All winter long, your home is hard at work keeping you warm and dry while temperatures drop and winds rage outside. But how much work are you doing for your home during those months? Are you checking in with your home now and again to make sure it’s holding up okay?
The last thing any homeowner wants is to come outside in the spring time and find a mountain of home-improvement projects waiting. If you monitor your home throughout the winter months and keep a watchful eye on it, then your spring home-improvement project checklist will be much shorter — and less expensive.
When we don’t pay much attention to our home’s needs during the winter months, small problems eventually grow into much bigger problems. For example, if you check your chimney once at the beginning of winter and then neglect it while still burning fires in your fireplace, then your chimney could catch on fire and cause massive amounts of damage to your property. Regular chimney checks will ensure that your chimney stays clean and you never have to face a chimney fire.
So once a month, go through our complete winter home checklist and use our winter home maintenance tips to keep your home running smoothly even when the weather is at its worst.
Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
A house fire can be a devastating experience for any homeowner, and then temperatures may drop in the winter, house fires can still rage. In fact, heating is the second most common cause of fires in the U.S., according to the U.S. Fire Administration. Boilers, HVAC systems and space heaters can all cause fires if they’re not well maintained.
We’ll come back to heating system maintenance, but for now, check out the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home to ensure they’re working properly. Doing this once a month ensures that all of your detectors are in good shape, and you can replace batteries immediately if needed.
Carbon monoxide detectors get overlooked in favor of smoke detectors, but checking them is one of our essential winter home maintenance tips. Carbon monoxide is odorless, so you won’t know it’s there until you start to feel its effects — and by then it could be too late.
Wash your mudroom mats and boot trays
No matter what type of floor you have in your mudroom, it will take a beating during the winter months. When people are going in and out every day, they’re tracking rain, dirt and mud right into your home. Even if you vacuum regularly, those mats and boot trays in your mudroom will become less effective overtime if they’re not cared for regularly. And when they’re not doing their jobs of catching mud and dirt, it means your floors end up bearing the brunt of the work. Overtime, that mud will almost surely find its way into your kitchen, living room and beyond.
At the start of each month, use these winter home maintenance tips to give your mudroom a little TLC. Wash off the floor mats and boot trays to get rid of all that leftover dirt and debris. Vacuum the floors and then mop up to make your floors shine. If you only have an indoor mat, consider getting one for the outdoors as well. This will help keep dirt outside, so make sure everyone is wiping their feet before they come into your home.
If you don’t have one already, make sure you have a designated spot for wet clothes, jackets, mittens and hats in your mudroom. If you let the water just drip onto your floors, it could become a slipping hazard, not to mention a potential mold infestation if you don’t wipe it up. Mold loves moisture and dampness, so if it finds a spot in your mudroom with both of those requirements, it can take hold.
You should also take this time to clean off your winter boots and inspect them for holes. A particularly rainy or snowy winter can wear down your favorite pair of boots, so give them an extra shine so you can be sure that they’ll keep protecting your feet all winter long.
Sweep your chimney
As previously mentioned, unswept chimneys can become massive fire hazards. When you light a fire in your fireplace, creosote from the smoke builds up along the body of your chimney, and it’s very flammable. If there’s too much heat and not enough air, that creosote could catch fire. Other blockages, such as leaves, debris and event birds nests, could cause a chimney fire as well.
Chimney fires can be difficult to spot, and sometimes, they’re contained to just the chimney. Other times, your neighbors will be able to see flames coming out of your chimney. Out of all our winter home maintenance tips, monthly chimney inspections may be the most vital for those who love to have warm fires in the winter time.
The best thing to do is to inspect your chimney at least once a month to make sure the creosote buildup is minimal and no other debris is blocking your chimney. Even if you’re not running fires in your fireplace regularly, you should still check out your chimney just to be on the safe side. You never know when an animal might decide to make a nest in your chimney.
Feel for air leaks
At the start of winter, you probably repaired your weather stripping and added some where needed, but here’s one of our solid winter home maintenance tips: Just because your windows feel good at the start of winter doesn’t mean they’ll still be in good condition by the middle of January.
Each month, take some time out and check your windows and doors for air leaks. You can usually tell when an air leak is occurring right away just by feeling for temperature changes. If the temperature drastically drops next to a window, then you know there’s an air leak nearby.
Air leaks can add to your energy bill, and overtime, that can lead to an expensive bill each month. On top of that, you’re wasting energy and hurting the environment in the process. If you check your windows and doors just once a month, you can catch these problems before they show up on your energy bill.
