Here’s a Yearlong Plan on How to Keep Your Home from Falling Apart

Many homeowners have trouble staying on top of the RELENTLESS maintenance needed to keep their abodes from falling apart, from regularly swapping smoke-detector batteries to cleaning out gutter gunk. For some of us (Kevin slowly raises his hand), sloth is to blame; for others, it’s lack of knowledge (“Why is my washer stinky??”) or lack of skills (“I call all my tools doohickeys!”) that prevent preventive progress. But even motivated, handy homeowners often have trouble keeping track of what they need to do.

We pulled together this guide to home maintenance and sorted each job by month—sometimes rather arbitrarily—since what your pad needs often changes along with the seasons. It’s a thorough list, but we don’t include everything—for instance, we don’t cover gardening and housecleaning tasks.

You can DIY almost all this work. For many tasks, we provide tips on what to do; often you’ll find more detailed explanations in articles covering specific services here at Checkbook.org. There are also gazillions of online how-to videos that will take you step-by-step through any of these jobs.

Note: In the interest of brevity, we don’t always include safety precautions for DIYing these tasks. So, general rules: Let’s be careful out there, especially on ladders; wear eye protection; wear a mask when crawling around dusty attics or crawlspaces; unplug or shut off the circuit breaker to anything that uses electricity before you mess with it; lift with your legs; and read instructions, owner’s manuals, and warning labels.

If you need a pro, rely on the ratings and advice we supply here at Checkbook.org. We have evaluations and advice to help you hire handyman services, HVAC contractors, plumbers, electricians, gutter cleaning services, and more.
 

JANUARY

Safety check. Test all your smoke, carbon monoxide, and water-leak detectors. Test and reset outlets equipped with ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) and arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs). Make sure any home security devices work.

Clear the air. Replacing air filters is the most important maintenance task for heating and cooling systems. Check your filter monthly until you see how quickly it gets dirty at different times of the year. When a filter has a matting of dirt—i.e., it’s difficult to see through when you hold it up to a light—it’s time to replace it (usually at least four times a year).

Don’t get hosed. To avoid a flood, check rubber washing machine hoses for blistering, stress cracks, wear, or loose connections. Consider replacing rubber hoses with reinforced steel braided hoses. It’s an easy task, and steel ones are less likely to fail.

Sink it. Clear out all the crap underneath your kitchen and bathroom sinks, turn on the taps and your garbage disposer, and look for leaks from above.

Test your sump pump’s backup plan. If your basement is finished and/or your sump pump often activates, consider adding a second sump pump to your system plus a moisture alarm to the top of the sump pit to avoid surprise floods. Click here for more basement waterproofing advice.

Keep an eye out for ice dams. If the central part of your roof is warmer than an overhang, an ice dam can develop, causing snowmelt to run to that spot on the overhang and then refreeze. The resulting buildup can form a dam that can cause water to back up underneath shingles and into your house. Most ice dams are solved by regulating attic temperatures by sealing the attic hatch and canisters for recessed lights, and finding and plugging up other sources of air leakage from below. If these simple steps don’t work, shift or add insulation, or improve ventilation to even out the roof’s temperature.

Deal with drafts to save a lot of energy. A few easy-to-do and inexpensive tasks can significantly cut your utility bills. Look for leaks by turning off your furnace on a cool, very windy day; shutting all windows and doors; turning on all exhaust fans that blow air outside, such as bathroom fans or stove vents; and then lighting an incense stick and moving around your house and noticing where smoke is blown to find sources of drafts. Focus on inspecting areas where different materials meet—brick and wood siding, foundation and walls, and between the chimney and siding. Then turn off any lights in your attic and look for spots where daylight sneaks in. Use caulk to seal any cracks or gaps measuring less than ¼-inch wide. For larger cracks, use polyurethane foam sealant. To minimize leakage around doors and windows, install weather stripping, and replace it every few years. Finally, check insulation levels in your attic: Most homes in the U.S. have less-than-ideal attic insulation; the cost of improving insulation is almost always quickly recovered by energy savings.
 

