Winter Home Maintenance To-Do List

DIY foam box to help insulate drop-down attic stairs.
DIY foam box to help insulate drop-down attic stairs.

Indoor Winter Home Maintenance

  • Furnace Filter: Your heating system works hard during the winter, so be sure to replace the air filter every 1-3 months. A clean filter allows the unit to run more efficiently and keep the air inside your home cleaner. To change a furnace air filter, turn the system off and wait until it stops running. Next, remove the air return cover, take out the old filter, and install a new one—making sure the arrows on the edge of the filter point in the direction of air flow. If you have allergies, upgrade to a high-performance allergen air filter. For help in locating the air filter in your home, see our article on How to Find the Air Filter in Your Home.
  • Attic Insulation: Before the mercury drops too far, head up in your attic to make sure you have at least 12” of insulation in warm climates and 16” in colder areas. Since heat rises, it’s important to have a good insulating barrier between your heated living space and the attic to keep that valuable warm air where it belongs. If your attic is uninsulated, install fiberglass rolls or batts between the joists, making sure the paper or foil backing is facing down towards the living space. If your attic has some insulation but needs more, lay rolls or batts of unfaced fiberglass insulation over top of what’s there, or blow in or spread loose insulation. For more information, check out our article on Insulation R-Value and video on How To Install Attic Insulation.
  • Attic Stairs: Drop-down attic stairs are often made of thin plywood that allows quite a bit of heated air to escape into your attic. To insulate attic stairs start by installing foam weatherstripping around the opening and caulk and seal any cracks. For even more protection, build an insulating foam box over the opening or purchase a premade insulating attic stair cover.
  • Smoke and CO Alarms: With your fireplace and furnace going strong, be sure to test and refresh the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors. Press and hold the “test” button on each unit to see if the alarm sounds. If the alarm doesn’t work, or if the batteries are more than a year old, install new batteries. Next, clean the units by blowing out dust with canned air. Finally, replace any units that are more than ten years old. For more information, check out our article on Home Fire Safety.
  • Water and Icemaker Filters: Replace disposable water filters on your water filtration system and/or icemaker as recommended by the manufacturer (usually every six months). This will keep mold and mildew from growing in the filter and keep your water clean, fresh, and flowing freely. If you don’t have water filters on your kitchen sink or refrigerator, now is a good time to install them.


  1. Last year my wife and I purchased a foreclosed 3 bedroom ranch style home mainly because I am a paraplegic & this was the best style home for my situation. We have ramps installed & also remodeled the 1st floor bathroom for my use. We would like to know if there is a way to widen the the bedroom doors for my wheelchair & as our laundry room is in the basement; can we install some sort of glider so I can get downstairs and use those facilities?

  2. love to watch your show if I wake up early enough on Saturdays, you have very helpful ideas but lots of these are mostly things men need to do, any good suggestions for women who have to do home maintenance & upkeep? Also is there another day you come on a little later that I might catch your shows more often? Thanks Marlene Singletary

  3. For Bishop Pennington who uses a wheelchair: you might solve your problem with the bedroom door by installing a set of offset hinges. They allow the door to swing out of the jam when opened and you can gain a couple inches of clearance. The are not very expensive and all you need is a screwdriver and someone to remove the old hinges and screw these in place. Regarding the laundry room downstairs, you need a chair lift. You should investigate the various models and see which one would meet your need the best. You might even find one on the resale market that has been removed where no longer needed. Good luck!


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