Holiday Home Survival Guide

Holiday Home Survival Guide

American Society of Home Inspectors’ Top 10 Tips

 for Busy Homeowners

Surviving the holidays is hard enough without having to think about how to care for your home.  For a busy homeowner, remembering to clean out the gutters and downspouts may be at the end of the weekend “to-do” list, however, it’s the first line of defense against the harsh winter weather.  To help put home care into perspective during the holidays, the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) created a top 10 list to give busy homeowners a snapshot of the items they can address today to ensure the safety of their home and family tomorrow.

“Homes are the centers of activity during the holidays,” said Frank Lesh, 2007 ASHI president.  “You can’t take them for granted or take unnecessary risks — even if you want your house to be the brightest, most festive on the street.  By following these simple tips you can help protect your home against the rigors of winter and the pitfalls of the season.”

Top 10 Holiday Survival Tips

According to the American Institute of Stress, 54 percent of Americans are concerned about the level of stress in their everyday lives.  To help reduce holiday stress for busy homeowners, ASHI compiled the following tips for holiday home survival: 

Water Sources

  1. Clean your gutters and downspouts – Gutters and downspouts play an important role in diverting water away from foundation walls.  Clean them before the winter weather sets in to keep your basement dry and leak free.
  2. Drain exterior water lines – Prevent frozen pipes by removing, draining and storing outdoor hoses.  Open the outside faucets to allow water to drain and leave them open so that any water remaining in the pipe can expand without causing the pipe to break.
  3. Treat your garbage disposal to a hot water bath – Cooking for large family gatherings or holiday parties can put extra stress on everyday appliances such as garbage disposals.  Prevent plumbing problems and costly repairs by flushing the garbage disposal with one pot of hot water and a half cup of baking soda before and after the holidays.


Fire, Ventilation and Heat

  1. Inspect your home heating systems – Nearly half (44%) of all home heating fires occur in December.  Remember to schedule a professional inspection of your home’s heating systems, including furnaces, boilers, fireplaces and water heaters before winter weather sets in.  In addition, stock up on furnace filters and change them regularly.  If your home is heated by a hot-water radiator, bleed the valves by opening them slightly.  When water appears, close them.
  2. Recaulk and weather-strip your doors and windows – According to the Department of Energy, the cost to heat an average home is approximately $1,400 annually.  Save money and energy by checking caulking for decay around doors, windows, corner boards and joints.  Recaulk and add weather-stripping as needed.
  3. Trim back tree limbs – Carbon monoxide poisoning is most common during winter months, particularly because of increased use of fireplaces and furnaces.  Protect your family by identifying overgrown tree limbs hanging over the chimney or flue, as blockages could affect the draft and create higher carbon monoxide levels within a home.  Homeowners should also consider installing a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector.  Batteries should be replaced in the spring and fall.
  4. Keep a fire extinguisher handy – Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the United States.  Make sure to place your fire extinguishers away from potential fire sources.  If you’re cooking in the kitchen, for instance, place the fire extinguisher away from the stove to ensure that you can reach the extinguisher in the event of an emergency.


  1. Test your electrical circuit shut-off switch – Plug outdoor decorations into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs).  Ensure that the circuit shuts-off properly by using a nightlight or radio.  Click the circuit button.  If it clicks and the nightlight or radio stays on, the circuit has not shut off.  Consider contacting an ASHI Certified Inspector to evaluate the problem.
  2. Practice ladder safety – Falls account for an average of 5.1 million injuries and nearly 6,000 deaths a year.  Before you hang the Christmas lights, wrap pipe insulation around your ladder beams (the vertical members that the rungs are attached to).  The insulation will help prevent the ladder from slipping and provide insulation against electrical shock.
  3. Use extension cords sparingly – Remember to avoid using extension cords when possible.  If you use them, do not run them across hallways or doorways, under carpeting or furniture or through walls.  Never staple them in place.

Note: ASHI encourages homeowners who are unfamiliar with or uncomfortable performing any of the tasks listed above to hire a professional. 

Source: American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI)

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