When I think about home maintenance, the old homespun saying, “a stitch in time saves nine” comes to


Winter will soon be upon us, and if you live in one of the more northern states, you have only so much time to perform your yearly home maintenance check before the temperature drops and snow sets in. Inspecting your home for wear and tear before a problem arises, as well as preparing it for inclement weather, could potentially save you from spending thousands of dollars on repairs. Emergency or last minute repair services are typically very costly and can be difficult to schedule during winter months when many people are caught ill prepared. 


I like the idea of tying annual home check-ups to a yearly appraisal of your home insurance policy. You should go over your insurance coverage at least once a year to make sure it’s not outdated in some way; be sure to update your policy after major changes, such as a kitchen renovation or the addition of a deck. An insurance update may also be required if your homeowner’s association, neighborhood
association or co-op board makes any updates to their master policy, creating gaps in your coverage.


Has your insurance company provided you with a region-specific, best practices checklist to help you cover all the necessary maintenance?


Here are some typical areas to check:

  • Heating and dryer vents: Change or clean them at least once a year, depending on household size and dryer usage. Vents accumulate flammable debris, and failure to clean them may lead to fires.
  • Gutters: Clear away leaves and other debris to avoid clogging.
  • Inspect your roof and repair any damage. Check for water spots on ceilings and attics, which can signal a leak in a hard-to-spot
  • Check that pipes are adequately insulated. Proper maintenance can help keep winter heating bills in check.
  • Caulk window and door leaks and secure crawl spaces. This keeps out uninvited guests, such as warmth-seeking critters.
  • Test and replace smoke detector batteries if needed.
  • Check your chimney for birds nests or other debris; make sure the damper closes tightly.
  • Survey trees for branches that are close to your home and could cause damage with heavy wind or ice.


If, after your annual inspection, you find that your home needs repairs, vet any contractors you hire for the appropriate licenses and liability insurance. Ensure that your own policy includes coverage in the event someone is injured while working on your property.


People tend to forget about the preset, digital appliances and systems they have throughout their homes. If you have heating, cooling or lighting presets, check them as the seasons change to make sure they are set at appropriate levels for the weather and for your schedule. The factory preset might not be right for your needs and could result in unnecessarily high utility bills—for example, I discovered the fancy-schmancy heated bathroom floor in my new condo was on for 14 hours a day, way more than I needed.


“Never keep up with the Joneses; drag them down to your level.”  I would add to that famous caution by advising homeowners to avoid the Joneses altogether, when it comes to what kinds of things you “should” be doing to your home in order to maintain it and become more energy efficient. What’s right for your neighbors may not be right for you. For instance: Programmable thermostats are great, but not everyone needs the most complex, expensive model that uses wi-fi and is linked to a cellphone.


Simple, scheduled upkeep will go a long way towards keeping your biggest investment in the best possible shape.