30 Tasks for Your Winter Home Maintenance Checklist
It doesn’t matter if you shun the cold weather or embrace it, winter is quickly approaching. Here are 30 tasks to tackle now to make sure your home is ready for the season.
Make Sure Your Heating System is Ready
Depending on the type of heating system you have, there are a few home maintenance things you should do before the temperatures really start to dip. If you have a high-efficiency system, PVC vent pipes need to be cleared of any obstructions. And those with a boiler system should have their system cleaned every year. Those with gas should have a cleaning about every three years. Here are 15 unexpected ways to keep your house warm that could save you money.
Check the Fireplace and Chimney
If you use your fireplace, have it cleaned by a chimney sweep. You should also check for any debris and cracks in the chimney. And creosote buildup and debris such as leaves and bird nests could become a fire hazard.
Check Batteries in Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, heating is the cause of 27 percent of structure fires during the winter months. So make sure all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working in your home. And it’s best to have smoke alarms in every room of your home, including hallways. Be sure that home maintenance includes checking the batteries in all alarms once a month is always on your home maintenance checklist.
Prevent Pipes from Freezing
When water freezes, it expands and can cause your pipes to burst. To prevent frozen pipes, insulate pipes near windows, doors and in areas of the home that are unheated. Disconnect your garden hose from the outside faucet. Finally, set the heat to no lower than 55 degrees F.
Test Your Sump Pump
Your sump pump will help you keep your basement dry during the wet season, so make sure it’s working properly. Slowly pour a few gallons of water into the pit to make sure the pump turns on. The typical lifespan of a sump pump is 10 years. And make sure it last this long with your home maintenance checklist.
Drain Sediment From Your Water Heater or Expect a Shortened Life Span
A distraught homeowner called a plumber because her water heater wasn’t heating, and furthermore, it was leaking. Right away, the plumber asked if the homeowner had been draining some of the water from it every year. The puzzled homeowner said, ‘No. Why?’ It turns out that sediment will collect at the bottom of the tank. This creates hot spots on gas-powered heaters that can damage the tank and cause premature failure. On an electric water heater, sediment buildup can cause the lower heating element to fail. So, occasionally draining a water heater will lower energy bills and extend its life. We recommend draining water heaters at least once a year.
If you haven’t already, clear gutters of debris including sticks, pine cones and leaves so melted snow will drain properly. And direct downspouts away from your home’s foundation to help prevent basement leaks and flooding.
Check the Roof
Give the roof a good look before winter hits. Are there any loose or missing shingles that may result in leaks from melting snow? And use your home maintenance checklist as an excuse to check for any broken seals around vents and the chimney.
Clear Debris from Flat Roofs
If you live in the Southwest United States, you may have a flat roof that is surfaced with pebbles or asphalt. And before winter, be sure to remove leaves that can hold moisture. This home maintenance task can be done with a rake or blower.
Prepare for a Storm
Power outages are common during winter storms, so make sure you’re prepared with a survival kit. Your winter home maintenance checklist should include stocking up on bottled water, non-perishable food, flashlights, first-aid supplies, batteries and a smart phone charger.
Clean Window Weep Holes or Invite Rainwater Into Your House
Many sliding windows and vinyl replacement windows have weep holes on the exterior bottom of the frame. These holes are designed to drain away rainwater that can collect in the frame’s bottom channel. Weep holes can get plugged with bugs and debris, and if that happens, water could fill up the channel and spill over into your house.
To see if your weep system is working, simply pour a glass of water into the track or spray the outside of the window with a garden hose. If you don’t see a steady stream of clean water exiting the weep hole, poke a wire hanger into the hole, or spray it out with compressed air, and wet it down again. If the little flapper (designed to keep out driving wind) is stuck shut, it can be removed with a putty knife and replaced.
All that snow, ice and mud can wreak havoc on your entryway floors. Place mats both inside and outside the door, along with boot trays inside the entryway. And make sure your mudroom is ready with a place to dry wet jackets, hats, mittens and gloves.
Check for Air Leaks
Act now on your home maintenance checklist to save on heating costs during the winter months. And check for air leaks around windows and doors, including cracks in caulking or weatherstripping. Also, replace caulk and weatherstripping if necessary.
