It is worth repeating that if you haven’t walked outside around your house in a while, now is that time.

Look for loose gutters, dirty gutters or debris on your roof. Use a pair of binoculars if necessary to see if all is as it should be before winter sets in.

Clean out and inspect wood stoves, looking for holes or loose joints. Check for signs of rust or cracking in the body or legs. If you have young children, fence off the stove when it is in operation.

Do the same for your wood burning fireplace. Inspect the flue for creosote.

Have your chimney inspected annually; buildup should be cleaned now as the deposits can catch fire if allowed to build up. Check that the damper is operating in both positions.

Think about having your heating system inspected or cleaned by a professional. Look for signs of furnace trouble: noisy belts, poor performance or erratic behavior. Check filters and clean or replace when needed. 

Have gas heaters inspected annually as part of maintenance. Vacuum or clean the burner of lint and dirt.

Check your weather stripping around doors and windows. Check for missing or damaged caulk around windows, doors and entry points for electrical, cable, phone lines and gas lines. Gaps in caulk and weatherstripping can account for 10 percent of your heating bills.

Close or shutoff any valves serving outside faucets, then open outside faucet to drain. If you don’t have shutoff valves, and your faucets are not freeze-proof, you might benefit from Styrofoam faucet covers.

Have your sprinkler system blown out and follow procedures for protecting your pump if you have one. 

Check your walkways and driveways for cracks of more than 1/8-inch wide, uneven sections and loose railings on steps. Fix cracks and chips in concrete right away or you might have to replace the whole thing. Check asphalt disintegration or washed out materials on loose-fill paths.


Replace smoke and carbon-monoxide detector batteries. Test the detector by pressing the test button.

Every home should have at least one fire extinguisher rated for all fire types. Look for an A-B-C rating on the label.

Every bedroom, including basement bedrooms, should have two exit paths in case of a fire. Make sure windows aren’t blocked by furniture or other items. Ideally each upper window should have a rope ladder near the window for emergency exits. Review what to do in case of a fire and arrange a safe meeting place for everyone away from the house.

Rid your home of old-newspaper piles and leftover hazardous household chemicals. Store flammable materials and poisons in approved, clearly labeled containers.

Keep a clear space around heaters, furnaces and other heat producing appliances.



Susan Woody has been a home and garden writer for more than 20 years and is a master gardener.