Home maintenance checklist for winter

family sitting by fireplace in home


Posted May 28, 2024

As the chill of winter sets in, it's crucial to ensure that your home can withstand the colder weather.

Regular maintenance and preparation not only keeps your home cosy and warm in winter, but helps  reduce heating bills and prevent potential damage caused by harsh weather conditions. RACV Emergency Home Assist experiences a significant increase in callouts in winter for issues that could be prevented with regular servicing and checks.

During the colder months, there is a notable increase in households experiencing issues with gas and electric heating units, gas and electric hot water units and gas leaks. Last year RACV Trades attended 3,240 callouts for heating units between April and August, 1,214 callouts for hot water issues between May and July, and 433 callouts for gas leaks between April and August.

Here’s a guide on how to make sure your home is well prepared for winter. Sealing draughts and checking your smoke alarms are some simple tasks worth undertaking. For other jobs that can be risky, such as cleaning gutters and servicing your heater, consider getting an expert tradie.

two RACV workers clearing a house's gutters

Get a professional to regularly clear your gutters to prevent damage to your home. 

Get your heater serviced

A well-maintained heating system is essential for keeping your home warm and your energy bills manageable. Having a qualified professional inspect your heating system is an essential step to help ensure it is working well and efficiently. The qualified professional can identify any potential issues, such as worn-out parts, leaks or inefficiencies that could compromise the performance of your heating system when you need it most. This preventative measure helps avoid unexpected breakdowns during the coldest months of the year. 

During the inspection, the technician will typically check and clean critical components as well as replace dirty filters and clear blockages in the ductwork, which can otherwise circulate dust and allergens throughout your home. Regular maintenance and inspections not only prolong the lifespan of your heating system but also enhance safety by helping to identify potential hazards like carbon monoxide leaks if you have a gas heater. 

Clean your gutters

Gutters play a vital role in directing rainwater and melting ice or snow from your roof, walls and foundation. When gutters are clogged with leaves, twigs and other debris, they cannot function properly, leading to water overflow. This can cause a range of problems, including water damage to your roof.

Hire a professional to give your gutters a thorough clean. A gutter specialist can also identify roof and gutter damage that should be repaired. If you choose to clean your gutters yourself, always use safety equipment such as gloves and non-slip shoes. You will also need a sturdy ladder, a bucket and a hose. However, be aware that working at height on a ladder can be risky.

Inspect your chimney, fireplace and smoke alarms

Inspecting and cleaning your fireplace and chimney before winter sets in is essential to both safety and efficiency. Over time, chimneys can accumulate creosote, a highly flammable byproduct of burning wood, which poses a significant fire hazard if not removed. Additionally, blockages caused by debris, animal nests, or structural damage can obstruct the airflow, leading to smoke and harmful gases like carbon monoxide backing up into your home. A thorough inspection and cleaning by a professional can identify and rectify these issues, helping ensure that your fireplace operates safely and efficiently throughout the winter months. 

Your smoke alarms are also vitally important to helping ensure safety in your home. Check that they are working properly by pressing the smoke alarm's test button to make sure it beeps. If the smoke alarm doesn't beep, or sounds laboured, then its battery may need changing. If you’re unsure of testing or replacing your smoke alarm batteries yourself, you can get a qualified professional to assist.

Technician checking and fixing smoke alarm

A working smoke alarm is your first line of defence in the event of a fire. Regularly check your smoke alarm is working properly.

Insulate your roof

Proper roof insulation serves as a barrier against the harsh cold and helps to reduce your energy bills. Heat naturally rises, and without adequate insulation, the warmth generated by your heating system will escape through the roof. This means your heating system has to work harder and consume more energy to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature. A properly insulated roof can help create a more even distribution of heat, eliminating cold spots and drafts. Doing this can also help preserve the structural integrity of your roof. Excessive heat loss can lead to the expansion and contraction of roofing materials, causing wear and tear over time.

Seal your windows and doors

Windows and doors are common sources of draughts, which can significantly lower your home's temperature. Applying caulking to windows will help seal any gaps or cracks around the window frame, which can significantly improve your home’s insulation during winter. These gaps and cracks are common culprits in letting in cold air and allowing warm air to escape. It’s important to choose the right type of caulk, such as latex for interior as it seals well around joints and gaps, and silicon for exterior as it is more durable and weather resistant. 

One of the ways you can seal doors is by installing weatherstripping around the edges of doors to prevent cold air from seeping in. Weatherstripping is a type of door seal typically made of materials like foam, felt, vinyl and metal, making it a versatile solution for many doors. Weatherstripping serves as a barrier that seals the gaps and cracks around doors, which are common entry points for drafts. Regularly inspecting and replacing worn-out weatherstripping helps to ensure that your home remains well-insulated against the winter chill. 

person sealing window gaps with sealent

Applying caulking to windows will help seal any gaps or cracks around the window frame. Image: Getty

Protect exterior timber

If you have a weatherboard house, it’s important to regularly inspect the timber for any signs of cracks or rotting. Extreme weather, such as storms, can damage the surface of the weatherboards. An experienced painter can not only paint the exterior walls, they can repair peeling or cracking paint, fill holes and cracks and reseal surfaces. It’s advisable to wash your weatherboard home once a year to removed dirt and dust and to repaint it every five to seven years to ensure the integrity of the boards and prevent rot. Weatherboards homes are also susceptible to termite damage, so maintain air flow under the house and keep dead foliage away from the foundations.

Protect your pipes

If pipes are exposed to temperatures of -6ºC or colder for prolonged periods they can freeze and burst, causing significant damage. The good news is that temperatures generally don't get cold enough in Victoria to cause frozen pipes. If you do have any concerns, you can insulate exposed pipes, especially those in unheated areas like the garage or basement. Using pipe insulation sleeves or wrapping them in heat tape can help maintain a stable temperature and prevent freezing. 

man painting house exterior

It is recommended that a timber house is repainted every five to seven years to maintain its integrity.

Longer-term investments to consider for future winters 

  • Insulate walls and floors: households typically save around 15 per cent on heating and cooling bills if the walls are insulated, according to energy.gov.au.

  • Double-glazed windows: replacing existing single-pane windows with double or even triple-glazed windows can cut heat loss or gain by nearly 30 per cent, says Sustainability Australia.

  • Install solar power: installing rooftop solar will help cut your energy costs. Solar panels and storage batteries are the big retrofit items that can make a real difference to a home’s efficiency.

  • Purchase energy efficient appliances: a cost-effective way to keep your home at a comfortable temperature is with an energy-efficient split-system heating. Choose a system with the highest number of energy-rating stars that is within your budget. 

  • Get advice on energy efficiency if renovating or building.

RACV Trades can help get your home in order.
Discover more →