Skip to Content
Home Ownership

New Home Maintenance Checklist
Part 1: A fall and winter maintenance guide

Home maintenance fall winter graphic

New Home Maintenance Checklist
Part 1: A fall and winter maintenance guide


Owning a home versus renting certainly has its benefits. Hanging pictures wherever you want; painting walls chartreuse if you please; notching a child’s growth on a door frame without worrying about what the landlord might say – these are a just few of the many positives. And having the freedom to jump up and down as you blare the Beastie Boys without someone shouting, “Turn it down!” can be great, too.

But being a homeowner also means more responsibility. For example, the home’s maintenance is now up to you. There’s no rental manager on duty to look after things. Keeping your home in order is your job and you should welcome it with open arms because taking care of your home can spur a sense of pride and accomplishment. Besides, if you want your home to keep its value, routine maintenance is vital to making that happen.

In this article – Part 1 of our New Home Maintenance Checklist series – we cover to-dos for fall and winter, beginning with a monthly checklist:

  • Filters, filters, filters! – They’re easy to forget but oh-so-important. Maintaining fresh filters in your furnace unit not only allows fresh air to flow into your home, it also protects your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. If you don’t change the filters, the unit will no longer be able to filter air properly, and that leads to dust and contaminants getting in, which jam up moving parts like fan motors and valves. Filters are inexpensive and you’ll save money in the long run on your energy bills. The bottom line: HVAC units run more efficiently with fresh filters.
  • Clean the garbage disposal – This sink monster can get stinky. Tossing a lemon or orange peel in there might keep it fresh but try ice cubes and vinegar – the ice sharpens the blades and the vinegar helps with odors.
  • Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors (yes, you need both) – Some say to do this quarterly. We think your life is much more valuable, so check them every month. That’s what the “test” button is for – it’s simple, easy and fast. Do it. And change the batteries regularly. Sorry to be so bossy, but this is important.

Fall Check List

  • Chimney – if you have one, check it. Even if you don’t regularly use the fireplace, the chimney still needs to be inspected because of the dangerous gasses that can build up inside if the ventilation is blocked.
  • If you do plan to use your fireplace, stock up on wood and be ready for when chilly weather arrives.
  • This is a fine time to make sure your dryer vent is clear of any build-up. Vacuum the lint from the hose at the dryer and check to make sure the air coming out the other end has a steady flow and smells like fresh laundry.
  • Have a professional winterize your outdoor AC unit and prepare your heating unit for the winter months by covering your AC unit with a waterproof cover, turning off the power supply, etc.
  • Turn off the outdoor faucets and, if you have an underground sprinkler system, have its lines cleared and the backflow adjusted for winter.
  • If you live in a snowy climate, get a shovel(s) or snowblower ready. Having some ice-melting salt for the walkways handy is a good idea, too. (Since we’re on the topic of winter, a car kit is also good idea.)
  • Rake those leaves. Make a game out of it. Sing some show tunes. Do a dance. Wear a party hat. Oh, who are we kidding, raking leaves is not fun. But you need to do it. If you don’t, you might smother your lawn and give way to mold growth.
  • Gutters? Yep, they’ll need to be cleaned again before winter sets in. And speaking of gutters, if you’re in a cold climate, be sure to keep an eye out for icicles as winter arrives. Don’t let them grow – they can fall on people (and pets) below and damage your gutters, too.

Winter Check List

  • This is an ideal time to take care of the inside of your home. Check the little things, accomplish a long-overdue indoor project and:
    • Check for drafts. If you live in an older home that has had several years to shift on its foundation, you may have drafty doors and windows, and in that case, you might need to use plastic to seal them for the winter. Most local hardware stores sell window-covering kits.
    • Test those smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Yes, again.
    • Caulk around bathtubs and sinks where needed.
    • While you’re in the bathroom, remove the showerhead and clean it.
    • Make sure your ceiling fan blades are running in reverse (clockwise) at a low speed. This will gradually draw air upwards and force the warm air down without causing a wind chill effect.
    • Always keep your heater running, even if you’re are going to be gone for an extended period of time. It keeps your system and your home’s pipes warm and prevents them from freezing. Also, consider updating your thermostat to a programmable version so you can set the house for one temp when you're home and another for when you're away.
    • Survival kit – Electrical outages happen year-round and winter is not spared. Ice and snow can weigh on electrical lines, which can lead to a disruption in power. So, it’s always a good idea to be prepared. Stock up on bottled water, non-perishable food, first-aid supplies and make sure you have flashlights with fresh batteries. Having a smartphone battery charger at the ready is . . . well, smart.
    • If your HVAC has a built-in humidifier, make sure the drain line is clean. Also, make sure the solenoid valve is working correctly and clean the humidifier’s fan. An HVAC specialist can help with this if all that sounds like a foreign language.
    • Finally, the basement. Like the garage, this is a pesky clutter-gatherer that needs regular attention. Ignore it and you may end up the king or queen of clutter, and no one wants to rule that kingdom. 

More maintenance tips ahead

Stay tuned for Part 2 in our New Home Maintenance Checklist series, which will cover Spring and Summer to-dos. In the meantime, keep an eye out for more helpful, home-related blogs on our Real Estate Insights page.

Read More Insights