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Winter Storms Preparedness and Clean-Up


Canadians are pretty savvy and well-seasoned when it comes to tough winters. But there’s always more you can do to get ready when bad weather hits. Most regions in Canada can expect winter extremes at some point, including blizzards, high winds or ice storms. Your best defense against severe winter weather is to make sure you’re ready before it arrives. Here are some steps you can take to make your home more energy efficient and weather-tight no matter what comes your way.

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In many cases, the best place for you to stay in severe winter weather is home so you’re not taking risks by walking or driving on dangerously slippery roads and sidewalks. It’s important to ensure that your home is ready to buffer the elements before winter hits. We can help you make small adjustments to keep the cold weather outside, your home intact and you and your family warm inside.

FAQ About Preparing For Winter Storms

How can I prepare my home before winter arrives?
    • Seal cracks and gaps around windows and doors, hose bibs and dryer vents. Use a clear paintable caulk for sealing and then wipe the caulk down to minimize its appearance. If openings around hose bibs and dryer vents are large, useinsulating foam, which will expand to fill larger gaps.
    • If your threshold or weatherstripping around doors is damaged or torn, it should be replaced. Foam weatherstripping with peel-and-stick backing can be easily installed right against the doorjamb. Or, try weatherstripping that can be installed within the doorjamb.
    • Installing a storm door is an inexpensive and simple way to insulate your home from the elements.
    • Door sweeps are a good way to seal gaps under exterior doors. The flexible seal is either vinyl or a polyester brush that’s usually attached to the bottom of the door. They can be used on doors with or without a threshold.
    • Wrapping your pipes can help you save money by keeping water heated as it travels throughout your home. You can wrap exposed pipes in inexpensive foam insulation. You can also disconnect outside hoses and cover exterior faucets with faucet covers.
    • Have the chimney cleaned to ensure the air quality in your home is safe when using it. This is especially important in case you need to depend on it during a power outage.
    • Repair low spots and cracks on walkways and driveways to prevent accumulation of water and ice that can cause trips and slips.
    • Trim dead branches and cut down dead trees to reduce the danger of these falling onto your house or on property during an ice storm.
    • Clean gutters, drains and downpipes to prevent blockages and ice buildup. When these systems get clogged, the potential increases for water to enter the roof or walls of the house and cause damage.
    • Make sure your roof is in good condition (ie. no loose shingles).
    • Test, and replace if necessary, the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide testers, including the back-up batteries in hard-wired units.
    • Review the following Project and Buying Guides on homedepot.ca for additional information:
What should I do when a storm is on its way?
    • Listen to local news reports and verify weather conditions with Environment Canada, either by way of its Weatheradio program or on its Weather Information site.
    • Stock up on supplies and groceries in case roads become blocked or too dangerous to use.
    • Secure items that could be blown around, such as patio furniture and trash cans with rope and/or Bungee cords. These may break windows, and cause damage to property or harm to individuals.
    • Consider going to the shelter identified in your Family Emergency Plan or to a safe area of your home.
    • If you rely on propane, heating oil or firewood for heating your home, be sure you have enough on-hand. Consider also storing some extra gasoline if you plan to use a snowblower to clear the area, or if you are counting on a generator for back-up power during storms.
What should I do during the storm?
    • If indoors during an extreme storm, stay away from windows, doors and fireplaces.
    • Use a cell phone or cordless phone during severe storms. It is not safe to use a corded phone.
    • Unplug computers, radios, TVs and appliances (especially those that may start up automatically when the power is restored); and do not go near items that will conduct electricity if the house is hit by lightning, such as corded telephones, appliances, sinks, bathtubs, radiators and metal pipes.
    • If you are in a car during high winds or rain, stop the car away from trees, power lines and at the bottom of slopes. Do not leave the car.
    • Stay with your car if it stalls in a blizzard and you are in a remote area and not directly close to help. Open the window slightly on the side away from the wind to allow in fresh air. Run the car engine about 10 minutes every half-hour for warmth if the gas tank is full. Periodically check to be sure the exhaust pipe is clear so that odourless carbon monoxide fumes do not back up into the car.
    • If you are advised to evacuate, do so immediately. Take what you need and can manage from your Family Emergency Kit, and dress appropriately for the storm, especially if temperatures are below freezing.
What is ice damming and how do I prevent it?
    • Ice damming happens when heat from your home escapes into the attic where it warms the roof and causes snow to melt, run down the roof and then freeze as it hits the cold overhangs. Eventually, this ice acts like a dam, pushing water back up the roof and under the shingles where it causes leaks.
    • To help prevent ice damming, use attic insulation to seal any areas where warm air can escape your living space and move into the attic.
    • Also, check that the soffit vents in the attic aren’t blocked with insulation. These vents, situated on the underside of the eaves around the perimeter the house, help circulate fresh air in the attic to help keep the roof a consistent temperature.
    • You can also try removing snow from the lower part of your roof with a push broom or snow rake to prevent ice damming. But be careful—asphalt shingles are brittle in cold weather and can be easily damaged. Can’t reach? Extend your broom or rake with a piece of PVC pipe fitted over the handle and secured with a small bolt or screw.
How do I keep my heating system running efficiently through a tough winter?
    • The proper use and maintenance of furnaces will improve airflow and efficiency and can help lower utility costs.
    • Have your furnace serviced at least once a year by a qualified heating and cooling service provider from The Home Depot Installation Services.
    • Replace your furnace filter at least every three months.
    • Invest in a programmable thermostat, which will allow you to keep the temperature warm when you’re home and cooler when you’re not, which will lower your utility costs.
    • Replace an older furnace with an energy-efficient furnace.
    • Your home may require additional winterizing tasks, depending on where you live. Be sure to perform annual maintenance around your house to ensure a safe winter season.
What should I include in my Family Emergency Plan?
    • Create an evacuation plan with your family. Discuss how you would reach each other from school, work or home. What routes would you take? How would you communicate if cellphones are not working? How will you reach and transport pets?
    • Include children in your plan: Prep them for potential emergencies and scenarios, teach them to dial 9-1-1 and reassure them that this plan is “just in case.”
    • Plan for two scenarios: Remaining in your home after a disaster or evacuating to a safer location.
    • Identify more than one evacuation route from your residence. Draw a floor plan for each storey of your house and circle escape routes.
    • Familiarize yourself with the nearest shelter.
    • Choose designated meeting places nearby and far away in case you get separated. Choose a friend who lives in another region or province to be your “check-in contact.”
    • Keep a list of key phone numbers by each phone in the house, stored in your cell phone and in your Family Emergency Kit. Include each family member’s cell phone number, your check-in contact and emergency resources including your doctor, the nearest emergency room, and the closest shelter or local emergency support such as the Canadian Red Cross.
    • Ensure you have smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms that comply with your building code (at least one on every floor of your home and in sleeping areas.) Replace any that are more than 5 or 10 years old depending on the model.
    • Check smoke alarm and carbon monoxide alarm batteries regularly to ensure they are working, and check the battery back-ups for hard-wired models.
    • Make sure your property is clearly marked with a visible street number so emergency rescue workers can easily locate you.
    • Store all important records, including passports, health and insurance records in a waterproof container. It is also a good idea to make copies of birth and marriage certificates, passports, licences, wills, land deeds and insurance.
    • Regularly check fuel-burning appliances to ensure they’re properly installed, ventilated and working according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
    • Make sure all family members know where your Family Emergency Kit is stored.
What should I include in my Family Emergency Kit?
  • Every family should have a Family Emergency Kit ready, be it for any unexpected disaster situation (i.e. flood, extreme winter storms etc.).

