3 November
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A Boston Condo Winter-Proofing Q&A | By Maya Michalewicz

Everyone knows that fall looks good on Boston, but as the beautiful foliage transitions to bare trees it’s important to start winter-proofing your condo. 

Owning a condo is not the same as owning a single-family home. When you live in a condo you are likely part of a Home-Owners Association (HOA). That HOA is a governing board composed of elected residents who own units within a building or group of buildings. This board is responsible for hiring a management company and maintenance people to take care of projects that involve the exterior and common spaces of the building (sometimes referred to as the building envelope). Some condo associations are really small. Plus, they’re in charge of the budget for repairs and maintenance. So, when things go haywire due to winter incidents, they handle the insurance claims for communal areas or structural damage. And whether you’re in a brownstone building in Back Bay or South End, or a high rise apartment in the Seaport, there are always a variety of things to do to prepare a property for the colder weather.

When deciding what tasks to tackle, a good rule of thumb to figure out what is your responsibility vs your HOA is: anything that would affect multiple units will (should!) be taken care of by your association and anything inside your unit is up to you to prepare/fix. But don’t worry! We are here to help answer some of the more specific questions you may be asking yourself as you make sure that your Boston condo is equipped for the imminent frosty temperatures. 


Q: “What should I do to protect my pipes from freezing?”

A: The pipes in your unit are your responsibility and they can be a real mess to clean up if they burst! Insulate exposed pipes to prevent freezing and potential bursts. Consider using heat tape or a heating cable for added protection.

We recommend keeping your thermostat set to at least 50 degrees fahrenheit to keep your pipes from bursting or freezing. However, your HOA might have their own required temperature or rules about cabinets to keep open when temps drop really low, so make sure to keep an eye out for notices!

Also, don’t forget to shut off any water that flows to the outside of your unit. Whether that be a garden area or a roof deck, there is likely a water shut off valve that should be flipped on/around November 1st to make sure those pipes stretching outside your heated walls don’t burst.

Q: “I see light coming in from the bottom/sides of my unit door, is that normal”

A: This is in your unit, so it’s on you to fix up! Walk around and check for drafts around windows and doors. Then use weather stripping or caulking to seal any gaps before it gets real cold. Consider using window insulation film to add an extra layer of protection. This will not only keep you warm, especially in older brownstone buildings, but it may also lower your heating bill!

It may be worth checking with Mass Save on whether you qualify for any rebates or grants relative to energy proofing your home. You might be surprised what’s available!

Q: “I see water coming from the gutter above my window, should I clear it?”

A: This is a management job. Call your HOA and make sure they are having a maintenance person clean out any debris from gutters to prevent ice dams from forming and ensure downspouts are clear and direct water away from the foundation. This is not always a routine task, but important to preventing water damage in the building! 

Q: “There’s a lot of snow in the forecast… will my roof hold?” (Inspect Roof and Attic)

A: If you are worried, call you HOA and fast. Have them check for any loose or damaged spots that may become problematic and replace them if necessary to ensure the roof is structurally sound! 

If it’s a really big storm (i.e. more than about 10-12”, consider having snow removed from roof tops.

Q: “Is my building responsible for the HVAC system?” 

A: Okay, now this is a more complicated one and the answer depends on if you have an individual HVAC unit inside your apartment, or if you are on a central building system. 

If you have an individual system for your unit exclusively, schedule a professional HVAC technician to inspect and maintain your heating system. This includes cleaning or replacing filters and checking for any issues. Note that some condo buildings do have a technician scheduled to service units in the building twice per year. Double check to make sure you’re not scheduling something redundant.

If you are on a building system, your management company should be in control of turning on the heat. If it feels cold, give them a call to make sure everything is working properly.

Q: “Do I really have to clean and store my outdoor furniture?”

A: Taking care of your furniture by cleaning and storing it with covers is the best way to protect it from snow and rain so that it remains in the best condition for next year! If it’s your furniture, then it’s your responsibility to care for it. 

Q: “Can I use my Fireplace this winter in Boston”

A: Some buildings have had the chimneys sealed off in the City of Boston. So, do not even think of having a fire unless you can confirm that’s not the case. If you have confidence it is open and could be functional, make sure to have the chimney cleaned and inspected by a licensed professional before lighting a fire to avoid debris stuck in the chimney from catching fire. 

Remember, these are just our recommendations and it’s important to tailor them to your specific home’s needs. Regular maintenance can help prevent costly repairs and ensure your home stays comfortable and safe throughout the winter season.

And if you’re looking to move into your next home in Boston before the holidays, please reach out!