Stop Ice Dams from Forming
If your home is prone to icicles and ice dams, take steps now to make sure you have proper insulation and venting. And you can also prevent ice dams by raking the snow off your roof and installing heat cables.
Adequate insulation will help keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer. And if your insulation is insufficient, your heating system will have to work overtime this winter. By adding some insulation to your attic, walls and crawlspace, you can save money on heating costs.
Reverse Ceiling Fans
If you have ceiling fans, there should be a switch to make the fan blades run clockwise. Running the blades in a clockwise position during the colder months can push heated air down. This home maintenance task makes rooms with high ceilings more comfortable.
Protect the Air Conditioner
Even though the condensing unit is built for outdoor elements, it can still be damaged by falling icicles and other debris. You don’t need to invest in a waterproof cover (in fact many manufacturers recommend against it, because it creates a warm space for critters). Just place a sheet of plywood held down by a few bricks on top and your AC should be ready to work again in the spring. Don’t forget! Your winter home maintenance checklist should also include removing and storing any window air conditioner units.
Flush, Insulate Hot Water Tank
Flush your hot water tank to remove sediment. You can also wrap an older hot water tank with an insulating blanket to help conserve energy (and save you money). And these blankets prevent hot water heaters from losing heat in cold rooms and closets.
Prep the Humidifier
If your home has a whole-house humidifier, make sure the drain line is clean. And replace the media panel, which mixes water with the flow of hot air from the furnace. This should be done twice each season. Finally, check to make sure the solenoid valve is working correctly and clean the humidifier’s fan.
Trim Tree Limbs
Your winter home maintenance checklist should include trimming any dead tree limbs so they don’t fall and damage your home during a winter storm. And if you need to remove large limbs or remove a tree, it may be best to hire a professional.
Repair Steps, Check Handrail
Make sure the steps leading to your home are free from tripping hazards and repair concrete if necessary. And make sure the handrail is sturdy and well anchored to help prevent falls.
Consider a Generator
If you live in an area that is prone to power outages, perhaps it’s time to consider a generator. A generator will help you keep some lights on, along with the heat, during prolonged winter power outages. And both portable and standby generators are available, depending on your needs.
Ready Shovels, Check Snow Blower
Move your snow shovels to an area near the door where they will be within easy reach. Change the oil in your snow blower and replace the spark plug if needed.
Inspect Outdoor Lighting
On your home maintenance checklist make sure any outdoor lights are functioning properly, including motion sensor lighting. And this will help prevent falls on ice-covered walkways and driveways.
Protect Patio Furniture
Keep your patio furniture safe from the elements (including rust) by covering your pieces with a heavy tarp. And if you have room, you can also store furniture in a shed, garage or basement.
Your clay and porcelain planters can crack during the cold weather, so be sure your winter home maintenance checklist includes clearing the soil from planters and bringing them inside. Also, you can store them on their side in a garage or shed, just make sure to protect them from heavy objects.
Store Seasonal Tools
Make sure all seasonal tools—such as rakes, pruning shears and garden shovels—are stored inside a garage or shed way from the elements. And use a light coating of vegetable oil to help prevent rust.
Stock Up on Salt, Sand
Purchase some salt, ice melt or sand before the first snowfall. And this will give you some extra traction when it’s time to shovel the sidewalk and driveway.
Install Storm Windows and Doors
Storm doors and windows will help reduce heat loss during the colder months, especially for those with single-pane windows. You can special-order storm windows and doors from home improvement stores. Be sure to measure carefully before ordering.
Check for High Water Pressure or Wreck Fixtures and Appliances
A technician was assisting a water softener installer who was replacing a fairly new softener because the first one had ruptured and filled the pipes with little zeolite beads.
The installer didn’t seem too worried about why the first one failed, but the assistant did a little investigating. A water pressure test gave a reading of more than 110 lbs. psi. The culprit was the 20-year-old pressure-reducing valve. After a new valve was installed, the pressure went down to about 75 lbs. Pressure-reducing valves are usually found near the main water shutoff valve, but not all homes have them. It depends on your municipality.
High water pressure can harm pipes, connections, and appliances. It also creates water hammer and waste massive amounts of water. Checking for high water pressure is an often overlooked maintenance item, and one that’s easy enough to perform. A new pressure-reducing valve and a simple pressure gauge like this one that hooks up to a spigot or laundry tub faucet are both available at home centers.