Now that cold weather has arrived, it’s tempting for many homeowners to set a fire in the fireplace, keep cozy under a few blankets, and wait for warmer days before returning to the task of keeping their homes spick-and-span. However, no matter how cheerfully your crackling fire may glow, your home won’t wait for the colder months to pass before needing a little upkeep—so don’t wait for things to go wrong. Follow the helpful tips below to keep your home in tip-top shape this winter.

Clear debris out of your gutters. If snow or rain gets backed up in a clogged gutter system and freezes, the resulting ice can work its way under your shingles. When the ice melts, any water that has found its way into the shingles can drip through the roof and into your attic and walls. To keep your roof and interior dry and free of ice, make sure you clear any leaves, dirt, or debris out of your gutters so that the icy runoff doesn’t have a chance of backing up and damaging your home.

Keep your pipes from freezing. Pipes that are poorly insulated, such as those located near outer walls and in colder areas of the home, are more likely to run the risk of freezing and bursting during the winter. If you think your pipes are likely to freeze, you can try insulating them yourself by sealing any nearby air leaks and wrapping the pipes in heat tape. Keeping your faucets moving at just a trickle helps prevent water from staying still enough to freeze, and opening the cabinet doors under your sink can bring warm air in from the interior of your home to help keep the pipes from getting too cold. Don’t forget about your outdoor pipes, either—it’s important to disconnect your garden hoses and make sure that any exterior spigots are drained of water so you don’t find yourself with a burst sprinkler system come spring.

Cover up your outdoor furniture. Leaving your patio furniture—including your grill—uncovered during the winter can result in damage from rust, cold, or cracking, so make sure to cover it all up or store it somewhere protected from the elements. It’s also a good idea to give your furniture and grill a good cleaning before covering them or putting them into storage so that they’re clean and ready for use again in the summer.

Find and patch up any air leaks. In addition to sealing any air leaks around your pipes to keep them well insulated, it’s important to look for other leaks that might let cold winter drafts and unwelcome pests into your home. To help prevent an influx of critters and wintry wind, apply caulking to any gaps around your windows and doors, foundation, or unfinished spaces. Weather stripping will also work to keep cold air from blowing in around your doors and windows; any especially drafty windows can be blocked with shrink wrap or plastic.

Clean out your chimney. Soot and creosote buildup in your fireplace isn’t just dirty—it’s a fire hazard. Calling a professional to come check your chimney at least once a year can prevent these buildups from clogging your chimney and starting a fire, so make sure your fireplace is clean and safe before you begin throwing on the firewood. You might also want to consider having a cap put on your chimney to keep any pesky animals from making nests inside.

Make sure your heating system is working properly. Don’t get caught in the dead of winter without a properly functioning heating system—make sure to call in a qualified Best Pick contractor to inspect your HVAC and keep everything running smoothly in the colder months. It’s also very important to remember to change your air and furnace filters often so that your system can work as efficiently as possible without becoming clogged with debris and dust.

Taking the time to keep up with your home maintenance will help you make sure your house stays toasty warm and damage-free all winter long.

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Sources: CBS; HouseLogic; National Association of Home Builders; Quick and Dirty Tips; US Department of Energy.

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