Maintain your gutters
At Advantage Pro Services, we’re big on keep gutters clean and working properly. That’s because we’ve seen what happens when people don’t schedule regular gutter cleaning services, even in the winter time, and skip these winter home maintenance tips.
In Houston where snow is rare and leaves tend to fall even in the winter, there’s always a chance that gutters make become clogged. During the winter, that makes gutter cleaning services even more necessary. When your gutters become clogged, they trap water in them. During the summer, that can become a breeding ground for mosquitoes, but in the winter, that trapped water freezes.
As you probably remember from grade school science classes, water expands when it freezes and contracts when it warms up. In wintertime when the temperature drops then rises again, that water is expanding and contracting every few days. This process can start bending your gutters and even warp them overtime. By the end of winter, you may find cracks in your gutters, and that means a big replacement job.
While you can inspect your gutters for yourself, it’s better to have regularly gutter cleaning services scheduled so you don’t have to be the one to climb the ladder every month. Having an expert look over your gutter with gutter cleaning services gives you peace of mind knowing that if something looks off, your expert will spot it right away. Rather than having to replace your entire gutter system at once — a major expense — you might replace parts of your gutter system overtime and spread out that expense.
Monthly gutter cleaning services will keep your gutters clear. If you don’t inspect them yourself, hire an expert to get the job done right.
Inspect your heating system
You certainly don’t want to be caught in the middle of winter without a working heater. It can be expensive to call a technician to your home, especially if you need help on a Saturday or Sunday, and it can force you rearrange your whole work schedule if someone needs to be home during the day to let the technician into your home.
Whatever type of heating system you have, follow our winter home maintenance tips and inspect it at least once a month. Check to make sure filters are in good condition and check for any possible obstructions around PVC pipes. Doing routine checks can help you spot potential problems and prevent or fix them before you’re left without heat.
Add insulation when needed
Insulation can be a lifesaver in the summer and winter months. Not only does it trap heat in, but it also keeps cool air in your home. In the long run, this means less money spent on energy bills because you’re using less of it.
At the start of winter, you should inspect your insulation and add it where needed. Attics especially can do more to protect your home when properly insulated, so if your attic isn’t insulated, keep up with our winter home maintenance tips and add it before winter really gets rolling.
If you do have insulation, keep an eye on it throughout winter. Like any other materials, insulation can wear down overtime, and it will need to be replaced. If you notice your insulation looking a little worn in mid-January, get it replaced now so you don’t lose any more heat through your home.
As you may know, insulation can be a favorite home for mice and other attic pests. Inspecting your insulation monthly ensures that you’re checking for potential infestations and catching them before they become a serious problem. Finding a spring infestation is never fun, so regular monitoring will keep those potential infestations at bay.
Protect all pipes
As with gutters, water in pipes can freeze and expand, causing serious damage to pipes. If your pipes freeze, they might burst and cause a number of major problems. You may find that your bathroom or basement has flooded because of a pipe that burst, or you may open a cabinet under a bathroom sink and find it infested with mold. As mentioned, mold thrives in damp, dark places like in a cabinet, so if a burst pipe causes a leak, that leak could turn into a mold infestation within a few short days.
There are a few winter home maintenance tips you can follow beyond checking your pipes monthly to ensure that they don’t burst. First, insulate any areas with pipes. That includes under spaces any cabinets or in basements. Insulation will help keep warm air inside, and in places where warm air is scarce, like a basement, you’re going to be glad you added some extra insulation. Spaces under cabinets can get cold as well, especially if the pipes are on an outside wall. Make sure there’s plenty of insulation to keep those pipes warm.
If you plan to leave your home for a holiday trip, set the thermostat to at least 55 degrees. At this temperature, your pipes won’t freeze, but you also won’t be heating a house that no one is using. Your energy bill should remain low, and your pipes won’t be at risk.
Even with these conditions met, inspect your pipes monthly to make sure nothing looks out of place. Calling out a plumber on short notice can be a costly expense, so try to spot potential problems before they get out of hand.
Do a test run with your sump pump
All that rain in the winter time can flood a basement in no time, but with a good working sump pump, that water should never become too much of an issue, right? While that’s true, you want to make sure your sump pump is actually working before you have rely on it too much.
There’s an easy way to test if your sump pump is working well. Pour several gallons of water down into your pump and listen to make sure it turns on. If you hear it turn on, great! If not, it’s time to call in a technician.
Now that you’re preparing for winter, share with us: What are your best winter home maintenance tips? Tell us in the comments and let us know how our gutter cleaning services can help.