The Complete New Year's Homeowners Maintenance and Safety
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As the new year approaches, it's important to take some time to think about home maintenance. From checking the smoke detector and changing the air filter to cleaning the gutters and fireplace, general home upkeep can keep your home in good condition, save money on repairs, increase the value of your home and save you from home insurance claim denials. Remember: homeowners insurance does not cover losses due to neglect or lack of maintenance.
For a fresh start in the new year, keep reading to see our January home maintenance checklist.
1. Update Your Home Inventory List
A home inventory list is a comprehensive record of all the items in your home, including furniture, appliances, electronics, clothing and other personal belongings. This list is invaluable in the event of a natural disaster, fire or theft, as it can help you document your losses for insurance purposes.
To create or update your list, you can use online home inventory software or simply make a written or digital list. Be sure to include as much detail as possible, including make and model numbers, serial numbers and purchase prices.
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2. Change Filters
Water, HVAC, vacuum and other filters are crucial in keeping your home clean, safe and comfortable. Changing these filters regularly ensures that they are working effectively. Most filters should be changed every three to six months but this can vary by the filter and how frequently it’s used.
- HVAC: Every 30 days
- Vacuum: Every 30 days
- Water: Twice a year or per the manufacturer’s recommendation
3. Check for Ice Dams
Ice dams occur when water flows down the roof and then refreezes at the eaves, creating a dam that prevents melting snow from draining properly. This can cause water to back up and leak into your home, causing damage to your roof, walls and ceilings.
Check your roof regularly in the wintertime. If you notice an ice dam forming, you can remove it by using a roof rake or hiring a professional to remove it for you. Additionally, you can take steps to prevent ice dams from forming in the first place by insulating your attic, sealing any gaps in your roof and keeping your gutters clean. A well-insulated roof can better protect your home and potentially lower your energy bills.
4. Clear Your Gutters
Clogged gutters won’t effectively channel rainwater away from your roof and foundation, which can cause water to pool and lead to water damage and foundation problems. Removing debris from your gutters regularly can help your gutters do their job properly. You can clean your gutters yourself using a ladder and a pair of gloves or you can hire a professional to do it for you.
5. Protect Your Pipes From Freezing
When water freezes inside your pipes, it can cause them to burst, leading to costly repairs and water damage. Unfortunately, your insurer may deny a home insurance claim for a frozen pipe that bursts if you did not take the proper steps to prevent it. To protect pipes from freezing when temperatures drop, there are several steps you can take:
- Insulate your pipes: Wrap your pipes with insulation, particularly those that are exposed to the cold, such as those in your attic, basement or crawl space.
- Keep your thermostat set to the same temperature: Even when you're not home, it's important to keep your thermostat set to at least 55°F to prevent your pipes from freezing.
- Keep your garage door closed: If you have pipes in your garage, be sure to keep the door closed to protect them from the cold climate.
- Open your cabinets: If you have pipes under your sinks, open the cabinets to allow warm air to circulate around them.
6. Remove Heavy Snow From Tree Branches
When snow accumulates on tree branches, it can cause them to bend or snap, which can lead to costly home repairs if it falls on your roof, wall or through a window. This accident may increase during a winter storm. To remove heavy snow from tree branches, you can attempt to gently shake the tree branch to dislodge the snow. Alternatively, you can use a tool, like a shovel, broom or leaf blower. If the job is too dangerous or if the branch is too high up and inaccessible, you can hire a professional to remove the snow for you.
7. Take Down Any Holiday Decorations and Store Them Properly
Taking down any holiday decorations and storing them properly is an important part of home maintenance after the holiday season. Consider taking your decorative lights down as soon as you can to reduce the fire hazard — decorative lights accounted for 19% of Christmas tree fires according to the National Fire Protection Association. Not only will this help to declutter your home and make it feel more organized, but it will also help to protect your decorations from damage. When storing your holiday decorations, be sure to follow these tips:
- Sort through your decorations: Before you start packing up your decorations, take some time to sort through them. Discard any broken or damaged items and consider donating any items that you no longer want.
- Use storage containers: To protect your decorations from dust and damage, use storage containers that are sturdy and sealable. Avoid using cardboard boxes, which can easily become damp or damaged.
- Label your containers: To make it easier to find your decorations next year, be sure to label your storage containers with a description of what's inside.
- Store your decorations in a dry, cool place: To prevent your decorations from becoming damaged, store them in a dry, cool place, such as a basement or attic. Avoid storing them in damp or humid areas, as this can cause them to become moldy or damaged.
By following these tips, you can help to protect your holiday decorations and make it easier to find them next year.
8. Give Your Plants Some TLC
Giving your plants proper care is an important part of home maintenance, especially during the colder months when they may not be getting as much sunlight and warmth. To ensure that your plants are healthy and thriving, there are several steps you can take:
- Water your plants regularly: Depending on the type of plant and the conditions in your home, you may need to water your plants more or less frequently. Be sure to check the soil moisture regularly and water your plants as needed.
- Fertilize your plants: To help your plants grow and thrive, consider using a fertilizer that is appropriate for the type of plant you have. Follow the instructions on the label for the best results.
