What are the Best Tips for Home Winter Maintenance?

Matt Brady

One of the first priorities in winter maintenance is to attend to any roof repairs before inclement weather arrives. While inspecting the roof, one should also clean out gutters and downspouts. Another priority is to install storm windows, which provide better protection against the elements, as well as better insulation. Checking up on the heating system is another must. A tuned-up furnace with clean filters ensures a home will stay safely warm; it also diminishes the chances of frozen or burst pipes. One should be sure to disconnect any garden hoses from the house as well, and turn off automatic sprinkler systems; conventional wisdom states that failing to do so not only could ruin a good garden hose, but also could cause internal pipes to freeze and burst.

Cleaning out fireplaces before winter ensures that they function efficiently and safely.
Cleaning out fireplaces before winter ensures that they function efficiently and safely.

It's very important to put roof and gutter work at the top of the winter maintenance checklist. Before winter sets in, one should hire a professional to inspect the roof. It's better to find and repair any leaks before the first snowfall arrives. One can also hire a professional to clean out the gutters and downspouts. Failing to do so could cause significant ice buildup during storms and freezing temperatures, which could cause damage to gutters as well as to the house.

Pipes might freeze if a home furnace hasn't been tuned-up.
Pipes might freeze if a home furnace hasn't been tuned-up.

Swapping out old windows for storm windows is a good way to keep the cold, wet elements of winter outside the home and to help trap heat inside the home. Window maintenance isn't just about protecting the home, though — it can also save a homeowner money, as newer, energy-efficient windows have been proven to trap in more heat. Ensuring that less heat escapes the house reduces the need to crank up the furnace, which in turn drives down the cost of the monthly heating bill. Over time, energy savings will more than pay for the cost and installation of new windows. If a new set of windows isn't in the budget, window seals and insulating kits offer a cheaper energy-efficient alternative.

Tuning up the heating system is an absolutely necessary part of winter maintenance. It's wise to have a professional inspect the furnace before winter arrives. Generally, all a heating system needs is to have the thermostat calibrated, and to replace dirty filters. Homeowners who know their way around a furnace can easily do such work without the aid of a professional. For everyone else, however, it's safer and more effective to spend money on an expert.

Another heating system — the fireplace — will also need winter maintenance. Over time, fireplaces can accumulate a lot of sooty gunk and grime that could become a fire hazard. Cleaning the fireplace will also improve its appearance and ensure that it's ready for a winter's worth of use.

A lot of winter maintenance is anticipating what could possibly freeze during frigid conditions. Tuning up the furnace is a way of ensuring that pipes in the house don't become frozen and burst. There are other pipes, however, such as those that connect to garden hoses and sprinkler systems, that also need to be attended to. To make sure those pipes are protected, homeowners should disconnect garden hoses and turn off automatic sprinkler systems to ensure no excess water could freeze and cause damage.

Another winter maintenance task is to insulate any pipes that may be exposed. It's not uncommon to have exposed pipes in unfinished areas of the house, such as a basement or attic. Without any walls and insulation to protect them, those pipes can become cold even when the rest of the house feels suitably warm. To protect them, homeowners can buy insulating tools such as foam.

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Discussion Comments


Cleaning out gutters before freezing temperatures set in is of utmost importance. I missed this last year. By the time I got to this task there was ice in the gutters, and it was impossible to clean them out well. I paid for that too, with a gutter torn down over winter because of the ice and snow. Stan H.

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