January Home Maintenance Musts

By MNR News posted 24 days ago

Winter erupted more than arrived in Minnesota this year, blowing in hazardous blizzards, heaps of snow, and a polar vortex to boot. Some of us may take this opportunity to call up our out-of-state friends or family and brag to them about how little we’re affected by the near-constant snowy onslaught clogging our commutes; that we’re stronger because of it—while others have simply become numb to Old Man Winter’s bag of tricks and have entered hibernation mode.  

If you’re a homeowner in Minnesota, you know this is all part of the experience. Confronting winter weather is second nature. But whether you think winter builds character or slowly breaks it, there’s no denying that cold, snow, and ice can wreak havoc on your home, and with it, your bank account. As we leave the holidays behind and brace for the full grip of the cold season, it’s important to do all that you can to bolster your home’s defenses.  

We’ve put together the top January home maintenance musts that can prevent damage, reduce costs, and ready your property for whatever the 2023 winter has up its sleeve.   

Tend Your Grounds

 The battle against snow pileup around your property is most quickly fought with a snowblower. It’s never too late to replenish the fuel, check the oil, and inspect your snowblower to ensure it’s ready to clear your driveway, walkways, and sidewalks. Using your snowblower to clear a neighbor’s driveway or sidewalk is one quick way to practice your Minnesota Nice. 

To those who heave away their snow by hand, find yourself the latest and best snow shovel that’s right for your property. For instance, “snow pusher” shovels are designed for clearing long and wide driveways. Sturdy plastic shovels with a non-stick metal edge can make chipping away at layers of ice far easier on your back and limbs. Manual snow shoveling is not only great exercise but offers homeowners the unique sense of accomplishment upon finishing the job. Pick up pellets or pet-safe de-icing products and scatter those on prominent walkways around your home—your mail carrier will thank you. 

While winter’s natural decor is pretty to look at, heavy snow and ice can damage your roof and dam up your gutters. Ice dams—thick ridges of ice build-up in your eaves—can break through shingles and lead to interior water damage. Quick fixes include raking out gutters with a steel or aluminum rake, adding insulation to vulnerable areas in your attic, and other long-term attic ventilation fixes requiring professional installation.  

Protect Your Pipes

When temperatures freefall over the course of the winter, there is a higher risk for frozen and burst pipes in your home. In fact, a burst pipe is one of the most common causes of property damage in the U.S., according to Consumer Reports. The most vulnerable pipes are those running through unheated or uninsulated spaces—think basements, attics, crawl spaces, and exterior walls. Fortunately, there are several inexpensive do-it-yourself tactics to keep the water in your pipes flowing freely.  

If you haven’t done so already, shut off all water sources running to outdoor faucets. Don’t decrease the temperature inside your home ahead of a deep cold or polar vortex. Invest in rolls of thermal or heat tape designed for piping—these tapes are a relatively inexpensive and very effective option and can be found online or at your local hardware store.  

Run space heaters for short, supervised periods in areas with uninsulated pipes—but be sure to always turn off the space heater when leaving the room. Let faucets that are connected to vulnerable or exposed pipes drip or run a little when it gets very cold. You may make a sour face at next month’s energy bill, but these are far less expensive solutions than any damages caused by burst pipes.  

Clear the Air

Keeping your home’s air free of allergens, irritants, and other hazards is a key for those who spend a significant amount of time indoors during the cold and dry winter months. One of the simplest steps is to check and replace your furnace filter. A clean furnace filter greatly increases home air quality while cutting down on energy costs. If your filter is a deep gray color and full of dust, it’s time for a change.  

Mold seeks and feasts upon cool, damp spaces—which means the bathroom, laundry room, and kitchen are mold’s favorite targets in your home. Ventilation will be important. Run fans when showering and cooking, and in your laundry room. Small amounts of mold can be cleaned quickly with a little water and bleach.  
If you haven’t cleaned out your dryer hose or vent in a while and you’re feeling handy, this is a project you can likely tackle yourself with the right tools in a couple of hours. You’ll need a vacuum with a hose attachment, a DIY duct cleaning kit, and some elbow grease. You can apply dryer duct cleaning knowledge to clear other vents around your home. For a comprehensive sweep, contact a local HVAC company. 

Take Stock of Supplies

We’ve already seen our share of storms and blizzard warnings this winter. Preparing for the dangers of winter storms, especially when those storms are accompanied by freezing temperatures, is critical for Minnesota homeowners.  

Before the next snowstorm blows in, take a trip to your local hardware store to pick up a few items that will come in handy if you lose electricity, water, or heat. Stock up on extra batteries for your radio, firewood for the fireplace, a portable cell phone charger, powerful flashlights, thermal blankets, canned food, jugs of filtered water, and consider investing in a power generator. 

Test your CO2 devices and smoke detectors and ensure they are powered up and in working order. When you’re stocked up, you’ll be ready to take on winter’s worst, while hoping for the best.