December Home Maintenance To-Do List

House in the snow.

As autumn gives way to winter, it’s time to tackle some maintenance tasks to keep you and your home cozy and warm during the cold weather ahead.

From the attic to the basement, this to-do list is packed with easy DIY projects that can make a big difference in your energy bills, as well as some outdoor maintenance to keep hoses and faucets from freezing. And last, but not least, you can celebrate your success by hanging your holiday lights!

So grab your toolbox and get started on these December home maintenance chores. Read on to find out more.

Replace air filter.

To-Do #1: Replace Furnace Air Filter

The air filter on your HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) system needs to be replaced every 1-3 months to keep the air in your home clean and flowing freely. A high quality air filter is the best choice to remove mold, pollen, and other microscopic particles from the air.

The air filter is usually found behind the air return grate mounted on a wall or in the floor. The filter may also be located in or near the air handler. Check out our article on How to Locate an Air Filter if you can’t find yours.

To replace an air filter:

  1. Turn the heating system off, and wait until it stops running.
  2. Remove the cover on the air return.
  3. Take out the old air filter.
  4. Write the date on the new air filter.
  5. Insert the new air filter in the return, making sure the arrow on the edge of the filter is facing in the direction of air flow. For filters with wall and floor mounted returns, the arrow should point in toward the return duct. For filters mounted in the ductwork near the air handler, the arrow should point toward the HVAC unit.
  6. Put the cover back on the air return.
  7. Turn the heating system back on.

To make it easier to replace next time, put a sticker on or near the return with the size filter you need to buy and when to replace it.

Check out our video on Changing an Air Filter to find out more.

Check attic insulation.

To-Do #2: Check Attic Insulation

As the weather gets colder, it’s a good idea to check your attic to make sure you have enough insulation and add more if you don’t.

In most cases you can add another layer of insulation on top of what’s already there, using rolls or batts of unfaced insulation or by blowing or spreading loose insulation. If your existing insulation is water damaged or moldy, it will need to be removed and replaced.

If your home currently doesn’t have attic insulation, the easiest DIY method is to install batts or rolls of insulation between the ceiling joists.

Installing attic insulation:

  1. Choose insulation with a paper vapor barrier of the same width as the spaces between your ceiling joists.
  2. Wear long pants and sleeves, gloves, a dust mask, and protective eyewear. Some insulation can be irritating to eyes, lungs, and skin; so cover up as much as you can.
  3. Carefully unroll the insulation between the joists, making sure the vapor barrier is facing toward the heated area of your home. In attics, this will mean the paper backing should face down toward the ceiling.
  4. Cut the insulation to length by laying it on a scrap of plywood, pressing it flat with a straight edge, and slicing with a utility knife.
  5. Make sure the insulation fits tightly between the joists, but not so tight that it’s compressed, since the insulating properties come from the air spaces within the batting.

If your attic already has insulation and you’d like to add more, follow the same steps as above, but use insulation that does not have a paper backing to prevent moisture from becoming trapped between the layers.

Check out our video on How To Install Attic Insulation to find out more.


  1. Thanks for this info. I had no idea filters had different “sides.” Your site (and TV series) has helped this senior citizen more than you’ll ever know. Please keep up the good work. Merry Christmas!

  2. I have a 1950’s Ranch home with detached garage. There only 3 joists (~20′ – 2×4) in the garage running side to side. Each of them are cracking at knot holes. What is the best way to strengthen/fix (sister another 2×4, or bolt 3″x2″ steel angle and bolt together)??


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