    • Baby wipes or moist towelettes
    • Backpacks or wheeled totes to carry essentials in case of evacuation
    • Batteries and chargers (phones, flashlight, radio, etc.) Remember to replace batteries as they expire or at least once a year.
    • Battery-powered or crank radio
    • Bottled water. Replace as per expiration dates on packaging, or at least once a year. Recommendations are for at least two litres of water (and up to four) per person per day for three days, and remember to store the water in small bottles, which would make them easier to transport in the case of an evacuation order.
    • Can opener (manual)
    • Cash in smaller bills and change for payphones
    • A change of clothes, especially sweaters and raincoats
    • Chlorine Bleach and a medicine dropper. (When diluted – nine parts water to one part bleach – bleach can be used as a disinfectant. Or in an emergency, you can use bleach to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color-safe or bleaches with added cleaners.
    • Copy of your emergency plan and contact information
    • Duct tape and/or rope and/or Bungee cords (to secure tarp and seal windows or vents if necessary)
    • Emergency candles
    • Extra keys to your car and house
    • First Aid kit
    • Fire extinguisher and fire escape ladder. Be sure to have a large (5-10 pound), multi-purpose (ABC rated) fire extinguisher in all major rooms of the house including the kitchen, garage, bedroom, living room, laundry room and any room with a chimney. Be sure to check fire extinguishers annually to be sure the pressure gauge is functional and the unit is working. You can find companies that refill and service extinguishers online.
    • Flashlights
    • Hand sanitizer
    • Household essentials that apply to the unique needs of your family (i.e. for pet owners: leashes, carriers, etc.; for families with children: diapers and infant formula (check expiry dates regularly); eyeglasses, and feminine hygiene products, etc.
    • List of emergency contacts including local authorities and your “check-in contact”
    • Map showing routes to shelters and emergency contacts
    • Paper and pencils
    • Prescription medications (check regularly to ensure they don’t expire)
    • Re-sealable plastic bags
    • Sleeping bags or blankets
    • Tarp or tent (makeshift shelter)
    • Toiletries, including toothbrushes and toothpaste, and toilet paper
    • Tools (basic: hammer, pliers, wrench, screwdrivers (cordless and held-held), work gloves, dust mask, utility knives
    • Trash bags
    • Utensils
    • Water purification tablets
    • Waterproof matches in a waterproof bag
    • Whistle
    • 3-day supply of non-perishable food (replace as it expires or at least once a year)