FEBRUARY

Safety check. Test all your smoke, carbon monoxide, and water-leak detectors. Test and reset outlets equipped with GFCIs and AFCIs. Make sure any home security devices work.

Prepare for potential plumbing problems. Test the main water shutoff valve to your home by closing it completely, then reopening it to make sure it is working properly. Make sure everyone who lives in your home knows its location and how to use it. If you don’t know where it is, ask a plumber to give you a tour; then label it with instructions for turning it off. If a pipe bursts, quickly stopping the flow can prevent extensive damage. Also, close and then reopen all shutoff valves for toilets and sinks to prevent them from seizing up from non-use; while you’re at it, check them for corrosion and water stains from leaks. Don’t worry if you see a few drops of water drip from the valve while doing this; it’s a common result of infrequent use, and should stop by itself.

Laundry duty. If your clothes washer has a self-clean cycle, run it. If not, run a full wash cycle without any clothes, adding only one of the following to the drum: white vinegar, bleach, or special washing machine cleaning product (made by OxiClean, Clorox, and Tide, among others). Note: NEVER mix vinegar and bleach; doing so creates toxic chlorine gas fumes.

Free floor drains. Kevin recently got an expensive maintenance reminder when his basement flooded due to a clogged drain. Pour water into indoor drains to make sure they, well, drain. Make sure outdoor drains aren’t covered or clogged up with leaves and other debris.

Avoid a lint firetrap. Unplug the dryer and, if you have a gas model, shut off the gas valve and disconnect the supply line. Then remove the clothes dryer exhaust hose and inspect and clean out any lint buildup from the hose and the dryer’s accessible innards. If your vent hose is made of plastic or foil—which looks like a giant Slinky—replace it with a rigid or semi-rigid metal duct to reduce fire risk.

Faucet fest. Check faucet aerators and showerheads, and remove mineral deposits, if necessary, by wiping them with a towel soaked in white vinegar.

Ice, ice, baby. Pull out the storage bin underneath your icemaker and toss all cubes. Wipe it down and let your fridge refill it with fresh stuff. Then, if there’s a filter attached to the refrigerator’s water supply line, swap it out for a new one.

Stay on the rails. Check that handrails for all stairs are sturdy; secure loose ones.

Batten down hatches. Most burglars get into homes through unlocked or poorly secured doors and windows. Evaluate your home’s security vulnerabilities and defenses, especially by checking for and replacing weak locks and dead outdoor security light bulbs, and pruning back landscaping that bad guys might hide behind. And if you’ve lost keys, consider changing your locks. Click here for dozens of tips for securing your castle.
 

MARCH

Fire drill. Swap out all batteries for your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, or better still, get 10-year batteries for them. Assemble family to review evacuation procedures: Everyone should know of possible escape routes and understand what to do to get out of the house within seconds. Check that fire extinguishers remain located in common sense spots (kitchen, laundry, garage, and near furnace and water heater) and that they are fully charged, undamaged, and unexpired.

Sink it. Clear out all the crap underneath your kitchen and bathroom sinks, turn on the taps and your garbage disposer, and look for leaks from above.

Repress roots. If you’ve had backups in your main sewer line due to tree roots invading the works, flush half a cup of copper sulfate crystals down a commode (don’t pour it down a sink or bath drain; that might corrode your indoor pipes).

My front-loading clothes washer has a filter? Unplug your washer and locate its debris filter. Its location and maintenance vary by manufacturer and model (consult your owner’s manual); most can be pulled out and degunked with a brush. Then check for and remove excess lint buildup in the filter compartment.

