The 4 Most Important Home Maintenance Tasks (and How to Get Them Done On Time)

house exterior
Photo: Motionspace Architecture + Design PLLC
Get your home ready for the winter with these home maintenance tips!

January–with its ice, rain, and unfriendly weather–may seem like down time for home maintenance. After all, who wants to take care of the house when it's freezing outside? But January is actually home maintenance primetime: a month when it's vital that you make sure that your house is running well while you still can. If you haven't started your January maintenance tasks yet, now's the time to get going! Here are the top four most important tasks to take care of this month.

1. Keep water from wreaking havoc

house exterior

Photo courtesy of Witt Construction

If you're not careful, ice and water can do a number on your home during the colder months. Don't let frozen pipes, flooded basements, and toxic mold happen to your home. Instead, tend to your home's maintenance now to make sure water is in its proper place.

What to do:

  • Rainy and snowy seasons are an excellent opportunity to spot drainage problems that aren't visible in the drier months. Take a walk around your property, inside and out, and look for puddles, rotting wood, peeling paint, or water stains.
  • Gutters that are full of ice and leaves can't do their job, resulting in leaks, moldy walls, and even deteriorating foundations. Get gutters cleaned and clear of ice and leaves, so that rain doesn't cause much more expensive problems in your home later.
  • Window wells might be the last place you'd think could cause water issues, but leaves and snow can build up in them, causing serious issues in the long term. Remove leaves and debris from window wells to prevent rotten wood, peeling paint, and moldy plaster.
  • A weep hole is a small opening in the side of a brick wall that allows accumulated moisture to drain, instead of sitting inside the brick and causing it to deteriorate. A weep hole may look like a gap in the brick wall's mortar, but it's there for a reason. If you have a brick house, examine and clean all external weep holes, so they can do their job.

Who to call:

2. Don't let your landscape go wild

lawn care

Photo courtesy of Pedersen Associates

There's still frost on the ground outside, but if you don't start readying your landscape for spring now, it will creep up and catch you unprepared–and that means weeds, dead grass, and double the work and cost to do yearly maintenance. Take these steps now to prevent a landscape nightmare in a month or two.

What to do:

  • Lay a gritty, ice-melting material on walkways, steps, and drives to provide traction and keep water from freezing. Kitty litter and sawdust work great, but make a mess. Rock salt cleans up easily, but can kill plants and corrode your car's paint. Try calcium chloride for an anti-ice trick that cleans up easily and doesn't damage your property.
  • January is the perfect time for landscape maintenance. Rake away leaves and twigs to allow spring rains to reach your lawn's root system. Disconnect hoses to drain out water, and make sure that exterior faucets are covered with insulators to prevent frozen pipes. If you're planing major landscaping work such as a pool, a deck, or a major garden overhaul, start interviewing pros now.
  • It's also time to get ready for your spring garden. Grab your garden tools and open up the soil. Plant conifers, shrubs, and bare-root roses and fruit trees. If you're a vegetable gardener, check out the online tools available for planning your garden, and order your seeds now.

Who to call:

  • Snow removal contractors can safely remove ice and snow from your roof, windows, and driveway.
  • Hardscaping specialists can fix issues such as cracked driveways and patios and unsafe steps.
  • Landscapers can maintain your lawn, trees, and planting beds so they'll be low-maintenance and lovely by springtime.
  • Pet cleanup specialists will remove accumulated pet waste from your lawn and garden (yes, this actually exists!).

3. Get your home heat-efficient

home exterior

Photo courtesy of Motionspace Architecture + Design PLLC

Every winter, it's the same story: you have to choose between a chilly house, and a sky-high heating bill. Make this the year that you end the madness with energy saving tricks and real remedies from a pro who knows how.

What to do:

  • Hot air produced by central heating rises, and can end up pooling just below your home's ceilings. Install ceiling fans and reverse their spin during cold weather to force warm air downwards and keep your heating from going to waste.
  • Weatherstrip around doors, caulk around windows, and make other small changes that can add up to big energy savings.
  • If you really want to do things properly, then get a home energy audit. An energy audit diagnoses your home's energy efficiency, and addresses the three big causes of sky-high heating bills: leakage, heat conduction, and undersized or badly-designed ducts. Make sure your professional is certified by BPI, so you can rest assured that they know what they're doing.
  • If your home gets dry in the winter, consider a whole-home humidifier. Adding moisture to the air makes rooms prevents dry rot, reduces allergies, and can make the whole home feel warmer without having to turn up the thermostat.

Who to call:

4. De-clutter your life

home closet

Photo courtesy of Colleen Knowles Interior Design

At this point in the year, you've been stuck inside for weeks, and your home is showing signs of terminal messiness. Break clutter's hold on your home by getting a jump on spring cleaning now. By tackling one or two key projects like cleaning the carpets or organizing the closets, you'll ensure that you're not stuck inside straightening when it's finally warm out.

What to do:

  • Install a closet system. If you repeatedly find yourself without enough space to store clothes, the problem is most likely an inefficient use of space. A closet system is a great way to increase the amount of storage space your home has without changing the square footage.
  • Before you clean, organize. Small spaces should pay special attention to this tip: you'll be amazed at how much cleaner your home feels when you've taken the time to optimize your space. Try these super-useful home organization hacks, or, if you'd rather spend your time on better things, consider hiring a professional home organizer to do the dirty work for you.
  • Give your home a deep clean. These last cold weeks of being stuck indoors are the perfect time to tackle that top-to-bottom bathroom cleaning project, or to tend to the details such as cleaning air ducts, dryer vents, or range hoods. Take advantage of cabin fever to focus on those cleaning details that are usually neglected, and you won't need to think about them when you'd rather be outside.
  • If you have pets, allergies, or simply a perennially dusty home, consider installing a central vacuum cleaning system. This home cleaning hack is surprisingly simple to install and maintain, and will keep your home clean and your air quality high throughout the year.

Who to call:

  • If you're interested in installing a custom closet, then a remodeling contractor or yourlocal handyman can help you plan your dream closet and weigh your options.
  • A home organizer can help you think of innovative ways to make the most of your space.
  • Hire a carpet cleaner to get a dazzlingly fresh home from the bottom up.
  • An HVAC contractor can clean out your air ducts, a task you should be taking care of yearly for your family's health, and more often if you have allergies.

Are you up to date on your January home maintenance tasks? What do you still have left to do?

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