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All-in-One Home Maintenance Checklist to Save Your Home from Winter’s Wrath

a tiny white home on a table with a red sweater wrapped around it

A winter wonderland might be fun and beautiful, but it can do a number on your home. That’s why we put together this winter home maintenance all-in-one guide that you can check off in one weekend to save your home from winter’s wrath!

Outdoor winter maintenance 

Ah, the Great Outdoors! They can cause a lot of trouble for your property (and inside your home). Keep your property safe and your family comfortable with these outdoor home maintenance tips.

Walk your property

a snow-covered front lawn a garbage near bushes and trees

 

Check your property for hazards.

This is an important step when learning how to prepare for extreme weather, not just a winter storm. Make notes of where you need to trim trees or even cut them down. Call a professional to handle jobs outside of your comfort or ability zone. Also, clear any items in the way of your shovel/snow removal path, so you won’t have to do that once the snow begins.

Bring in your garden hose 

an outdoor spigot has ice crusted on it

 

Prevent ice from getting in your pipes.

After you take in your garden hose, shut off the water to your outside spigot and drain the excess moisture. If you end up leaving water in your pipes, there’s a good chance it’ll expand in cold weather and break.

Up on the housetop routine maintenance 

snow covers a roof in a night scene

 

Snow is not your roof’s friend.

You might notice those long icicles dripping from your gutters. Those are ice dams, which can send water under your roof’s shingles, inside your home, and create rot and other issues. Prevent ice dams from forming with these quick winter home maintenance tips:

  • Clear your gutters in late fall/early winter after the leaves fall to prevent clogs from forming.
  • Clean your downspouts and make sure they are sending water away from your home.
  • Complete a visual inspection of your roof.
  • Check your eaves and attic for any damp spots or damage.
  • Invest in a snow rake to clear any heavy snow that settles during the season.
 
If you notice any damaged or missing shingles, call a licensed roofer to assess the situation. They can also clean your gutters (which may be safer than doing it yourself).

If you live outside of the usual snow zone, you still have some maintenance to do. If you have a flat roof, clean it of any debris or branches, and inspect it for damage. 

Repair outside walkways and driveways

snow falls onto a cracked driveway

 

Mend your broken walkway.

Contrary to popular belief, ice melt doesn’t harm concrete. Ice does. It gets into any cracks and expands, widening and cracking the structure more. Prevent this by filling cracks with the help of a patching mix and bonding agent before ice and moisture can get them in.

Fix your outdoor fixtures  

a lantern glows in the evening in a snowy landscape

 

Electricity and snow do not mix.

Water and electricity don’t mix, so tackle your outdoor lighting issues before they cause an electrical hazard. (This is also great to tackle earlier in the season, in October or November, before you decorate for the holidays.)

Clean and store your outdoor furniture 

a wooden chair on a patio is covered with snow

 

Don’t leave your furniture out in the cold.

You love your outdoor table, chairs, and umbrella, but the harsh elements of winter can damage these items. Snow can rust metal. Plastic can crack during a deep freeze, and wood can rot if not sealed correctly.

Either bring your outdoor furniture inside – such as your garage, basement, or shed – or at the very least, cover it with a waterproof tarp. In either case, make sure to clean your furniture before you store it for the long winter. 

Check your foundation 

An essential winter home maintenance item – plugging up holes in your foundation helps to keep unwanted pests, such as bugs and mice, from entering your home. It also helps to keep in the heat inside and the cold outside, and even prevents melting snow from seeping into your basement. Take some caulk, steel wool, or even a sealant, and secure your foundation this winter.

If you find a crack too big to patch, you should consult an expert

Remove window screens

A screen door with a view of the large, brick house across the street

 

Prevent damage and cold temps by swapping out the screen.

If you haven’t switched out your window screens for your glass inserts yet, now’s the time to do so. This will help keep your heating costs low and the cold air out. Also, if you leave on your screens, snow can get between them and their windows, and do some real damage.

Safeguard your HVAC 

Though most condensing units are built to survive the winter months, the harsh weather can still threaten your summer relief with debris and water damage. A simple sheet of plywood and bricks or rocks on top is enough. Do not cover the whole unit.

Keep your HVAC running in the extreme summer heat, too, with these spring HVAC maintenance tips.

Prepare for snow 

a bucket of salt and shovel on her front porch after a snowstorm

 

Prepare for snow.

Do you have enough ice melt, sand, or kitty litter to last the winter? Check out Snow Problems? Not with These Winter Tips for Homeowners, and make sure to ready your snow blower by following these tips:

  • Inspect the belts and replace if cracked or damaged.
  • Check the shave plate and replace if worn.
  • Replace the shear pins if broken.
  • If you have a gas-powered snow blower, check the spark plugs, change the oil, and add fresh gas with a stabilizer.
 
If you have an electric snow blower, make sure the batteries are charged and ready to go.

Buy a welcome mat 

a person looks down at their boots, which are sunk into snow

 

This is why you need a mat.

Save your floors for the wear and tear of winter by creating a small area where you can take off your boots and outerwear before heading into the nicer areas of your home. Ideally, it would be great if you have a mudroom or garage, but if you only have a living area or kitchen – then throw down a mat and put up a few coat hooks.