Tree time. Trim back shrubs and any landscaping that touches your house. Remove dead or dying trees or large limbs. Prune branches that might rub against or fall on your house. To prevent stripping off bark, stub-cut branches that are too large to be supported by hand, making a final cut that leaves behind a smooth trunk. Keep in mind that pruning coniferous trees—those with cones and needles, such as pines, spruces, firs, and yews—is different from pruning other trees and shrubs since they don’t replace growth. If you prune them for shape or size, you’ll have to live with the results. For major pruning or removal jobs, or to deal with limbs that might interfere with utility lines, consult our ratings to hire a top-rated tree care service.

Double-check ductwork. Check for holes or gaps in exposed ductwork, and seal them with mastic tape or HVAC foil tape. Leaky ducts can waste 20 percent or more of your home heating energy bill. Do not worry about having your ducts regularly cleaned; despite what the duct-cleaning industry says, very few homes need that service.

Wiring worries. Look for and replace any frayed electric cords. Avoid running any cords beneath carpeting or rugs and using extension cords as permanent solutions to plug in stuff.

APRIL

Safety check. Test all your smoke, carbon monoxide, and water-leak detectors. Test and reset outlets equipped with GFCIs and AFCIs. Make sure any home security devices work.

Post-winter work. Inspect, repair, and correct damage from the deep freeze. Check roof, siding, flashing, and caulking around windows, doors, and siding joints. Look for rotting wood, peeling paint, deteriorated seals, and so on. Inspect fences, decks, or other wooden structures to determine if they need to be resealed, repaired, or replaced.

Clear the air. Replacing air filters is the most important maintenance task for heating and cooling systems. Check your filter monthly until you see how quickly it gets dirty at different times of the year. When a filter has a matting of dirt—i.e., it’s difficult to see through when you hold it up to a light—it’s time to replace it (usually at least four times a year).

Stick to the program. Reset your thermostat for warm weather. Programmable thermostats easily save you a lot of energy. If your home is unoccupied during the day, you can save five to 15 percent per year on energy bills by letting temps increase while you are away. Unfortunately, many homeowners who have programmable thermostats don’t use them, but new models make programming a snap; popular ones made by Nest and others even attempt to program themselves.

Bug off. Inspect for and deal with any carpenter ants, termites, wasps, rodents, and other destructive creepy crawlies you find. If you’re being pestered, before you call in the pros find out what you can do on your own. In our “Exterminators” section we provide tips for eliminating the most common household pests. Except for termites and bedbugs, you should be able to cure most pest problems on your own with a modest amount of effort.

Don’t get hosed. To avoid a flood, check rubber washing machine hoses for blistering, stress cracks, wear, or loose connections. Consider replacing rubber hoses with reinforced steel braided hoses. It’s an easy task, and steel ones are less likely to fail.

Ceiling-fan fun. Flip the directional switch on your ceiling fans to make the blades spin counterclockwise for summer.

Spring cleaning. Clear out the junk cluttering your casa. Click here for ideas on getting rid of your unwanted stuff. They include: reselling unwanted clothes, donating romance novels, and shuttling an entire house full of stuff via estate sale. We also have advice on hazardous household waste disposal—in general, if a product is labeled with “Caution,” “Warning,” “Danger,” or “Poison,” it deserves special handling. Comfortable with your clutter? At least make sure nothing is stashed within three feet of a furnace, water heater, space or baseboard heater, wood stove, or fireplace.
 

MAY

Safety check. Test all your smoke, carbon monoxide, and water-leak detectors. Test and reset outlets equipped with GFCIs and AFCIs. Make sure any home security devices work.

Throw open the windows. In the process, check that locks still work and that rarely used ones still open and shut.

Laundry duty. If your clothes washer has a self-clean cycle, run it. If not, run a full wash cycle without any clothes, adding only one of the following to the drum: white vinegar, bleach, or special washing machine cleaning product (made by OxiClean, Clorox, and Tide, among others). Note: NEVER mix vinegar and bleach; doing so creates toxic chlorine gas fumes.