- Prune your plants: Pruning your plants can help to encourage new growth and remove any dead or damaged branches. Be sure to use sharp, clean tools and follow the proper pruning techniques for your specific type of plant.
9. Clean Your Fireplace
Cleaning your fireplace is an important part of home maintenance, especially if you use it regularly during the colder months. The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends hiring a professional to clean your chimney if there is a 1/8” buildup of creosote and soot. Otherwise, you can take the following steps to clean your fireplace:
- Remove any ashes or debris: Use a fireplace shovel or broom to remove any ashes or debris that may have accumulated in your fireplace. Be sure to wear a dust mask and protective gloves to avoid inhaling any particles.
- Clean the inside of the fireplace: Use a fireplace brush or scraper to scrub the inside of the fireplace and remove any soot or creosote. You can also use a fireplace cleaner to help loosen stubborn debris.
- Clean the outside of the fireplace: Use a damp cloth or sponge to wipe down the outside of the fireplace and remove any dirt or grime. Be sure to dry it off thoroughly to prevent any water damage.
By cleaning your fireplace regularly, you can help to extend its lifespan and keep it looking and functioning at its best. Also, be sure to keep a fire extinguisher readily accessible in case any fire accidents occur.
10. Clean Out Your Kitchen Cabinets and Pantry
Cleaning out your kitchen cabinets and pantry can help declutter your space and ensure that you have a well-organized and functional kitchen. To clean out your cabinets and pantry, SmartFinancial recommends the below steps:
- Take everything out: To get a good look at what you have, start by taking everything out of your cabinets and pantry. This will allow you to see what you have and what you may need to get rid of.
- Sort through your items: As you take everything out, sort through your items and get rid of anything outdated, expired or no longer useful. Consider donating any items that are still in good condition.
- Wipe down the shelves: Once you've removed all of your items, use a damp cloth or sponge to wipe down the shelves and remove any dust or dirt. Be sure to dry them off thoroughly before replacing your items.
- Organize your items: As you put your items back in the cabinets and pantry, take some time to reorganize them so that everything is easy to find and access. You can use storage containers, bins or shelves to help keep everything organized.
By cleaning out your kitchen cabinets and pantry, you can create a more functional and organized space, making it easier to cook and prepare meals. Don’t forget to update your home inventory if you have one.
11. Clean Porch Lights, Pathways and Security Cameras
Clean your porch lights with a damp cloth or sponge, removing any dirt or grime that may have accumulated on them. If your porch lights have glass covers, be sure to remove them before cleaning and replace them after drying. Use a broom or shovel to clear any leaves, snow or debris from your pathways. This will help to keep your walkways safe and free of tripping hazards.
If you have security cameras installed around your home, clean them regularly to ensure that they are functioning properly. Security cameras are useful deterrents to burglaries and can provide evidence for your insurance company and the police if a break-in does occur. Just be sure to use the proper tools to avoid damaging the camera lens. Installing security cameras around your home may qualify you for a smart home discount with your insurance company.
12. Clear Drains
Clearing drains is an important part of home maintenance, as it helps to prevent blockages and keep your plumbing running smoothly. There are several steps you can take to clear your drains:
- Use a plunger: If you have a minor blockage, you may be able to clear it by using a plunger. Simply place the plunger over the drain and push down firmly several times to create suction and loosen the blockage.
- Use a drain snake: If a plunger doesn't work, you may need to use a drain snake to clear the blockage. A drain snake is a long, flexible tool that can be inserted into the drain to remove any debris or obstructions.
- Use a chemical cleaner: If you're still having trouble clearing your drain, you can try using a chemical cleaner. Be sure to follow the instructions on the label and use caution when handling chemicals.
If you're having trouble clearing your drains or are dealing with a more serious problem, consider hiring a professional plumber to help.
13. Double-Check Your Safety Detectors and Sensors
Double-checking that your home sensors, like your smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector, are working is an important part of home maintenance, as these sensors play a crucial role in keeping your home safe and secure. This is doubly important if you regularly light your fireplace during the winter. To double-check that your sensors are working, you can follow these steps:
- Test your smoke detectors: Press the test button on your smoke detectors to ensure that they are functioning properly. If the alarm sounds, your smoke detector is working. If the alarm doesn't sound or it’s faint, you'll need to replace the batteries or the detector itself.
- Test your carbon monoxide detectors: Follow the same process to test your carbon monoxide detectors. If the alarm sounds, your detector is working. If it doesn't, you'll need to replace the batteries or the detector.
- Check your security system sensors: Test your security system sensors by triggering them and ensuring that they are properly detecting motion or other events. If you notice any issues with your sensors, you may need to have them repaired or replaced.
Savings tip: Your homeowner’s insurance company may apply a discount to your home insurance policy for installing smart sensors.
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Kick off the new year by saving on homeowners insurance. SmartFinancial compares quotes from multiple carriers to ensure you’re getting the cheapest price for the coverage you want. Just enter your zip code below or call 855.214.2291 to receive your free homeowners insurance quotes.