Routine Maintenance – Winterizing Your Home

Now is a good time to do the routine maintenance that will keep your home in good working order—and make winter a cozier affair.

Smoke Detectors and Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Given the recent wildfires, it is especially important to keep alarm batteries fresh. To avoid the middle-of-the-night alert that your batteries have expired, change the batteries and test your alarms once a year. If you do not, you may not get an alert when you need it most. Just so you know, newer smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms have 10-year batteries, so if you’re still replacing batteries every year, you might consider replace your alarms rather than batteries.

Fire Extinguishers

If you have a fire extinguisher (and you should), make sure it is still pressurized, which you can confirm by checking that the little indicator points to green. Rather than storing it in the garage behind several boxes or under the kitchen sink where it will be unreachable in the event of a kitchen fire, put it next to an exterior door.

Lint Trap

In your clothes dryer, you should remove the lint from the trap after every single load. Lint loves to catch fire. While you’re at it make sure the vent from the dryer to the outside is clear of lint as well.

Extension Cords

If you are foolish enough to have extension cords in traffic areas (like I do), consider moving them or make sure they are well secured. If the cords look damaged, replace them and, perhaps, rethink where you put them.

Railings, Walkways, and Steps

Secure railings and loose boards and fix tripping hazards.


A 30-year roof doesn’t mean you should ignore it for 30 years. Repair loose shingles and check flashing, eaves, and soffits. If your flashing needs new mastic (sealant), and it probably does, apply it.


Before you fire up your fireplace, have a chimney sweep inspect the chimney, repair cracks, and clean the flue.

Gutters, Downspouts and Drainage

Clean the gutters and clear debris. Be sure the splash block at the bottom of the gutter directs water away from your house. While you’re at it, confirm that the soil around your home directs water away from your house, too.

Outside Faucets

It only takes one freezing night to burst an uninsulated pipe. Adding insulation is cheap and easy, and it helps avoid a potentially expensive repair and a big water bill. This is also a good time to store hoses for the winter.

Windows and Doors

Add caulking and weather stripping as needed. To see if you need to, strike a match, blow it out, and hold it next to the door or window. If the smoke comes at you, add weather stripping.

Shrubs and Trees

Cut back any shrubs that grow right next to the house. It’ll save the paint and prevent critters (two-legged and four-legged) from hiding where they shouldn’t. Trim tree branches up ten feet from the ground.


After the first rain, walk around the interior of your home and check for signs of water, including inside closets and attics. While you’re in the attic, make sure you have ample insulation and that it’s in decent condition.

Tile, Tubs and Showers

Repair grout and caulking before problems get worse.


Vacuum and clean the coils to keep your fridge from working harder than it needs to. Dust works as an insulator on the coils, making it harder to cool the interior.

Heating/Air Conditioning

Replace the filter every few months, and if it’s been a few years since you last had the unit serviced, consider an inspection.

Mouse Check

Block potential rodent access points into your home. If a hole is big enough to get their head through, it’s big enough for their whole body. Fill the hole with steel wool, then spray expanding foam containing pesticide.

Water Heater

Flush your water heater and it will last longer. The particulates in water sink to the bottom of your tank, creating an insulation barrier and causing tanks to rust faster and work less efficiently.

It’s easy to put off routine maintenance, but if you take care of your house on a schedule, it typically saves time, money, and headaches in the long run.

If you have questions about property management or real estate, please contact me at or call (707) 462-4000. If you have an idea for a future column, share it with me and if I use it, I’ll send you a $25 gift certificate to Schat’s Bakery. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 45 years.

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