January Home Maintenance To-Do List

Author Danny Lipford

Before settling down in front of the fire for a long winter’s nap, there are a few important home maintenance chores that need to be taken care of first!

From changing water filters to compiling a home inventory, our January home maintenance tasks focus on some often neglected areas that will really give your home a fresh start in the new year.

To-Do #1: Change Water and Icemaker Filters

The disposable filters in your water filtration system and icemaker need to be changed at least twice a year, or as recommended by the manufacturer.

When filters become clogged, the flow of water slows and can allow mold to form inside the filter. Most water filters are easy to change, either by removing a screw-on cover or pressing a release tab. Be sure to take the old filter with you to the store, so that you can buy the correct replacement.

If you don’t have a water filter in your home, consider:

  • Water Filtration Pitcher: With no installation required, filtration pitchers have you drinking filtered water in a flash by pouring water into the pitcher through a filter mounted in the lid.
  • Faucet Mounted Water Filter: These units screw directly onto the end of your kitchen faucet, replacing the aerator with a valve that directs the water through the filter or out the faucet as desired.
  • Countertop Mounted Water Filter: These larger filters are less likely to clog than faucet filters. They screw directly onto the faucet, with a tube connecting to the filtration unit on the counter.
  • Under Sink Mounted Water Filter: These filters install under your sink and connect to a separate water dispenser installed next to the sink faucet. They require some plumbing and cutting a hole in your sink or countertop if one isn’t already available.
  • Icemaker Filter: These may come built into your fridge or can be added to the water line supplying your icemaker.
  • Whole House Water Filter: These units attach to your main water line and filter all the water entering the house. They generally only filter out rust and sediment.

To-Do #2: Clean Bathroom Tub and Sink Drains

Over time, hair and debris can build up in your bathroom drains, impeding the flow and causing water to back up into your tub or sink. Not only is this unpleasant, it lets dirty water to stand in your sink or tub, allowing mold and mildew to grow both in the basin and in the pipes.

To clean a tub or sink drain, you’ll first need to remove the drain assembly and any drain grates covering the drain opening. Clean these with an old toothbrush and paper towel.

Next, insert a plastic drain stick into the overflow drain, then again in the main drain. A drain stick is about two feet long and is barbed or bristled to remove hair and gunk inside the pipe. Work the stick up and down, then carefully draw out debris and wipe it off with a paper towel.

Once the drains are clear, pour a cup of bleach down the drain, and let it sit for 10-15 minutes to kill any mold and mildew in the pipes. Finally, flush the drain thoroughly with hot water, and reinstall the drain assembly and grate.

Now that your drains are flowing freely again, get out your sponge and cleaners to give your tub and sink a good scrub!

To-Do #3: Clean and Organize Closets

The New Year is a perfect time to organize your home, and why not start with your closets? Over the course of the year, closets get full of all sorts of stuff that may or may not belong there.

Since it’s too cold to do much outside, take advantage of a day stuck indoors to organize and clean your closets, and perhaps add some new shelving or other storage organizers while you’re at it. Follow these steps:

  • Inspect Closet: Examine your closet and determine what’s working and what’s not. Is there enough hanging room? Are shoes overrunning their space? Do you have belongings in the floor that have no place to go?
  • Clear Out Closet: Next, remove everything from the closet – yes, everything!
  • Purge Unused Items: Sort clothing, shoes, and accessories, and set aside unneeded items to donate. A good rule of thumb is, if you haven’t used it in a year, it’s time to go.
  • Clean Closet: Give the inside of the closet a good cleaning, and possibly a fresh paint job.
  • Update Closet: Examine the closet to see if you can make better use of the space. You can dramatically increase storage space with shelving, hanger bars, baskets, and bins that are tailored to suit your needs.
  • Fill Closet: Finally, put the remaining belongings back into your clean, neat closet.

To-Do #4: Check Roof and Gutters for Ice Dams

Icicles hanging from your roof may be pretty, but ice in and around your eaves can damage your roof and cause leaks.

