Home maintenance tasks aren't going to be any easier at the start of a new year than they were. You’ve buttoned up the house against the cold, and you're in the dead of winter without even a glimpse of spring in sight.
Still, homes must be maintained, even in January. Why? It’s always easier and cheaper to do home maintenance than to repair a home—sometimes to the tune of thousands of dollars.
Since we're all about saving you time and money, we’ve created a handy checklist of home maintenance tasks that need to be completed this month—plus tips for how to do them faster and easier, or with the help of a pro. So take a deep breath and dive into those chores. The good news? Many are inside chores, so you have no “It’s too cold!” excuses.
Task: You’ve had the fun, and now it’s time to get rid of the evidence. Take down holiday lights and wrap them around a hanger to prevent tangling; set the oven on self-clean, then wipe the interior with a vinegar-soaked cloth; chip your Christmas tree and throw it in the compost pile, or scatter it around garden beds and shrubs for a midwinter mulching.
Shortcut: Instead of pitching holiday cards or tucking them away never to be seen again, recycle them into gift tags for next year. Find a pretty part of the card that has no writing on the back, cut it into a small square, and punch a hole in the corner.
Call in the pros: If you've ever considered a cleaning crew, now’s the time. Figure on paying $200-$300 for a one-time cleaning. Ask friends who have a regular cleaning person to share the name for a one-off.
Task: Prevent pipes from as temperatures drop. A frozen pipe can crack or burst, flooding your home. If you’re planning a winter vacation, don’t forget to wrap pipes with heat tape you can control with a thermostat. And if you haven’t turned off water to outdoor spigots yet, consider yourself lucky—if they haven’t yet burst, shut off water valves and open spigots to drain existing water.
Shortcut: To thaw a frozen pipe, wrap it with a heating pad or turn a hairdryer on it.
Call in the pros: If a pipe bursts, shut off the main water valve to your home and call a plumber, which will run you anywhere from $45 to $150 an hour. If everything’s drenched, a water remediation or restoration company can perform cleanup —cart away damaged material, replace ceilings and walls, paint, and reinstall plumbing fixtures—for$23 a square foot.
Task: After winter storms, your home maintenance routine should include and inspection of your home’s roof, siding, gutters, and yard for wind, snow, or ice damage.
Shortcut: Instead of climbing on the roof to look for missing shingles, use binoculars to search for damage. Better yet, buy a drone that can fly over your house and spot damaged areas.
Call in the pros: A little storm damage can become a big problem if you don't make immediate repairs. A roofing company can inspect and replace a few shingles for $95 to $127; a handyman can reattach hanging gutters for $100 to $500; and an arborist can remove cracked tree limbs and prune trees for $350 to $550.
Task: Yes, cleaning counts as home maintenance! Clean those filthy places that people don’t see but you know are there. They include the range hood and grilles, refrigerator coils, tops of ceiling fans, dusty light fixtures and bulbs (make sure lights are off before dusting), and HVAC vents.
Shortcut: Let your dishwasher clean metal parts such as vent grilles and range hood filters. You can pop dirty sponges and dishrags in the dishwasher, too.
Call in the pros: This deep cleaning is above and beyond the tasks that cleaning crews normally perform. If you want a crew to do this type of cleaning, negotiate the surcharge up front.