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Winter Household Maintenance Tasks for Older Adults

By Antoinette Smith | 01/15/2020

Winter can be tough on our homes, even if we live in an area that receives little or no snow. If we don’t prepare ahead of time, we may face costly heating and lighting bills or repairs that can drain our budgets, especially if we are retired or on a fixed income. Before going into hibernation mode, there are a few winter home maintenance chores we should attend to:

Watch for ice dams. An ice dam is a ridge of ice that builds up at the bottom of a roof, trapping snow and melting water behind it. This can cause water to infiltrate the roof. Signs of an ice dam include water stains or moisture around the attic or ceilings of exterior walls, as well as the presence of icicles in areas other than gutters. Get in touch with a contractor to fix the problem so it never happens again.

Check for drafts. Cold air slipping in around doors and windows can cause higher heating bills. Use this simple trick: light a stick of incense and slowly move it around the seams of doors and windows. When the smoke blows around instead of rising in a straight line, you’ve got a draft. Many gaps can be eliminated by applying a little caulk.

Test your sump pump. If you have a basement sump pump, make sure the switch is on and pour a little water in the crock to ensure it starts. Many basement leaks occur during upcoming spring thaws, so check it now to be safe. Be sure to check the backup battery, too.

Close foundation vents. Crawl space ventilation is good for our homes during the spring, summer, and fall. However, during the winter months, closing the vents can help lower heating costs.

Cover outdoor air-conditioning units. Snow and ice can damage outdoor air-conditioning units if they aren’t protected. Covers are available at most home improvement stores, but even a secured canvas tarp will do.

With these potentially more intensive household tasks complete, we can then move to our more basic home maintenance winter checklist. We should remember to:

  1. Keep paths and driveways clear of snow and ice. According to Mayoclinic, older adults are more likely to fall in the winter than younger people, so this is particularly important for our safety during the season
  2. Keep a blanket, shovel, sand and first aid kit in our cars
  3. Stock up on canned goods and household items, including lightbulbs and batteries. Buy compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs). Although they cost a little more than incandescent bulbs, they’re more energy efficient and will last longer
  4. Check for proper lighting inside and outside the house
  5. Check any holiday lights inside and outside the house and make sure they are in good working order
  6. Make sure space heaters work properly, and never leave them on while unattended or placed too close to furniture or draperies
  7. Check sinks, bathtubs, and toilets for leaks in the faucet or tank
  8. Turn off the water pipes that lead to outdoor faucets if we live in an area that may experience freezing temperatures. We should then open the outdoor faucets to ensure that no water remains inside the pipe or hose bib. Water that freezes inside pipes can cause pipes to burst, and burst pipes can cause extreme damage.

If we’re planning to live in our homes for a long time, this home maintenance checklist will help ensure our homes are safe and secure. Proper maintenance can give our homes a fighting chance to stand strong for generations.