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Time to head inside for winter home maintenance tips 

Winter can do a number on the outside of your home, but it can also tax your interior systems. We have the essential inside winter home maintenance tips to help keep you roast-y and toast-y all season long.

Schedule a chimney check-up

a chimney with smoke billowing out of the top

 

Don’t neglect your chimney.

A clogged or dirty fireplace can easily lead to a house fire or carbon monoxide poisoning. Additionally, an issue with the flue, the opening in a chimney for releasing exhaust gases from a fireplace, can cause drafts, heating inefficiencies, and higher utility bills. Get your fireplace inspected annually and make the necessary repairs, especially if you plan on using it during the winter months. Also, get it cleaned once a year by a certified chimney sweep.

Heat up your heating system

a HVAC repair person checks the thermostat

 

Service your furnace at least once a year!

You got your HVAC and furnace inspected and serviced in fall, right? (If you didn’t, do so now!) Then you need to stay up on top of maintenance, including cleaning or replacing those air filters. This helps to keep pollutants from air, such as pet dander, pollen, and dust, and it also keeps the system working efficiently.

Beef up your insulation 

pick insulation lays in the wall studs while the left hand part of the wall has no insulation

 

Is your home losing its heat?

Poor insulation can lead to many issues around your home, including ice dams, mold, and cold toes. While insulation can last for quite a long time (some experts say a lifetime for walls and flooring), annual checks keep your insulation fresh and your utility lower bills lower. Here are a few rules to follow:

  • If you see the ceiling joints, it’s time to add more. Insulation should be at least a foot or more thick in the attic.
  • Attic and pipe insulation can see breakdown or compression (which leads to ineffectiveness). Check these areas more frequently.
  • Add new insulation to existing insulation.
  • New insultation should be laid perpendicular to the first layer.
  • Recess lightning should not be covered.
 
If you plan for this to be a DIY project, dress for the occasion as insulation can be harmful to your lungs and skin. Cover yourself from head to toe – goggles, a dust mask, long pants, long-sleeve shirt, and gloves. Of course, when in doubt, hire a professional.

If you are moving into an older house, it is a good idea to have your insulation checked for proper thickness and R-value. (Each type of insulation is rated with an R-value, which indicates how well it prevents the movement of heat.)

Reverse your ceiling fan 

a homeowner pulls the cord to start a ceiling fan

 

Get the warm air where you need it.

Reversing your fans during winter is a great way to save money on heating as it keeps the warm air where you need it most. By flipping a switch, your fan should rotate clockwise and run on the lowest speed to recirculate the heat around the room. This is an exceptionally important winter home maintenance tips for living areas with high or vaulted ceilings, where hot air can linger.

Update your weatherstripping 

a homeowner uses a caulking gun to seal a window

 

Keep the cold air out.

Seal up your windows with foam or rubber strips around your windows or doors that can stop air leaks. It only takes a few minutes to install per window or door, but if you’re still seeing a lot of air loss by your doors, look to replace the threshold or the sweep. Garage doors can also let air out, so you might want to invest in door sweep for that, too.

And don’t forget to seal outlets and light switches!

Give your sump pump a quick check 

an overhead view of a sump pump

 

Inspect your sump pump.

Head down to your basement and check your sump pumps. Make sure they are plugged in, and if you haven’t cleaned them this year, call a professional to do so. If you haven’t had your sump pumps inspected in a few years, it’s a good idea to have that done now, too.

The price of an inspection and maintenance is less than the cost of a flooded basement.

Check your detectors 

a homeowner replaces a battery in a smoke detector

 

Be safe this winter!

The National Fire Protection Association reports that December, January, and February are the most dangerous months for heating fires. Carbon monoxide incidents are also more common during winter. Set aside the first Saturday of every month to check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and consider upgrading to a 10-year battery. If your detectors are more than 10 years old, replace them immediately.

Get ready for a power outage 

With more demand for electricity than ever before and snow on the way, you’ll need to ready your home and your family for the inevitable power outage.

Restock your emergency kit 

winter scarfs are stacked up in pile

 

Stay warm with this winter home maintenance tip!

Be prepared when the power goes out, so you’ll be warm and informed about updates. Here’s a quick list of what you should have in your kit:

  • Chargers (for phones)
  • Batteries
  • Medicines
  • Flashlights
  • First aid kit
  • Money
  • Non-perishable food and water
  • Toiletries and personal hygiene supplies
  • Protective gear
  • Blankets
  • Boots
  • Warm clothes
 
If you took any of these items out during the year, replace them and make sure your current food and batteries are in date. Learn more about powering through a power outage in 5 Tips to Save Your Home from Severe Storms

Generate some power yourself 

a blue generator stands on bricks in front of a home

 

Don’t be without power..

As power outages become more frequent, consider investing in a generator. A generator can help you in some many ways, including:

  • Running a heater to prevent frozen pipes.
  • Helping you stay warm in chilly weather.
  • Keeping your sump pump pumping to avoid a home flood.
 
Just make sure to do your due diligence before buying a generator. Choose the generator that has the wattage you need, and if you’re connecting the generator to your electrical panel, call a licensed electrician to complete this step. (An incorrectly installed generator can be fatal to a lineman.)

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