      Note: Store items in large waterproof containers
Helpful Product Checklist for Preparing for Snow and Ice situations (in addition to your Family Emergency Kit):
    • Caulking and Sealant
    • Concrete, Cement and Masonry (such as stones or bricks) to ensure the foundations of your house are secure and landscaping is not loose
    • Construction adhesive
    • Door Mats
    • Door Sweeps and Weatherstripping
    • Extension cords
    • Faucet Cover
    • Insulating Foam Sealant
    • Insulation
    • Ladder
    • Pipe Insulation
    • Roof Coatings
    • Roofing Caulk
    • Roofing Felt and Underlayment
    • Roofing Shingles and Tiles
    • Storm Doors
    • Thresholds
    • Tools and hardware (will vary according to the job but start with these basics): Saw horse and workbench, Screwdrivers, cordless and hand-held, Construction adhesive, Hammers, mallets & sledges, Measuring tape,Nails, Wood screws


Once a storm hits, the best thing to do is to hunker down in your home (unless conditions are extreme and you’ve been advised to evacuate to a shelter). If you’ve assembled all your essentials beforehand, you should have what you need to stay warm and dry—even if the power goes out or if the bad weather persists over many days. Some repairs may have to wait for spring, but here’s what you can do to recover if you’ve lost power, have frozen pipes or need to clear your property of deep snow.

