Here Comes Santa Claus: How to Safely Prepare Your House for the Winter Holidays

Here Comes Santa Claus: How to Safely Prepare Your House for the Winter Holidays

Time to start singing “Frosty the Snowman” and “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.” Winter weather may be upon us soon, and Christmas is only four weeks away!

Preparing home for winter


Growing up, my family always welcomed the winter season and the holidays by putting up a Christmas tree with a train around it, hanging stockings on the mantle, and stringing lights on the house. I always begged my parents to line the very tip of the roof with lights, but they never did

If your family is like ours, you’re ready to put up the Christmas decorations the minute you clear away the Thanksgiving turkey. As you get started, I want to give you some important tips to make sure your house comes through the other side of winter in great shape. Not only does the winter requires a different kind of property maintenance than the summer, but there’s also a few safety hazards to be aware of as you put up your trees and lights. Believe it or not, in 2016, there were nearly 14,700 ER-treated injuries caused by Christmas decorating in the US.


Now, with my wife and our two kids (the oldest is pictured in the photo), we put up our own Christmas tree, stockings, and lights and decorate the lawn with Rudolph and light-up candy canes. And we (read me) always line the tip of our roof with Christmas lights. I’ve even got video proof.

Home Maintenance During the Winter

Clean out chimneys

From 2012 to 2014, an average of 22,300 house fires were caused by chimneys and fireplaces each year. It’s generally agreed that chimneys should be cleaned out and inspected once a year to prevent a buildup of creosote. Creosote is an accumulation of residue from past fires, and it’s the primary cause of chimney fires. If you prefer to let a professional do the job, you can hire a chimney sweep.

Test smoke alarms

Make sure you have a smoke alarm for each floor of your house and that it’s working properly. Change the batteries if you haven’t replaced them in the past year.

Clean Gutters

Even if your house isn’t surrounded by trees, your gutters will still get clogged with leaves and debris during the autumn season. The leaves trap rainwater in place, and the water will freeze during winter, which puts pressure on the gutters and causes them to sag or fall.

Blow out sprinklers

Any water left inside your irrigation pipes can freeze during winter and burst your pipes. Rent an air compressor from a local hardware store and use it to blow any remaining water out of your pipes. (More details here.) You can also hire someone to do this for you.

Save energy

There are many ways you can save energy this winter, several having to do with proper equipment maintenance and making sure your house isn’t leaking heat anywhere.


A few specific ideas:

  • Keep fireplace damper closed when fireplace isn’t being used
  • Service your heating system early
  • Add caulking around your doors and windows
  • Turn thermostat down during nights or when you’re out of the house
  • Use LED holiday lights


Decorating Safety Hazards (for you and your home)

Keep trees away from heat sources

From 2012 to 2014, an average of 100 house fires and a property loss of $15.7 million occurred annually from Christmas trees alone. Set your tree up a safe distance away from vents, fireplaces, and heaters and keep the tree well watered. If you’re buying an artificial tree, buy one that’s fire-resistant for added protection (but remember that it’s not fireproof).

Plug lights in safely, inside and out

Examine all your lights and extension cords for bare wires, broken sockets, cracks, or frays. When buying new lights, only buy those that have been tested or certified for safety (the label should tell you if they have).


According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, you should “use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord.” Make sure you turn off all lights, inside and out, before going to bed each night.


Also, never use electric lights on metallic trees. If any of the lights are faulty, they could charge the tree and electrocute anyone who touches it.

Wrapping up [the gifts]

Sorry, couldn’t resist.


For more decorating safety tips, read this guide by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. And for more property maintenance advice for the winter, read this checklist from Lowe’s.


If you’re finding my weekly tips helpful, join my email list to receive the link to my latest posts in your inbox. I’ll be sharing more real-time advice about home ownership, buying, and selling during the upcoming weeks.


From our family to yours, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a happy time decorating!


Your friend in real estate,

John Cordeira








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