Get sharp. Keep your lawnmower’s blades sharp to avoid tearing grass leaves, which makes them brown and vulnerable to pests.

Free floor drains. Kevin recently learned an expensive lesson when his basement flooded due to a clogged drain. Pour water into indoor drains to make sure they, well, drain. Make sure outdoor drains aren’t covered or clogged up with leaves and other debris.

Test your sump pump’s backup plan. If your basement is finished and/or your sump pump often activates, consider adding a second pump to your system and a moisture alarm to the top of the sump pit to avoid surprise floods. Click here for more basement waterproofing advice.

Who’ll stop the rain? Stroll around your home’s perimeter while it’s raining and make sure runoff is flowing away from, not toward, the walls. Make sure water from gutters splashes at least three or four feet away from your home. If you spot problems, consider hiring a drainage outfit for regrading work. Avoid basement waterproofing contractors, who often push costly and unnecessary systems.

Seek leaks. After heavy rain, check your attic for wet or water-discolored wood. Especially eye areas around your chimney, which is typically the most vulnerable spot for seepage. Then examine your basement, cellar, or crawl space to look for moisture problems. Throughout your home, regularly inspect all ceilings and walls for discoloration and blistering/bubbling paint, wallpaper, or plaster—sure signs of plumbing or roofing leaks above. Moisture meters are handy for finding hidden H2O headaches behind walls and tile. Click here for ratings of roofers.

Mow high and don’t bag grass clippings. Throughout the dreaded lawnwork months, don’t mow too short. Most local lawns should not be cut below a height of about 2 1/2 to three inches, but zoysia grass should be mowed to about one inch. Leave clippings on the lawn so they can decompose and fertilize the soil, but spread out or remove big clumps of clippings.
 

JUNE

Safety check. Test all your smoke, carbon monoxide, and water-leak detectors. Test and reset outlets equipped with GFCIs and AFCIs. Make sure any home security devices work.

Bug off. Inspect for and deal with any carpenter ants, termites, wasps, rodents, and other destructive creepy crawlies you find. If you’re being pestered, before you call in the pros find out what you can do on your own. In our “Exterminators” section we provide tips for eliminating the most common household pests. Except for termites and bedbugs, you should be able to cure most pest problems on your own with a modest amount of effort.

Prepare to beat the heat. Uncover and trim back growth, and clear away debris from around the outdoor A/C unit. If you have window units, wash or replace their filters. Other maintenance tasks—including cleaning central A/C condenser coils, testing capacitors, and checking refrigerant levels—are usually performed only by professionals. But because it’s unclear if these tasks are needed every year, we say the annual maintenance plans offered by HVAC services usually aren’t worth buying.

Walk the walks. Check sidewalks, patios, driveways, stairs, and other hardscaping; repair cracks, level uneven sunken or raised bricks/blocks/pavers, and replace what needs replacement.

Can we caulk? Examine and re-caulk and re-grout (as necessary) bathtubs, showers, and sinks.

What’s going on behind your refrigerator’s back? Unplug and pull out the refrigerator, and enjoy vacuuming away all the puffy dust underneath and on the coils in back. Check door seals; replace if they are old and no longer airtight.

Repress roots. If you’ve had backups in your main sewer line due to tree roots invading the works, flush half a cup of copper sulfate crystals down a commode (don’t pour it down a sink or bath drain; that might corrode your indoor pipes).

Sink it. Clear out all the crap underneath your kitchen and bathroom sinks, turn on the taps and your garbage disposer, and look for leaks from above.

Hot stuff. Check the temperature setting of your water heater—most models should be set between 120° and 140°. Running the burner at the lower end of that range saves energy and extends the life of the appliance. Follow manufacturer’s instructions on how to drain the sediment from the bottom of your model. If it seems too complicated, ask a plumber or HVAC repairperson to do it for you the next time one comes to your home to fix something else. Tankless water heaters need maintenance, too, particularly flushing with vinegar to remove lime scaling that can build up and reduce efficiency. Again, check your owner’s manual for what to do and how to do it.
 