FAQ About Recovering From Winter Storms

My power went out. What should I do?
    • Check whether your neighbours have power.
    • Don't open your freezer or fridge unless it is absolutely necessary. A full freezer will keep food frozen for 24 to 36 hours if the door remains closed.
    • Turn off all tools, appliances and electronic equipment, and turn the thermostat for the home heating system down to minimum to prevent damage from a power surge when power is restored. Also, power can be restored more easily when there is not a heavy load on the electrical system.
    • If you have a fireplace or kerosene space heater, use them carefully. Make sure your chimney isn’t obstructed and never leave unattended. Never use gas or charcoal barbecues or generators inside because they emit carbon monoxide. And never leave candles unattended. Be sure the batteries in your carbon monoxide tester – hardwired testers have back-up batteries – are working.
    • Stay tuned to local weather reports via a battery-powered radio from your Family Emergency Kit. Your kit should also include flashlights, candles, and matches that will help keep you going during a winter storm.
    • To conserve the heat in your home, close off any rooms that aren’t needed. Stuff extra towels under the doors to retain heat. At night, cover windows with blankets.
    • See below for tips on using a generator
My power is out. Should I run a generator?
    • Running a generator is a great idea as long as you do so safely. Follow the manufacturer’s directions.
    • Generator engines give off poisonous carbon monoxide gas so generators should only be operated outside in the open and at a safe distance from any homes.
    • Never plug a generator into a wall outlet, rather, it can only be connected to the home’s electrical system through an approved transfer panel and switch installed by a licensed electrician. Plug appliances and other items directly into the generator or into a heavy-duty, outdoor-rated extension cord that leads to the generator. Avoid any standing water.
    • The total wattage of all the electrical devices combined should never exceed the rated capacity of the generator or the extension cord.
    • Make sure the generator is properly grounded and don’t touch it if it’s wet or if you are wet.
    • To prevent fires, turn the generator off and allow it to cool before refilling it with fuel.
    • To easily find the ideal standby generator for your home, visit our Generator Buying Guide.
What should I do if my pipes are frozen or leaking?
    • Shut off water immediately to prevent further damage and water loss if a pipe leaks or bursts.
    • Turning off a leaking pipe and then repairing it or calling a plumber is advised, but for frozen pipes, thawing is an option. For example, the Red Cross advises that rather than turning off the water, you should thaw the pipes.
How can I keep my walkways and driveways safe?
    • Ice forms a bond with concrete or asphalt that forms a slippery mess, sometimes even after using a snow shovel orblower. So you’ll need to use a de-icer or anti-icer.
    • De-icers are applied on top of snow or ice, not to melt the snow but to break the bond between the ice and the pavement. This makes it easier to remove the snow for a safer walking surface.
    • The most common de-icer is rock salt (sodium chloride) because it’s effective and inexpensive. However, it can also damage concrete, lawns and gardens. There are some environmentally friendly options available, but it’s important to read the labels carefully and follow instructions to minimize damage. Applying rock salt just as the snow starts falling can be more effective so you don’t need to use as much.
    • Using a potassium-based de-icer instead of rock salt can help prevent damage to concrete, grass and other vegetation. It’s also better for carpets and floors that can be damaged by rock salt that’s tracked inside.
    • Anti-icers are applied before a snowfall begins and work to prevent ice and pavement from bonding.
    • When shoveling snow, bend at the knees, not at the waist to protect your back. Coating the blade of your shovel with car polish will help it move through the snow more easily.
    • Mark the edge of your driveway with reflectors so you don’t damage your adjacent yard while removing snow.
I want to get a snowblower. What should I know?
    • There are two main types of residential snowblowers, single-stage or two-stage models. A single-stage model will clear a path about 40-45 cm wide with the help of an electric motor or gas engine. The motor turns the auger paddles, which then scoop up the snow and force it aside. In most cases, the paddles also help pull the machine forward through the snow. Two-stage models tend to be larger and use a combination of auger paddles and an impeller, which rotates like a fan, to blow the snow out of a moveable chute. Most of the larger machines power through the snow with mechanically driven wheels that don’t require as much manhandling and also work in reverse.
    • Always turn the machine off before attempting to clear a clog. Don’t ever refuel it while the engine is on or hot.
    • Use The Home Depot’s Snowblower Buying Guide to find the best one for your needs.
Helpful products for recovering from a winter storm:
    • Anti-icer (before snowfall) and/or De-icer (such as rock salt, to melt ice and snow)
    • Broom
    • Buckets and Mop Pails
    • Camera for documenting damage
    • Cleaning Solutions
    • Desiccant such as DampRid®
    • Fans
    • Furnace Air Filters
    • Ice Melter products
    • Kerosene for space heater
    • Large plastic containers to put wet clothing and linens in
    • Mould and Mildew Cleaners
    • Pellet Burning Stove
    • Plastic Sheeting
    • Portable Generator and Fuel
    • Portable Water Heater (if running water is unavailable)
    • Propane and/or Gasoline
    • Pruning Shears
    • Rags, Cloths and Sponges
    • Reflectors
    • Snowblower, fuel and accessories
    • Snow Rakes, Shovels and Brushes
    • Space Heaters
    • Squeegees
    • Wet/Dry Vacuum

Product Essentials

Winter Weather Prep
  • Insulation and Drywall
  • Window & Door Insulation
  • Thermostats
  • Humidifiers & Dehumidifiers
  • Windows and Doors

Learn More

Power and Heat
  • Generators
  • Portable Generators
  • Heaters
  • Extension Cords

Learn More

Snow Essentials
  • Snowblowers
  • Ice Melters
  • Snow Brushes
  • Snow Shovels

Learn More

Preparation Supplies
  • Flashlights and Worklights
  • Ladders and Scaffolding
  • Tarps
  • Outerwear

Learn More

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