Winter Home Maintenance Checklist

From freezing temperatures to ice and snow buildup, winter can be harsh on your home. Fortunately, there’s something you can do about it. By following this winter home maintenance checklist, you can better prepare your home for the cold weather ahead.

Some of these tasks are potentially dangerous, so please consider hiring a service professional.

Check Heating System
Test Backup Generator
Schedule a Chimney Cleaning
Avoid Ice Dams
Prevent Pipes From Freezing
Test Your Sump Pump
Stock Up on Emergency Supplies
Clear Snow From Walkways
Safely Hang Holiday Lights

Check Heating System

Most home maintenance experts recommend that you schedule an inspection of your heating system each year, ideally before the chill of winter sets in. The last thing you want is for it to break down in the middle of a cold snap. If that happens, you may have to wait several days for a service technician to come to your home.

Here are some things a service technician should check during a routine maintenance inspection:

Furnaces
A technician will check the vents for leaks and blockages, the burners for proper ignition, and the hoses and drainage system for leaks. They may also replace the filter if it’s dirty.
Boilers
To ensure your boiler’s health, a service technician will inspect the heat exchanger, wiring and venting system. They’ll also make sure the water pH levels are in the correct range.
Heat Pumps
A technician will clear the drain, clean the condenser coil, inspect all moving parts and replace the air filter. You can help by moving any snow or debris away from the outdoor unit.

Test Backup Generator

If a severe winter storm knocks out power in your area, it might be hours or days before it is restored. That’s a long time to spend in the cold. A portable home generator is the perfect antidote to a winter power outage. It will keep the lights on—and the heat circulating—during these unfortunate events.

To make sure your generator is still running smoothly, follow this winter home maintenance checklist: 

Maintain Your Generator
  • Change the generator’s oil
  • Replace the oil, air and fuel filters
  • If it runs on batteries, charge it fully
  • Use a fuel stabilizer to refresh leftover gas
  • Start it up to make sure it’s working

Schedule a Chimney Cleaning

Sitting beside a roaring fire is one of winter’s most enjoyable activities—assuming your chimney is in proper working order. If it isn’t, your home can quickly fill up with smoke.

That’s why you should schedule a regular chimney maintenance inspection. A professional chimney sweep will clean any blockages that might exist in your chimney, whether it’s a buildup of soot or a bird’s nest. This way, you can relax next to your fireplace or wood stove with confidence.

Avoid Ice Dams

When the snow does arrive, it’s important to prevent ice dams from forming. An ice dam is a ridge of ice at the edge of your roof. While an ice dam may not look like a big deal, it can prevent melting snow from draining properly. As a result, the water can leak into your roof and damage your ceilings, insulation and walls.

To prevent a winter ice dam, make sure your gutters are clear of debris before the first snowfall. Then use a telescoping roof rake to brush the snow off the roof when it arrives.

It’s also a good idea to knock wet snow off any tree branches hanging over your home. A buildup of heavy snow can cause branches to snap and break, potentially damaging your roof. You may want to hire a professional to do this for you.

Prevent Pipes From Freezing

Exposure to cold winter air can cause your pipes to freeze, blocking the flow of water. Even worse, a frozen pipe can burst, causing severe damage to your home.

Luckily, there are a few easy ways to prevent pipes from freezing:

Proper Insulation
Make sure that pipes located in unheated areas are insulated. This includes your attic, basement, crawl spaces or garage.
Keep a Steady Temperature
Make sure your home is roughly the same temperature during the day and night to prevent freezing.
Run Your Faucets
Let cold water drip from your faucets during bitter weather. The movement will help prevent ice from forming in your pipes.
Open Cabinet Doors
The plumbing underneath kitchen and bathroom sinks is also prone to freezing. Open the cabinets to let in the warm air.
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Test Your Sump Pump

Sump pumps are the last line of defense against a flooded basement, so it’s a smart idea to test your pump before winter. After all, if it isn’t functioning properly, you could end up with serious property damage.

Testing your sump pump is easy:

  1. Pour water into the pump pit until the float rises.
  2. Listen for the pump to turn on.
  3. Make sure the pump turns itself off when the water is removed.
  4. Confirm that the water is being directed away from your home’s foundation.

Even if your sump pump is working fine, it may be worth installing a water alarm on the floor near potential sources of moisture accumulation. These automatic sensors are easy to set up and capable of detecting 1/32 inch of water.

Stock Up on Emergency Supplies

According to Climate Central, the number of major power outages in the U.S. increased by about 78 percent between 2011 and 2021, compared to the previous decade. The vast majority of these outages were due to severe weather conditions.

Given this trend, it’s important to prepare for snowstorms and other winter emergencies, the same way you would prepare for a hurricane. Here are some things to stock up on:

  • Water
  • Blankets
  • Non-perishable food
  • First-aid kit
  • Flashlight and batteries
  • Gasoline
  • Medicine
  • Toiletries
  • Cell-phone with charger
  • Battery-powered radio
  • If you have a fireplace, keep a decent supply of chopped wood and fire-starters on hand. A roaring blaze is a great way to stay warm if the power goes out this winter.

    Clear Snow From Walkways

    Be sure to keep any outdoor walking paths around your home clear of snow and ice. Of course, this includes the steps leading to your home. Here are some helpful tips:

    Before ShovelingAfter Shoveling
    Dress in layers. This way, you can easily remove a layer if you get too hot.Spread around some kitty litter or sand for traction.
    Spread pet- and child-safe ice melt to all walking areas. This will prevent ice from bonding to surfaces.Apply more ice melt to icy areas as needed.
    Spray some cooking spray on your shovel. It’ll help prevent snow from sticking to your shovel, especially if it’s a wet, heavy snow.Make sure the railings around your steps are secure. If someone slips and lunges for the railing, you want it to be sturdy.

    Driveways are a different matter altogether. Depending on its size, you may want to use a snow blower or hire a plow to remove the snow.

    Safely Hang Holiday Lights

    Hanging holiday lights is a fun tradition, but it can also be dangerous. To minimize the risk, it’s important that you know how to properly maintain and install your winter lights.

    Inspecting Your Lights and Cords

    • Before plugging in last year’s lights, inspect their condition. Don’t use strings of lights with broken bulbs, loose bulb connections or frayed cords. They can cause an electric shock when plugged in or, worse, an electric fire.
    • Holiday lights are labeled for indoor or outdoor usage. The same goes with extension cords. Use them accordingly.
    • Unplug holiday lights before leaving home or going to bed.

    Hanging Your Lights

    • When hanging lights outside of your home, use a sturdy wooden or fiberglass ladder. Metal ladders conduct electricity, which can lead to electrical shocks.
    • Don’t use metal staples or nails to hold strings of lights in place. If they pierce the insulation, they can cause an electrical shock and present a potential fire hazard. Use plastic hooks instead.
    • Don’t plug in too many lights. It can cause your circuit to blow.

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