2024 Homeowner's Guide: Your New Year's Maintenance and Safety Checklist

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The ringing in of the New Year is the perfect time to work on those home maintenance tasks you’ve been putting off. General home upkeep can keep your home in good condition, save money on repairs and increase the value of your home. In addition, it can help you if you have to file a home insurance claim as losses due to neglect or lack of maintenance may not be covered.

For a fresh start in the new year, keep reading to see our New Year home maintenance checklist.

Key Takeaways

  • Kickstarting the new year by completing home maintenance tasks, such as changing filters and cleaning gutters, can improve the efficiency of your home and create a safer and more comfortable living environment for your family.
  • Homeowners insurance does not cover losses due to poor maintenance or neglect.
  • Installing smart security cameras may qualify you for a discount with your homeowners insurance company.

home maintenance tasks for 2024 lists

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 can be physical or electronic and is invaluable in the event of a natural disaster, fire or theft, as it can help you document your losses for insurance purposes. You should update your home inventory list at least once a year or whenever you make a significant purchase or get rid of something.

2. Change Filters

Water, HVAC, vacuum and other filters are crucial in keeping your home clean, safe and comfortable. Changing or cleaning these filters regularly ensures that they are working effectively. Below are recommendations on when you should change each type of filter:

  • HVAC filters: Every 30 days[1]
  • Vacuum filters: Every three to six months depending on the type of filter[2]
  • Refrigerator water filters: Twice per year or per the manufacturer’s recommendation[3]

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 through your roof and damage your walls and ceilings.

If you notice an ice dam forming, you can remove it by using an ice dam steamer or hiring a professional to remove it for you.[4] Additionally, you can take steps to prevent ice dams from forming by regularly raking the snow off of your roof.

In addition, if you notice that your roof shingles are missing, broken or warped and there is hail damage, you may need to hire a professional to repair or replace your roof.

4. Ensure Your Gutters Are Clear and Working Properly

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. 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 burst frozen pipe if you did not take the proper steps to prevent it.[5] 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.[6]
  • 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

While tree damage is a covered loss under some circumstances, you may not be covered if you did not take steps to trim your tree and remove excessive snow buildup that can lead to branches snapping. Tree damage can be costly if a heavy branch or even the tree itself falls on your roof, siding or through a window.

To remove heavy snow from tree branches, you can attempt to gently shake the tree branch to dislodge the snow or use a tool like a shovel or broom. 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 Holiday Decorations and Store Them Properly

Consider taking down your Christmas tree and decorative lights 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.[7] In addition, use the below tips to declutter and safely store your other holiday decor:

  • Discard broken or damaged items and consider donating any items that you no longer want.
  • Avoid using cardboard boxes for storage, which can easily become damp or damaged.
  • Instead, use sturdy and sealed storage containers to protect your decorations from dust and damage and store them in a dry, cool place.
  • Label your containers to make it easy to find your decorations for the holiday season next year.

8. Flush Your Water Heater

Flushing your water heater at the beginning of the year is an often overlooked yet crucial step in home maintenance. Over time, sediment can accumulate at the bottom of the tank, reducing the efficiency of your heater and potentially causing damage. 

Regular flushing helps to remove this sediment, ensuring that your water heater operates more efficiently and prolongs its lifespan, Aaron Miranda, a certified master inspector and the president of California-based Vecino Home Inspection, told SmartFinancial in an email.

“Water heaters are typically expected to last from nine to 12 years,” Miranda said. “But with proper maintenance, you can extend the water heater's life by another estimated three years or so.” 

9. Fix Your Wobbly Toilet

A toilet that moves when you sit on it might seem like a minor inconvenience but it can actually indicate that the mounting bolts need tightening or the wax seal is failing. If ignored for too long, this minor inconvenience can escalate into a more serious and costly concern.

“Water escapes from the base of the toilet from slight movements every chance it gets and over that period of time, the water deteriorates the flooring underneath,” Miranda said. “[This] can cause a bigger issue to the surrounding area."

To fix a wobbly toilet, first, try tightening the bolts at the base. If the toilet continues to move, it may be necessary to replace the wax ring, which involves removing the toilet and reinstalling it. Removing the wax ring can be a more involved job so you may want to hire a professional.

10. Give Your Plants Proper Care

Depending on the type of plant and the conditions in your home and your local weather, 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.

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.

In addition, 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.

11. Clean Your Fireplace

Cleaning your fireplace is an important part of home maintenance, especially if you use it regularly during the colder months. If you see that there is excessive buildup of creosote and soot, then you may want to hire a professional chimney cleaner or take the below steps to clean it yourself.

