House Buying Series: Is the House Prepared for Winter?


Make sure the home you’re considering buying is equipped to handle cold conditions. There are several important places you should inspect or inquire about before making an offer on any house. Ask the following questions now to save yourself money later and to ensure you stay safer and warmer throughout the winter. 


Do the windows need to be replaced? 

As you inspect a home, take a close look at the windows. These are some good questions to ask yourself or your realtor:

  • How old are they?
  • When were they last replaced?
  • Are they single or double pane?
  • Do they open and close easily?
  • Can you feel drafts or cold spots near the windows? 

If the windows are old, in poor condition, or inefficient, they probably will need to be replaced soon. Double-pane windows will do a much better job of keeping the heat inside and the cold air out during the winter. Replacing windows is a large investment, so it’s a good idea to know before buying whether or not you’ll need to budget for new windows.


Is the insulation effective?

Insulation keeps your home more airtight, which, in turn, keeps your utility bills lower and you more comfortable. The insulation inside your walls also protects water pipes from freezing, and attic insulation keeps more heat inside your living space and helps prevent damage to your roof. Ask what type of insulation is used in the home, and consider having a home inspector conduct an energy audit to determine where the home is losing the energy.


Does the home have a history of ice dam problems?

If the home has icicles hanging from the roof’s eaves, it has an ice dam problem. If it isn’t winter when you look at the house, ask the realtor or homeowner if the home has had ice dams in the past. If it has, which is common, it likely has either a poor attic ventilation system or insufficient insulation in the attic (or both). 

To deal with an ice dam problem, you could install better insulation and a good ventilation system, or you could install heat tape to melt paths in the ice for water to flow off the roof and onto the ground safely. If you don’t deal with an ice dam problem, you could potentially end up with serious leaks throughout your home, a damaged roof, and broken gutters.


Has the house been winterized?

Winterizing a home means completely shutting off and draining the plumbing lines, hot water heater, and other equipment that may be prone to freezing when temperatures dip. The electricity and gas are also shut off.

You should be wary of buying a home that has been winterized for a number of reasons. Modern houses, in general, are not built to withstand extreme temperature changes. Cold weather can negatively affect wood, metal, drywall, and other construction materials, causing them to shrink and crack. To get all systems up and running again after being turned off, special service is required. Make sure you have any home inspected professionally before buying it. If the home has been winterized, ask that all the utilities be turned back on at least 24 hours before the home is inspected so any existing problems can be made visible.


If you buy a home that needs a new roof, new windows, or better insulation, contact Hedrick Construction. We offer all of these services and more to our Central Iowa community. We proudly serve Ames, Ankeny, Des Moines, and the surrounding areas. Let us know how we can help! 

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