With November upon us, temperatures will start to drop soon. Snow is already falling in some parts of the country and weather in the northeast can get cold – very cold – very quickly. Now is the time to start getting your home ready for the upcoming hats-and-scarves season.

When doing so, start at the bottom of your house – your basement – and work your way upstairs. Think about how you use your basement and what’s stored down there. Is it being used as a media room, an office, or play space for the kids? Maybe a guest suite? Are your holiday decorations sealed away in a closet, waiting for their big reveal next month? No matter how you use your basement, it’s a key component of your home, and it needs to be protected –  especially if it’s used as a second living space or for primary storage.

To keep your basement dry and your belongings safe this season, consider these five tips:

  1. Clean Gutters. While it may sound counterintuitive, when you think about your basement, you need to think about your roof as well. In the fall, gutters will collect falling leaves from trees, especially after a heavy rain or wind storm. It’s also possible that birds or insects found their way into your gutters over the summer to build nests. Cleaning your gutters will ensure that water moves safely away from your home. If gutters are not draining properly, water can pool near the edges of your house, along foundation lines. Should this occur, there is a very good chance of that water making its way into your basement.
  1. Seal Windows. Basement windows bring in much-needed natural light, but they also tend to be the forgotten ones in the house because they are often small, high, and out of reach. Sealing basement windows before winter will ensure that water from snow or rain will not leak inside. And, as another benefit, correctly sealed windows will keep the cold air outside as well.
  1. Prep Pipes. Freezing pipes is a typical occurrence in cold-weather climates, especially in older homes. When the air temperature falls below freezing, especially when the ground temperature is also freezing, water in pipes that are not properly insulated can freeze as well. Waking up on a cold morning with no water is certainly not ideal. What’s more, this freezing water can cause the pipe to expand, which could easily lead to the pipe bursting. A broken pipe can cause significant damage to both your home and your wallet. Prepping pipes throughout your basement with proper insulation is easy and inexpensive.
  1. Check Your Sump Pump. For many homeowners, a sump pump is the key method for keeping a basement dry all year long. As with pipes, a sump pump discharge line can freeze when the temperature drops below freezing. Asking a professional to check and maintain your sump pump is important any time of the year, but especially in winter when the weather can be cold and wet.
  1. Shovel Snow Away From Your House. When the inevitable happens and we do have a snow or ice storm, many people often clear just a path on the sidewalk or driveway. It may not be convenient to clear all snow and ice away from your house, especially when the accumulation is significant, but it’s important. Melting and freezing water near your foundation can cause your it to crack, leading to leaks and unwanted moisture and mold problems.

Basements are an important part of a house – for living, storage, laundry, or projects. Keep yours dry and properly maintained this winter.