JULY

Safety check. Test all your smoke, carbon monoxide, and water-leak detectors. Test and reset outlets equipped with GFCIs and AFCIs. Make sure any home security devices work.

Power wash-up. Spray away the grime from walks, decks, stairs, siding, and masonry. Be careful: Although most power washers are point-and-shoot machines that don’t require a lot of finesse, you can still do significant damage to your home, yourself, and others. In particular, guard against electric shock by avoiding adaptor plugs that might defeat grounding systems, wear rubber-soled shoes, and keep high-pressure spray away from electric wiring, receptacles, and lights. And never test water pressure against your hand or foot, or point the wand at a person. Want to hire help? Click here for ratings of power wash services.

Clear the air. Replacing air filters is the most important maintenance task for heating and cooling systems. Check your filter monthly until you see how quickly it gets dirty at different times of the year. When a filter has a matting of dirt—i.e., it’s difficult to see through when you hold it up to a light—it’s time to replace it (usually at least four times a year).

Batten down hatches. Most burglars get into homes through unlocked or poorly secured doors and windows. Evaluate your home’s security vulnerabilities and defenses, especially by checking for and replacing weak locks and dead outdoor security light bulbs, and pruning back landscaping that bad guys might hide behind. And if you’ve lost keys, consider changing your locks. Click here for dozens of tips for securing your castle.

Does your toilet have the runs? Slow commode leaks silently waste gallons of water every day. To check yours, add a dozen drops of food coloring to the tank. Come back in an hour; if the color is gone or has made its way into the bowl, you have a leak. You might need to change a worn rubber flapper or diaphragm seal, or adjust the fill valve or ballcock (that big round thing attached to a rod). There are lots of videos online that explain how to make easy fixes. Or hire a top-rated plumber.

Don’t get hosed. To avoid a flood, check rubber washing machine hoses for blistering, stress cracks, wear, or loose connections. Consider replacing rubber hoses with reinforced steel braided hoses. It’s an easy task, and steel ones are less likely to fail.

My front-loading clothes washer has a filter? Unplug your washer and locate its debris filter. Its location and maintenance vary by manufacturer and model (consult your owner’s manual); most can be pulled out and degunked with a brush. Then check for and remove excess lint buildup in the filter compartment.

Squeegee time. Clean your windows or see our ratings for quality and price of area window cleaning operations.
 

AUGUST

Safety check. Test all your smoke, carbon monoxide, and water-leak detectors. Test and reset outlets equipped with ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) and arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs). Make sure any home security devices work.

Avoid a lint firetrap. Unplug the dryer and, if you have a gas model, shut off the gas valve and disconnect the supply line. Then remove the clothes dryer exhaust hose and inspect and clean out any lint buildup from the hose and the dryer’s accessible innards. If your vent hose is made of plastic or foil—which looks like a giant Slinky—replace it with a rigid or semi-rigid metal duct to reduce fire risk.

Ice, ice, baby. Pull out the storage bin underneath your icemaker and toss all cubes. Wipe it down and let your fridge refill it with fresh stuff. Then, if there’s a filter attached to the refrigerator’s water supply line, swap it out for a new one.

Free floor drains. Kevin recently learned an expensive lesson when his basement flooded due to a clogged drain. Pour water into indoor drains to make sure they, well, drain. Make sure outdoor drains aren’t covered or clogged up with leaves and other debris.

Chim-chiminey chim-chiminey… Check for excessive buildup of soot and creosote, which is flammable black stuff that can coat the insides of chimneys and create a fire hazard. There is no set timeframe for how often to have chimneys swept—it all depends on its design and how often you use yours. The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends cleaning when there’s 1/8 inch of sooty buildup in masonry fireplaces, sooner for factory-built fireplaces. The problem is, while you definitely don’t want a chimney fire, ratings we get for chimney services often indicate many companies use inspect-and-sweep opportunities to recommend expensive, unneeded work. So proceed cautiously if a chimney service says yours is unsafe unless you pay thousands for a new liner or similar expensive repairs.

