With the end of the year fast approaching, you might be tempted to put off routine home maintenance in favor of holiday decor or your resolutions for the new year. Before you start inflating the reindeer, you’ll want to ensure that your home is prepared to weather the winter months by completing a few simple maintenance checks that will save you time and money in the long run. Once you cross these tasks off your to-do list, your home will be cozy and safe—allowing you to say that there’s truly no place like home for the holidays.
COVER EXTERIOR GAPS
Examine the foundation and lower exterior of your home for any gaps, especially around windows. Apply caulk to seal gaps around window frames, and install heavy-duty screens or hardware cloth over vents. This will ensure that uninvited guests like mice and other rodents won’t cozy up in your home during the winter months.
TOUCH-UP EXTERIOR PAINT
Check over any painted areas on the exterior of your home, and repaint any areas where you notice cracks or blisters in the surface of the paint. The worn down paint or seal in these areas of your home will not protect the wood below from damage from harsh winter weather, which could lead to more costly damage later on.
PROTECT YOUR PIPES
Insulate any pipes by windows or doors and any unheated areas of your home to protect them from freezing during cold weather. Use foam pipe insulation around the water pipes, and leave water dripping in faucets that might be prone to freezing. Make sure to disconnect your water hose from the outside faucet, and cover any outdoor spigots with foam covers. Of course, make sure to keep heat set no lower than 55 degrees if you are away from home during winter months.
CHECK YOUR CHIMNEY
Before you start roasting chestnuts on an open fire, make sure your fireplace and chimney is in proper working order. An inspection to see if a cleaning is required should cost under $100, and the cleaning itself only $100-300. These small check-ups will protect your family, your home, and your possessions from chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. Once your fireplace and chimney are in proper working order, stock up on firewood so your family can enjoy cozy nights around the fireplace.
INSPECT YOUR GUTTERS
Clogged gutters can lead to an ice dam on your roof, which can eventually cause water leakage inside your home. Before foul weather hits, remove all debris from your rain gutters to prevent any water back ups. While you’re at it, replace any missing screws or gutter straps to ensure that your gutters remain attached to your home, and replace or patch any damaged gutters.
You should also consider extending your downspouts to divert water away from your home by at least three feet, which can prevent ice buildup, flooding, mold, and other damage to the foundation of your home. If you don’t feel comfortable assessing these systems, hire a professional to inspect your gutters and roof. It will be much less costly to proactively prevent damage, plus you won’t want to deal with a leaky roof over the holidays.
TRIM YOUR TREES
In late winter, prune any precarious branches and limbs, especially those near your house to protect your roof and windows from damage during winter storms. After heavy snowfall, use a broom to brush snow off of branches to ease the burden of the snow and prevent brittle branches from breaking.
To prevent drafts and heat loss during the coldest months, make sure to reinforce the windows and doors around your home with weather stripping and window film. Check the existing weather stripping around doors and replace any damaged portions. If you still notice a substantial loss of heat around your front door, consider purchasing a draft stopper for use during winter months. Apply window film on any drafty windows, especially in upper level rooms. Overall, blocking these drafts around doors and windows can save you 30% in energy costs for the year.
CHANGE CEILING FAN DIRECTION
Turn off your ceiling fan and flip the direction switch on the motor housing of your fan to run the fan’s blades in a clockwise direction during colder months when you turn on the heat. This will produce an updraft, pushing heated air down into the room. Some newer fans might have a remote control or a wall switch with a reverse button. If your fan does not have a direction switch, you may have an older fan that does not have a reversible motor. If that is the case, you can adjust the blade pitch to change the direction of airflow. In winter, tilting the blade pitch to the right will push air down, keeping warm air inside your home.
DEFEND YOUR FLOORS
Protect your floors at all major doorways with floor mats both outside and inside the door. Set up a shoe cleaning station with a boot scraper or brush and a waterproof tray for wet winter shoes. If your family and friends can safely stow their slushy snowshoes at the door, you won’t have to worry about them tracking salt and melted snow through your home and floors.
CHECK SMOKE AND CARBON DIOXIDE DETECTORS
Check the batteries in all your detectors monthly during winter months, and ensure that you keep one of each in every bedroom, on every floor of your house, and in the kitchen. Also pick up a few packs of extra batteries so you’ll have them handy when cold weather or winter storms hit.
STOCK UP ON SUPPLIES
You’ll want to be prepared for anything during winter months, so before foul weather strikes, make sure to stock up on emergency supplies like batteries, flashlights, bottled water, first aid kits, and a portable cell phone charger. Also pick up some sand or pet-safe salt for de-icing any stairs or walkways around your home, and make sure you have a shovel or snow blower to keep your driveway clear.
Don’t forget to pick up some fun winter treats to keep your home festive during the winter months. Pick up hot beverages like seasonal teas and hot cocoa, plush wool socks for yourself and your family, and soft, warm blankets to keep on the couch. These cozy delights around your home will help you pass the time on snowy days.