The weather outside isn’t frightful just yet, so it’s the perfect time to make a game plan for protecting your home from water damage this winter. The colder months can create all sorts of problems for homes, especially older ones with metal pipes and potential issues that have been brewing for years. Interior designer Robin C. Burrill, CEO of Curb Appeal Renovations, Inc. in Keller, Texas, has some helpful advice to share from her years of experience in helping people prepare their homes for the changing of the seasons.

Start Winterizing Early

“The best piece of advice I can give is to not wait until the last minute,” Burrill says. “The hardware stores start stocking the supplies you’ll need early, so take advantage and don’t end up in a crowd of people all picking through the same leftover items.” She suggests purchasing covers for your outdoor spigots to prevent them from freezing. If you’re remodeling, invest in frost-proof faucets for your outdoor water supply. You might also want to pick up some pipe insulation from a hardware store. “The Styrofoam ones are hard to work with and difficult to make fit properly,” she says. “Instead, look for products that fit like an insulated jacket or glove that you can secure tightly to the pipes.”

Consider Your Climate

Depending on where you live, you might need to take extra precautions. “Here in Texas, we don’t face the same freezing challenges as our neighbors to the north,” she says. Think about when the first freeze usually happens in your area, checking the Old Farmer’s Almanac if needed. The farther north you live, the earlier you’ll need to have a plan in place to prevent water from freezing and causing damage around your home.

Old Home/New Home

Also consider the age of your home. “Some older homes have plumbing that runs through the attic and the pipes are metal instead of modern PEX (plastic). The pipes can freeze and flood your whole house if you don’t take precautions,” Burrill warns. If a freeze is expected, she recommends that you leave the faucets dripping steadily (not just a few drops, but a flow) to prevent the water from freezing inside the pipes.

Travel Plans

“If you’re going to be traveling over the holidays, be sure to ask someone to check on your home in case of a hard freeze,” Burrill says. Leave an extra key with a family member or trusted neighbor and ask them to open the cabinet doors and set the faucets to steadily drip so they don’t freeze. If you’ve got an outdoor kitchen with running water, consider using a space heater to keep the pipes from freezing.

Know Thy House

Burrill also recommends that you know where your water shutoff valve is located so you can make adjustments as things start to defrost. “We had a slab leak at my house, and it was running into our foundation,” she says. “We had to call a plumber to locate the line and cap it off.” She suggests that you have the 24-hour emergency number to have the water shut off from your city, as sometimes the problem starts at the supply line from the street.

Gutter Trouble

Finally, Burrill suggests that you clean your gutters of any leaves or debris before the first freeze. “If there are leaves and standing water that freezes, the expanding ice can back up under your shingles and you could end up with water in your house.”

Winter comes every year, and depending on where you live, it could cause major problems with your pipes, faucets and gutters. Take precautions and be aware of how water flows in and around your home to prevent a major (and potentially expensive) calamity. “Just don’t wait until the last minute,” Burrill says. “Create a plan for cold weather and travel that will keep water from freezing in your pipes and causing damage.” Thinking about how to prevent winter water damage now will save you a huge headache later.