Laundry duty. If your clothes washer has a self-clean cycle, run it. If not, run a full wash cycle without any clothes, adding only one of the following to the drum: white vinegar, bleach, or special washing machine cleaning product (made by OxiClean, Clorox, and Tide, among others). Note: NEVER mix vinegar and bleach; doing so creates toxic chlorine gas fumes.

Faucet fest. Check faucet aerators and showerheads, and remove mineral deposits, if necessary, by wiping them with a towel soaked in white vinegar.

SEPTEMBER

Safety check. Test all your smoke, carbon monoxide, and water-leak detectors. Test and reset outlets equipped with ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) and arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs). Make sure any home security devices work.

Make garage doors move smooth. If needed, clean the tracks and grease roller wheel axles. Check your unit’s owner’s manual for best practices.

Acid test. Test the pH level of your lawn’s soil. Generously fertilizing your lawn can have little effect if its acid balance—pH reading—is not right. Your grass simply won’t be able to use the nutrients if the soil is too acidic or too alkaline. Most grass varieties grow best when the pH reading is between 6.0 and 7.0 (slightly acidic). If your pH level is too low (5.5 or less), apply some lime.

Sink it. Clear out all the crap underneath your kitchen and bathroom sinks, turn on the taps and your garbage disposer, and look for leaks from above.

Test your sump pump’s backup plan. If your basement is finished and/or your sump pump often activates, consider adding a second sump pump to your system plus a moisture alarm to the top of the sump pit to avoid surprise floods. Click here for more basement waterproofing advice.

Repress roots. If you’ve had backups in your main sewer line due to tree roots invading the works, flush half a cup of copper sulfate crystals down a commode (don’t pour it down a sink or bath drain; that might corrode your indoor pipes).

Help your humidifier. If you have a whole-house model, clean it according to directions in its owner’s manual. This usually involves adding a bit of vinegar or a calcium-removing solution like Lime-A-Way.

Seek leaks. After heavy rain, check your attic for wet or water-discolored wood. Especially eye areas around your chimney, which is typically the most vulnerable spot for seepage. Then examine your basement, cellar, or crawl space to look for moisture problems. Throughout your home, regularly inspect all ceilings and walls for discoloration and blistering/bubbling paint, wallpaper, or plaster—sure signs of plumbing or roofing leaks above. Moisture meters are handy for finding hidden H2O headaches behind walls and tile. Click here for ratings of roofers.
 

OCTOBER

Safety check. Test all your smoke, carbon monoxide, and water-leak detectors. Test and reset outlets equipped with ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) and arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs). Make sure any home security devices work.

Stick to the program. Reset your thermostat for cool weather. Programmable thermostats easily save you a lot of energy. If your home is unoccupied during the day, you can save five to 15 percent per year on energy bills by dialing down temps by 10°F to 15°F while you are away. Unfortunately, many homeowners who have programmable thermostats don’t use them, but new models make programming a snap; popular ones made by Nest and others even attempt to program themselves.

Fertilize fauna. Think of fertilizer as a vitamin program for your lawn. Lawns and plants usually benefit most from fall fertilizations. Consult with garden guides or experts to make sure you apply it properly; fertilizer is not a more-is-better thing.

Clear the air. Replacing air filters is the most important maintenance task for heating and cooling systems. Check your filter monthly until you see how quickly it gets dirty at different times of the year. When a filter has a matting of dirt—i.e., it’s difficult to see through when you hold it up to a light—it’s time to replace it (usually at least four times a year).

Free floor drains. Kevin recently learned an expensive lesson when his basement flooded due to a clogged drain. Pour water into indoor drains to make sure they, well, drain. Make sure outdoor drains aren’t covered or clogged up with leaves and other debris.