  • Remove ashes or debris buildup: 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. Also, keep flammable sources away from the fireplace while it is in use.

12. Declutter Your Kitchen and Test Your Smoke Alarms

To give your kitchen a good declutter, start by taking everything out of your cabinets and pantry. This makes it easy to wipe down and disinfect the shelves. Next, 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. 

Then 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.

Finally, be sure to check that your smoke and fire detectors are functioning properly. The batteries may need changing or you may need to change the sensor altogether if it’s not functioning properly.

13. Clean Porch Lights, Pathways and Security Cameras

Clean your porch lights with a damp cloth or sponge, removing caked-on dirt or grime. Also, use a broom or shovel to clear any leaves, snow or debris from your pathways. 

If you have security cameras installed around your home, clean them regularly to ensure that they are functioning properly. Not only are security cameras good deterrents for break-ins and useful for capturing evidence, they can even qualify you for a smart home discount with your insurance company.

A well-illuminated pathway and porch with surveillance can help prevent liability claims related to tripping, as well as property damage or theft claims.

14. Clear Out Drains

Clearing drains is an important part of home maintenance, as it helps to prevent blockages and keeps your plumbing running smoothly. For minor to moderate blockages, you can use a plunger or a drain snake and possibly a chemical cleaner to clear the obstruction. For more serious drainage problems, you will likely need to hire a professional plumber.

15. Reverse Your Ceiling Fans

Your ceiling fan can help distribute cool or warm air depending on which direction it spins. Setting your fan to spin counterclockwise can help cool down a room, which is ideal if it’s already warming up where you live. Alternatively, a fan that spins clockwise and helps circulate warm air can be welcome if you’re still experiencing the winter chill.[8]

16. Check for Pests

Pests like termites, rodents and insects often find refuge in homes during the colder months, making early detection crucial to prevent significant damage. Begin by inspecting areas where pests are most likely to hide, such as basements, attics and crawl spaces. Look for signs like droppings, gnawed wires or wood and unusual noises within walls. Also, look into the folds of your mattress to check for bed bugs.

Also, check the exterior of your home and seal cracks or holes that can otherwise serve as entry points. Finally, consider consulting with a professional pest control service, especially if you notice any red flags. 

17. Shop for Home Insurance

Your home insurance should evolve with your home, offering protection that aligns with your current needs and secures your peace of mind for the year ahead. To secure the best price for the most comprehensive home insurance policy, it's advisable to compare quotes from several insurers, requiring details like your home's age, roof condition, address and occupancy. 

This task can be streamlined by using an insurance marketplace like SmartFinancial. By completing just one questionnaire about your coverage requirements and budget, SmartFinancial connects you with local home insurance agents, simplifying the process. Start by entering your zip code below to receive a free, personalized home insurance quote.

Start the New Year With Cheaper Home Insurance


Why is it important to maintain a home in winter?

Winter home maintenance, including insulating pipes, testing safety devices, clearing snow from tree branches and cleaning the fireplace, can prevent damage from cold weather and fire. A January and February home maintenance checklist helps avoid costly repairs by addressing these issues early.

How do I make a home maintenance checklist?

Create a home maintenance checklist by listing regular tasks like changing air filters, cleaning gutters, insulating your pipes and decluttering. Then assign each task a frequency — monthly, quarterly or annually — and schedule their completion dates.

What routine maintenance is required for a house?

Routine house maintenance includes regularly checking and replacing air filters, cleaning gutters, inspecting roofs and foundations, maintaining heating and cooling systems and trimming trees.


  1. ARS/Rescue Rooter. “When Is The Right Time To Change My HVAC Filter?” Accessed Dec. 19, 2023.
  2. LifeSupplyUSA. “Troubleshooting: Does Your Vacuum Cleaner Need a Filter Replacement?” Accessed Dec. 19, 2023.
  3. First American Home Warranty. “How To Tell When Your Water Filter Needs Replacing.”
  4. Ice Dam Guys. “10 Bad Ice Dam Removal Methods.” Accessed Dec. 19, 2023.
  5. Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking. “If My Frozen Pipes Burst, Am I Covered by Insurance?” Accessed Dec. 19, 2023.
  6. American Red Cross. “Frozen Pipes.” Accessed Dec. 19, 2023.
  7. National Fire Protection Association. “NFPA Urges Added Caution This Holiday Season as Christmas Day and Christmas Eve Are Among the Leading Days of the Year for U.S. Home Fires.” Accessed Dec. 19, 2023.
  8. Home Depot. “Ceiling Fan Direction in Summer and Winter.” Accessed Dec. 19, 2023.

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