Ice dams form when the roof is covered with snow, and the attic is warmer than the outside air. The ice over the warm attic melts and refreezes when it reaches the cold overhang of the eaves.

As the ice builds up, it can prevent water from draining off your roof. This results in icicles, but it also can cause the water to back up underneath your shingles and leak into your attic.

To Prevent Ice Dams:

It’s much easier and safer to prevent ice dams than to try to remove them. Follow these steps:

  • Seal air leaks that could be allowing heated air to rise into your attic.
  • Add more attic insulation to keep warm air downstairs where it belongs.
  • Make sure your attic has adequate ventilation so the air in the attic is a similar temperature as the air outside.
  • Whenever there’s a fresh snowfall, use a roof rake to remove as much snow as you can safely reach without climbing on the slippery roof.
  • Make sure gutters and downspouts are clear and flowing freely.

To Remove Ice Dams:

Ice dams can be very dangerous to remove; steer clear of any method that could cause chunks of ice or sharp icicles to fall on or near anyone standing below. Avoid climbing on an icy roof, or using a pressure washer or heat cables that could damage your shingles.

If you have severe ice dams, bring in a contractor to remove them safely. For smaller issues, you can fill nylon pantyhose with calcium chloride (not rock salt), and lay them vertically across the ice dam. The salt will slowly melt a channel through the ice, allowing melting water to drain off the roof.

To-Do #5: Compile or Update Home Inventory

Finally, spend one of those cold winter days compiling a home inventory or updating the one you already have.

While nobody likes to think about losses in your home due to theft, fire, or natural disaster, a little preparation can go a long way to making the process of dealing with your insurance company easier should a loss occur.

To prepare a home inventory you’ll need a computer spreadsheet or paper notebook, camera and/or camcorder, and a tape measure. Here’s how to go about it:

  • Outside: Take a video of all sides of the outside of your home, including patios, landscaping, hardscaping, and sheds. Follow this up with photos from each angle. Take close-up photos of specific items, such as rockwork, outdoor kitchens, water features, and lighting to show detail. Record measurements, model and serial numbers, purchase price, and any other information that could help you determine the replacement value of the object.
  • Rooms: Next, move through your house room by room with a camcorder to video the interior. Slowly pan the room, starting at the upper left area from where you’re standing and moving toward the right, then down and back to the left across the lower half of the room. Repeat the process by taking wide-angle still photos of the room from each corner.
  • Individual Items: Now focus your camera on individual items of value. TVs, stereos, furnishings and rugs, equipment and tools, anything that would be important to replace in the event of loss. As you take photos, record on your spreadsheet each item’s name and image file number, along with as much information as possible. Record brands, model and serial numbers, measurements, and descriptive features.
  • Document Ownership: Finally, you’ll need to compile information to prove your ownership of each item. Record purchase dates and sources on your spreadsheet, and attach receipts and any appraisal statements to the inventory. Or, you can scan relevant document and attach them digitally to your inventory spreadsheet.
  • Secure File: If you compiled the inventory on paper, organize all documents neatly in a three-ring binder. If your inventory is in digital format, organize the digital files and copy them to flash drive, CD, or DVD. Make three copies of your inventory: one to keep at home, one to keep in your safety deposit box, and one to store in a remote location, such as with your insurance agent or a family member.

Danny Lipford is a home improvement expert and television personality who started his remodeling business, Lipford Construction, at the age of 21 in Mobile, Alabama. He gained national recognition as the host of the nationally syndicated television show, Today’s Homeowner with Danny Lipford, which started as a small cable show in Mobile. Danny’s expertise in home improvement has also led him to be a contributor to popular magazines and websites and the go-to source for advice on everything related to the home. He has made over 200 national television appearances and served as the home improvement expert for CBS’s The Early Show and The Weather Channel for over a decade. Danny is also the founder of 3 Echoes Content Studio, TodaysHomeowner.com, and Checking In With Chelsea, a décor and lifestyle blog.