Forestall freeze-ups. Close off the valves to any outdoor faucets; then open their spigots and/or bleeder valves to drain any remaining water from pipes. Remove, drain, and stow garden hoses. Check crawl spaces, unheated basements or cellars, and other unconditioned areas of your home to make sure that any water pipes running through them are insulated to prevent freezing. If you have an irrigation system, shut off its water supply and use compressed air to clear out the works.

Bug off. Inspect for and deal with any carpenter ants, termites, wasps, rodents, and other destructive creepy crawlies you find. If you’re being pestered, before you call in the pros find out what you can do on your own. In our “Exterminators” section we provide tips for eliminating the most common household pests. Except for termites and bedbugs, you should be able to cure most pest problems on your own with a modest amount of effort.

Ceiling-fan fun. Flip the directional switch on your ceiling fans to make the blades spin clockwise for winter. That pulls cooler air up to the ceiling, which pushes the warmer air down the walls to you.

Who’ll stop the rain? Stroll around your home’s perimeter while it’s raining and make sure runoff is flowing away from, not toward, the walls. Make sure water from gutters splashes at least three or four feet away from your home. If you spot problems, consider hiring a drainage outfit for regrading work. Avoid basement waterproofing contractors, who often push costly and unnecessary systems.

Don’t get hosed. To avoid a flood, check rubber washing machine hoses for blistering, stress cracks, wear, or loose connections. Consider replacing rubber hoses with reinforced steel braided hoses. It’s an easy task, and steel ones are less likely to fail.
 

NOVEMBER

Fire drill. Swap out all batteries for your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, or better still, get 10-year batteries for them. Assemble family to review evacuation procedures: Everyone should know of possible escape routes and understand what to do to get out of the house within seconds. Check that fire extinguishers remain located in common sense spots (kitchen, laundry, garage, and near furnace and water heater) and that they are fully charged, undamaged, and unexpired.

Get it out of the gutters. It’s a messy job, but someone undoubtedly should do it: Stopped-up gutters can cause major problems, from wet basements to ruined siding and trim to damaged interior walls. You’ll need to clean less often if your gutters are covered with guards, but these devices won’t nab everything. When moving your ladder and while working, make sure to give power lines a wide berth: They may not be properly insulated; touching one, particularly with a metal ladder or while standing on a metal ladder, might bring a quick and permanent end to your gutter-cleaning responsibilities. Many workers and homeowners die this way each year. Electricity can also arc or spark from a high-voltage line to a metal ladder that gets too close. A dry, fiberglass ladder is safer but still may not prevent shocks. Want someone else to do your dirty gutter work? Click here to consult ratings.

My front-loading clothes washer has a filter? Unplug your washer and locate its debris filter. Its location and maintenance vary by manufacturer and model (consult your owner’s manual); most can be pulled out and degunked with a brush. Then check for and remove excess lint buildup in the filter compartment.

Laundry duty. If your clothes washer has a self-clean cycle, run it. If not, run a full wash cycle without any clothes, adding only one of the following to the drum: white vinegar, bleach, or special washing machine cleaning product (made by OxiClean, Clorox, and Tide, among others). Note: NEVER mix vinegar and bleach; doing so creates toxic chlorine gas fumes.

Bleed radiators. If your heating system uses hot water, bleed the air out of its pipes. For most systems, this is accomplished by turning small valves located near the top of radiators to release steam; stay alert to retighten them when VERY hot water begins to escape. Start with units on your home’s lowest floor and work your way upward.
 

DECEMBER

Safety check. Test all your smoke, carbon monoxide, and water-leak detectors. Test and reset outlets equipped with ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) and arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs). Make sure any home security devices work.

Happy holidays! Relieve yourself of further home maintenance work to enjoy/mentally prepare for the holiday season/slog. And be careful while stringing all those lights, Clark Griswold.