Garden and lawn maintenance have gone into hibernation. Hopefully, so have holiday decorations.
Has the New Year's fresh-slate feeling heightened your desire to make improvements wherever possible? Evaluate your home maintenance routine and use this list as a helpful guide on where to start.
1. Flush the hot water heater. Proper maintenance can cut energy bills and you're also less likely to find yourself taking an ice-cold shower come February. Trouble signs to look for when inspecting your water heater include corrosion around the plumbing, scorching in the burner compartment and poor venting.
2. Replace batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and test all alarms. Consumer Reports suggest that smoke alarms be replaced every 10 years and CM alarms should be replaced every five. Make sure there's a carbon monoxide detector on every level of your home and smoke alarms in every bedroom and hallway, the attic and basement.
3. Clean out gutters thoroughly. Backed up gutters means water won't drain, and sitting water can lead to big problems -- especially in cold weather climates. Many water damage insurance claims are made after sitting water leaks down into the walls of a home. Make sure your gutters are clean so they can divert water away from, not into, your home.
4. Evaluate chimney flashing to ensure against leaks.
5. Check chimney caps for cracks or deterioration.
6. Look at the grading around your house to ensure that the ground slopes away from the foundation. This is great preparation for a rainy spring season.
7. Caulk around windows and install (or replace) weatherstripping on doors to lower your energy bills.
8. Have your electrical wiring checked to prevent shorts and even fires.
9. Clean dryer vents and make sure any old plastic tubing is replaced with metal to prevent dryer fires.
10. Make sure your home is properly insulated. The benefits of proper insulation are substantial. Not only does a properly insulated home reduce heating costs, it also keeps water from damaging your home. If pipes are not properly insulated they can freeze and burst, causing considerable water damage throughout your home. This costs time and money - two things most people don't have enough of over the holidays. A well-insulated attic is another key to avoiding major damage. Warm air can rise through the attic and cause ice on the roof to thaw when the attic is not properly insulated. The water then flows down the eaves and re-freezes, causing an ice dam. This dam prevents water from draining off the roof, and that water then backs up under the shingles and into your home.