Winter can be a hazardous time for your home. Dropping temperatures can cause all sorts of internal troubles, and the unpredictable weather outside carries its own risks. A property inspection will make sure that your home is up to par inside and out, but first you should follow this checklist to keep your home cozy and safe.

Prepare when it's still warm
Proper planning will keep you from experiencing most of the troubles associated with the cold weather. Before the first snow hits, make sure that your gutters are clear of any dead leaves and debris. This will prevent "ice damming," which happens when water gets stuck in your gutters and freezes. Because water expands when it freezes, ice can burst your gutters if they aren't clear. Even if they don't burst, the extra weight of built-up ice is still bad for gutters, and will lead to them having to get replaced sooner. William M. Sparks Insurance Agency suggests that you install gutter guards, which will keep debris from getting caught in the first place.

Another concern for your property is trees with dead or overgrown limbs. When temperatures drop, branches can become brittle. As snow piles up, the added weight can cause weakened branches to break, potentially causing damage to your property. Before the cold weather hits, it's a good idea to have someone trim back branches that are too close to your house - particularly dead ones, which are weaker than their live counterparts.

Finally, you don't have to install insulation when it's warm, but it's a lot easier to do when your fingers won't be freezing. Proper insulation is good for a number of reasons. It will keep you and your family warmer, it's one of the lowest-cost ways to drop your heating bill, and it will go a long way toward keeping your pipes from getting too cold. If it's already cold out, but you think you should really install some extra insulation, at least buy a warm pair of gloves.

Watch out for pests

When the weather gets cold, pests like mice and insects try to get inside where it's warm. Even a dime-sized crack is enough for a mouse to fit through, according to MSN Real Estate. Caulk is a low-cost way to seal up most cracks that a pest can sneak through, so try to give your home a thorough once over for any openings to the outside. This will have the added benefit of preventing heat loss at the same time.

It is also important to remember to keep trash from piling up and keep all surfaces as clean as possible. Put away food and make sure that everything is in a sealed container to keep pests from getting into it. Do a routine check for mouse droppings in the back of drawers, behind appliances, and in corners of your attic or basement. If you do find droppings, buy traps as soon as possible. One or two mice is much easier to deal with than a growing family.

Protect your pipes

One of the most common - and most expensive - hazards to a house during the winter is freezing pipes. If your pipes freeze they will most likely burst, which can cost you a lot of money on your water bill and even more in property damaged by dampness. Keep temperatures in your house above 55 degrees so that the pipes between your walls, where it is significantly colder, will stay above freezing. Make sure that your pipes are properly insulated if you're worried about them bursting, and know where your water shut-off valve is, just in case. If the temperature outside drops really low, leave your faucet on just a little to relieve some of the pressure.

Have a property inspection

Once you're satisfied that you've done everything you can on your own to protect your home, get a property inspection professional to make sure that everything is in order. A professional will be able to point out anything that you've missed, and can make suggestions as to how you can ensure that this winter will be safe and warm for your home and your family.