December Home Maintenance To-Do List

Insulate drop down attic stairs.

To-Do #3: Insulate Drop Down Attic Stairs

While you’re in the attic, don’t forget the attic stairs! Drop down attic stairs are notorious for leaking precious heated air into the attic and reducing the energy efficiency of your home. Attic stair access covers are made of thin plywood, and the construction isn’t very tight, allowing heated air to escape.

There are several ways to insulate attic stairs in your home:

Seal Cracks:

The first step in any attic stair insulation project is to seal any cracks. Small cracks and joints can be sealed with caulk while larger gaps can be filled with expandable spray foam.

Install Weatherstripping:

Another easy solution is to install strips of foam weatherstripping around the opening of the stairs. Cut the strips to fit the opening of your attic stairs, then stick the self-adhesive strips in place where the door meets the frame.

When the door closes against the foam, it’ll create an airtight seal that will cut out a lot of air infiltration.

Build an Insulating Stair Cover:

A more ambitious project is to build an insulating foam board box:

  1. Cut four pieces of foam a bit taller than the closed stairs for the sides.
  2. Attach the sides together into a box using metallic duct tape
  3. Tape the box down to the attic floor.
  4. Apply foam weatherstripping to the top of the box.
  5. Cut a piece of foam board for the lid.
  6. Attach the foam board lid to the box with tape.

Install a Ready Made Insulating Stair Cover:

You can also buy and install a premade attic stair cover. These covers are made to fit standard sizes of pull-down attic stairs.

Some attic stair covers attach to the floor and are closed and opened with a zipper, while others are positioned over the opening in the attic and lifted off when access to the attic is needed.

Draining garden hose.

To-Do #4: Disconnect and Drain Garden Hoses

Now is the time to head outside and drain your garden hoses before freezing weather arrives. Hoses left attached and full of water can be ruined if the water freezes and splits the hose.

Start by disconnecting each hose and removing any spray nozzles. Lift one end of the hose up and move down the hose to allow the water to drain out. Store the drained hoses in a shed or garage until spring.

If you need a hose for occasional watering during the winter, disconnect and drain it after each use. Make sure to remove or open the sprayer nozzle so any water left inside can expand and freeze without breaking the hose.

Attaching insulating foam cover to outdoor water spigot.

To-Do #5: Winterize Outdoor Water Spigots

It’s important to drain and cover outdoor hose faucets to prevent the pipes and spigot from freezing.

Winterizing outdoor faucets:

  1. In your basement or crawl space, locate the pipe that supplies each outdoor faucet, and follow it back until you find the shutoff valve.
  2. Close the valve controlling each faucet.
  3. Open all the faucets on the outside.
  4. Hold a bucket under each shutoff valve under the house, and open the small drain cap located just above the shutoff valve to allow the water in the pipe to drain out.
  5. Repeat this step with every faucet shutoff valve.
  6. Close the drain caps, and turn off the outdoor faucets.

Winterizing faucets without shutoff valves:

If your home’s outdoor faucets don’t have shutoff valves, you may have frost-free faucets, which don’t require draining. These faucets are installed at a slight angle with the valve located inside the foundation to allow water to drain out of the pipe when not in use.

If you’re not sure if your faucets are frost-free, have a plumber check to be sure.

If your faucets are not frost-free, and you can’t shut them off and drain them; your best bet is to install an insulating foam cover. These covers fit on the outside of the faucet and cinch tightly against the house with a foam seal to help keep the faucet from freezing.

While insulating covers aren’t as effective as draining faucets, they can help keep your outside spigots and pipes from freezing when the temperature drops.


  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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