December Home Maintenance and Safety Checklist

Home maintenance in December is more than just putting up lights and decorating the tree. Nothing dampens the spirit of the season like an unexpected home repair or skyrocketing energy bills. 

This December, stay on top of easy tasks that can save you money and prevent potentially damaging holiday disasters like exploding pipes, gutter waterfalls, and pyrotechnic presents.



Kitchen

Inspect your oven and range

Between holiday dinners and baking for family and friends, your oven and range will get a workout this December. Protect your family from cooking fires by keeping your appliances in top shape. 

  • Check your oven seal for cracks and wear.
  • Inspect your oven's heating element for problems.
  • Clean the filter on your range hood.

Sharpen your knives

Believe it or not, sharp knives make cooking safer. To save yourself from knicks and cuts, sharpen and polish your kitchen knives before you prep your big December meals. 

Just be sure to use knife-blade covers and store your newly sharpened knives safely. 

Check appliance hoses

If it uses water, it's a leak risk. Check the hoses on your dishwasher, refrigerator, and clothes washer to ensure the water stays where it belongs.

Even if the hoses in your appliances and plumbing are in good condition, consider getting a water leak detector. These devices are sensitive to pooling water and alert you when they sense a problem. Catching a drip or leak early can prevent serious flooding and water damage in the future.

Light Bulb

If your dishwasher or washing machine needs a new hose, don’t panic. It’s like changing a light bulb but much wetter. 

  • Cut off the power and water to your house during the process. 
  • Remove the old or damaged drain hose. Keep a bucket nearby to catch excess water. 
  • Secure the new hose onto the appliance and make sure the fit is tight.
  • Reattach the hose to the water or power source and restore power and water to your home. 

Bedrooms and living areas

Clean your chimney and fireplace

Unless you're itching to scale your roof, we recommend leaving the chimney sweeping to the experts. But you can extend the time between chimney cleanings by removing ashes and other debris from the fireplace after every fire.

We also recommend keeping flammable materials and decorations clear of the fireplace, even when it’s not on. Keep the gate closed and kids away from the fireplace too. 

Water your Christmas tree

If you have a real Christmas tree in your home this year, don’t forget to water it like any other house plant. According to the National Fire Protection Association, a dry Christmas tree can be completely engulfed in flames in less than a minute.1 

Not only does a dry tree present a fire hazard, the shedding nettles can leave your floor sticky and make a mess. So keep the tree happy with a little H20 and minimize fire risks at the same time.

 

Bell
Use your smart speakers to prevent fires

If you have a smart speaker or alerts on your phone, set reminders for watering the tree, blowing out candles, and unplugging the space heater. These simple reminders can help prevent fires at the most common sources.

Set light timers

If you’re going out of town this December, set up smart plugs around your home to light up your dark house. Burglars are less likely to enter an occupied house, so it’s smart to program intermittent lighting to make it appear full. 

Attic and basement

Seal cracks

Warm attics offer cozy hibernation real estate for wild critters and pests, so caulk any cracks to keep out uninvited holiday guests. While you’re up there, check your roof for leaks to prevent water damage.

Bundle up pipes

Frozen pipes = broken pipes. Use pipe insulation to wrap up any exposed pipes in your crawlspace or basement.

The pipes indoors aren’t the only ones at risk of freezing either. Check pipes and plumbing outside to make sure they’re insulated and in good condition. Learn more about how to prevent frozen pipes in your home.

Practice safe storage

'Tis the season to injure yourself while fetching things from high shelves. Keep stable step stools accessible in storage areas, and avoid injury by splitting up large hauls into multiple trips.

If you use a ladder to grab boxes of decorations or put them up, don’t do it alone. Have a loved one or neighbor help you out by steadying the ladder and assisting. It’ll make the job go by faster and it’ll be much safer.

Change your furnace filter

Now that you're spending more time indoors, you'll want to breathe clean indoor air. Change out your furnace air filter every three months so you and your family can breathe easily. 

You can improve the air quality inside with a few simple tricks like regular cleaning and leaving the air purifier on. 

