wood. While it’s not necessary to stain and seal it every year, you should ensure it’s protected by pouring water on it. If the water beads, then the wood is sufficiently protected for the winter. But if the wood absorbs the water, that means you’ll need to clean and seal the deck to prevent damage.
2. Check Drainage System
Melting snow can lead to flooding, so you’ll definitely want to check your drainage system as you’re preparing for winter. Start by looking at the soil around your foundation; it should slope away from your home rather than settling and creating areas where water will pool against your foundation. Add soil if needed, and then check your rain gutter downspouts to make sure that they’re moving water away from your home. You may need to add downspout extenders to ensure the water doesn’t build up around your home’s foundation.
3. Seal Masonry and Hard Surfaces
Concrete patios, driveways, and walkways also need to be protected for the winter. This is generally as simple as applying a concrete sealer to all of these surfaces. You’ll want to fill in any cracks before applying the sealer. This way, water can’t make its way into the cracks, where it will freeze and cause additional damage.
Asphalt driveways will also need some attention before cold weather comes. Patch any cracks and then apply sealer. If you prefer not to do it yourself, you can have a professional come by and spray the driveway with sealer.
4. Clean the Gutters
Cleaning the gutters is best done after most of the leaves have fallen. If you fail to clean your gutters, the buildup that will inevitably result can cause them to overflow, which means water will run down your vacation rental’s exterior. This can cause damage and even deteriorate the exterior of your vacation rental. While you’re cleaning the gutters, make sure that they’re fastened properly. The weight of accumulated snow and ice can potentially pull the gutters off of the house if they aren’t secure.
5. Prepare Doors and Windows
There are several ways to prepare your doors and windows for winter. You’ll want to start by checking the weatherstripping around the door frames and windows. This is important to ensure there aren’t any leaks that could allow heat loss. If needed, replace the weatherstripping.
Next, you’ll need to replace any screen doors with storm doors and replace window screens with storm windows. Check the windows for gaps, cracks, and broken glass, repairing or replacing them if necessary. Add caulk inside and outside if there are any drafts around windows and doors.
6. Trim Branches
It’s important to trim any branches that are resting against your house before wintertime comes. Ice-coated branches resting against your house can cause damage, and when the ice melts, the water will run down the exterior, potentially causing deterioration and leading to more maintenance.
7. Secure Handrails
The last thing you want is for one of your vacation rental guests to slip on your stairs and reach for the handrail, only for it to detach and cause them to fall to the ground! This isn’t just important for winter, but for the entire year. Always make sure the handrails on exterior stairs are stable and secure.
Now, let’s talk about indoor preparation for winter weather:
8. Check Heating System
Perhaps the most important thing to do to prepare your vacation rental property for winter weather is to check your heating system. Most heating systems can last for 12 to 15 years on average when well-maintained, but a yearly check-up is important to keep the system running smoothly. It’s much better to ensure there are no problems in the fall than for your guests to try to turn on the heat in the winter and find that it doesn’t work. At minimum, you should change your filters, but having an HVAC professional check out your heating system before winter weather hits is ideal.
9. Complete Chimney Maintenance
If you have a fireplace and chimney, before winter is a great time to clean the chimney and stock up on firewood so that you and your guests are all set to use the fireplace for warmth in the winter months.
10. Double-Check Fire Safety Measures
Most house fires occur during the winter due to heating systems, fireplaces, and houses being closed off. This also means there’s more of a risk of carbon monoxide building up, since it’s rare that people open their windows for air circulation when it’s cold outside. Therefore, it’s smart to test your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors and ensure your fire extinguishers are good to go. National Fire Protection Association standards say that rechargeable fire extinguishers must be recharged every six years, and disposable extinguishers must be replaced every 12 years.
11. Inspect Pipes
During the winter, frozen pipes are one of the most critical issues a property can face. If you don’t have plumbing experience, be sure to contact a professional to inspect the pipes. You may need to replace damaged portions and add foam insulation to keep them from freezing. Though buying home warranties for rental property might cover plumbing services but be sure to check your contract for more details.
12. Seal the Attic
If you don’t want to have critters seeking shelter in your vacation rental’s attic, you’ll definitely want to seal it up before cold weather comes. Squirrels and birds are notorious for making their homes in attics during the winter months. Check for holes, and put up a screen behind your gable vent to ensure no animals can make their way inside.
13. Keep Temperatures Steady
Even when no guests are present at your vacation rental, you’ll want to keep the indoor temperature around 55 degrees (or warmer) to prevent the pipes from freezing. This can be as simple as asking guests or your cleaning crew to adjust the temperature on the thermostat before they leave the vacation rental property. If you have a smart thermostat, you can even adjust the temperature from your phone!
And finally, winter preparation that has to do with the guest experience:
14. Create a Storm Preparation Sheet
Make sure your guests know exactly what to do if a winter storm hits during their stay at your vacation rental by writing up a storm preparation sheet. This should include instructions and tips regarding how to get by without power if the electricity goes out. It should also explain where flashlights, extra batteries, and additional food and water are stored.
15. Plan for Snow Removal
How you remove snow on your property is up to you, but it’s absolutely something you need to figure out before the first snowstorm takes place. You might want to remove the snow yourself or employ a professional snow removal service. Some vacation rentals provide shovels and other supplies for guests to take care of snow removal themselves, but this isn’t recommended as people on vacation don’t usually want to take on this task!
16. Stock Up on Coffee and Tea
It’s always nice to provide tea and coffee for your guests, but it’s even better to provide warm drinks for them to enjoy when it’s cold outside. Add in some hot cocoa and marshmallows for the kids, and you’re sure to earn some positive reviews thanks to the great guest experience you’ve created.
- Seal exterior wood, especially around doors and windows, and check that your wooden deck is protected as well.
- Check your drainage system, including downspouts and the soil around the vacation rental’s foundation.
- Seal masonry and hard surfaces such as concrete patios, driveways, and walkways.
- Clean the gutters and ensure they’re fastened properly.
- Prepare the doors and windows by checking the weatherstripping, replacing screen doors with storm doors and window screens with storm windows, and adding caulk to prevent drafts.
- Trim any branches that are resting against the vacation rental.
- Secure handrails on all exterior stairs to reduce the risk of guests slipping and falling.
- Check your heating system to ensure it’s working well, and change the filters regularly.
- Clean the chimney and stock up on firewood so guests can enjoy a safe fire.
- Double-check your smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers.
- Have a plumber inspect the pipes and add foam insulation if needed.
- Seal up the attic so that critters don’t make their home there during the winter.
- Keep the thermostat set to at least 55 degrees to help ensure the pipes won’t freeze.
- Create a storm preparation sheet for your guests so that they know what to do if bad weather hits.
- Plan for snow removal ahead of time.
- Stock up on coffee, tea, and hot cocoa for your guests to enjoy.