Bathrooms

Install non-slip mats

If you have older guests visiting with you for the holidays, add non-slip bathroom mats, grip bars, and even shower stools to your bathroom. These senior safety devices take seconds to install and can prevent serious injuries and falls. 

Restock first aid kits

With all the hustle and bustle of December, make sure you’re prepared for accidents and injuries that may occur. Check your home first aid kit and make sure it has everything you need for cuts, burns, and other emergencies. 

Clean the shower curtains

A warm winter shower can be spoiled by the sight of mildew and mold. Clean your shower curtains in your guest bathrooms with bleach or fungicide to reduce those unsightly spots. And reducing mold and mildew can improve the air quality in your home. 

Hallways

Change detector batteries

Heaters and candles and fire hazards, oh my! Test the batteries in your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they're in good working order. If you don't have detectors, now is a good time to invest.

Add all-weather mats

Everyone likes to make an entrance, but slipping and falling on a wet floor is a painful way to do it. Put mats in place for wiping feet and use boot trays to contain puddles of melted snow.

Light Bulb
Avoid tripping hazards

Use adhesive carpet tape to keep mats and rugs from sliding on hardwood and tile floors. This boosts safety in high-traffic areas and also protects against active kiddos and pets inadvertently rearranging your floor decor.

Outside

Clear the snow and ice

We're not just talking about driveways and walkways (although those are important). Use a roof rake to remove snow and ice from your roof, tree branches, and gutters to relieve them of potentially damaging weight.

If you'll be out of town, hiring a snow-removal service to prevent snow and ice buildup can keep your house from looking vacant.

Add cameras or a doorbell cam

As you're ordering holiday gifts this month, thwart porch pirates with an outdoor video camera or video doorbell

Doorbell cameras also help you answer the door for guests while you’re busy inside. When they ring the bell, you can speak to them through the app on your phone. So whether it’s grandma coming to visit or the delivery driver dropping off a package, you don’t have to stop what you’re doing to talk to them.

Install reflective markers

If you get a lot of snow where you live, strategically placed reflective markers can help keep snowplows (and other vehicles) from accidentally veering toward your mailbox or driving across your lawn.

FAQ

With cases topping 1 million around Thanksgiving 2020, the CDC recommends keeping family gatherings small and limited to your own household.2 Because of this, we don’t recommend hosting visitors this year. 

Instead, consider video and phone calls with loved ones this year. Send care packages, letters, and treats through the mail or leave them on doorsteps instead. While it’s been hard this year, a little precaution now can help reduce cases and make the new year a little brighter.

Again, we don’t recommend celebrating the holidays outside your own household. Even with flying restrictions like masks and testing in place, there’s no guarantee you won’t get sick or spread the illness to a family member. 

If you do decide to travel, keep it close to home. If your destination is close enough, drive rather than fly. And quarantine yourself two weeks before your visit and two weeks after to ensure safety for everyone you visit with this holiday season.

You'll have just a few extra maintenance tasks to add to your December home maintenance list. 

Here are some tasks to add to your list any time this winter: 

  • Check seals on exterior doors and windows
  • Clean debris from window wells
  • Drain your garden hose and outdoor faucets
  • Clean attic vents and dryer vents 
  • Clean your refrigerator coils

A home security system offers great protection against burglars. You can also place shades on windows, add exterior lighting, and factor theft-prevention into your foliage choices. Keep landscaping trimmed to prevent an air of vacancy, and consider introducing thorny bushes under windows as burglar deterrents.

We recommend LED holiday lights because they emit less heat than traditional bulbs. No matter what lights you use, be sure to inspect the wires for fraying before hanging them.

Related pages


Sources

  1. National Fire Protection Association, "Christmas Tree Fires Can Turn Devastating and Deadly within Seconds," December 9, 2015. Accessed November 30, 2020.
  2. Centers for Disease Control, “Holiday Celebrations and Small Gatherings,” November 27, 2020. Accessed November 30, 2020. 
Kasey Tross
Written by
Kasey Tross
Kasey is a trained Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) member and a freelance writer with expertise in emergency preparedness and security. As the mother of four kids, including two teens, Kasey knows the safety concerns parents face as they raise tech-savvy kids in a connected world, and she loves to research the latest security options for her own family and for SafeWise readers.