New year, new homeowner: Your new-homeowner checklist

Key tips to remember

  • If you live in a cold climate, take precautions to keep your pipes from freezing.
  • Stay on top of yardwork — jumping into action as soon as temps begin to rise will pay dividends.
  • Don’t skip preventive maintenance, including your fireplace and chimney cleanings.
  • Know where your shut-off valves are located for emergency purposes.
  • If a task is above your head, don’t hesitate to call in the professionals.
Maintenance and Repairs

If you’re like most people, you’re probably no stranger to New Year’s resolutions. Maybe you challenge yourself to pick up a new skill, drop a not-so-great habit, or stay in closer contact with family and friends. Whatever you normally set your sights on for the coming year each December, the reality is that 2020 might have forced you to shift your focus a little.

Many of us spent the majority of 2020 at home, whether we wanted to or not. And even though major purchases and financial investments probably aren’t the first things that come to mind when you conjure up the word “pandemic,” the real estate market didn’t take the massive hit (for the most part) that many experts were worried about.

In fact, you may be in the segment of the population that was able to take advantage of historically low mortgage interest rates to purchase a home of your very own. And if that’s you, congratulations! Owning a home is great — and it can be extraordinarily stressful at times.

Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place! At Cinch Home Services, we are dedicated to helping you be the best, most prepared homeowner you can be. And to get 2021 off to a successful start (well, when it comes to all things home-related, at least), we’ve prepared a new-homeowner checklist. Keep reading to learn the tasks and home-related resolutions you need to be mindful of year-round!

1. Don’t let your pipes freeze.

Frozen pipes can spell disaster for your home. Water expands when it freezes, which can crack pipes. When the temperature rises, all that (formerly) frozen water ends up where it doesn’t need to be.

Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to avoid frozen pipes.

First, shut off the supply to any outdoor spigots as soon as the weather turns chilly. Be sure to open each spigot to drain any water left in the lines after you turn off the main supply. If temperatures stay below freezing for extended periods of time where you live, give yourself additional peace of mind by shielding outdoor spigots from the cold with an insulated cover.

Next, move inside your house to protect any pipes that run along exterior walls. Pipe insulation is easy to find at your local home improvement store, and it can mean the difference between a smooth winter season and a chaotic, expensive one.

If you go on vacation during the winter, don’t turn your heat down too low. Saving energy and keeping your utility bills in check is important, but if the temperature inside your house gets much below 55 degrees Fahrenheit, your pipes run a much higher risk of freezing. Keep the thermostat at a reasonable setting, and ask a neighbor or friend to check in on your house periodically.

2. Stay on top of yardwork.

Your yard probably looks a little... well, barren during the winter. It’s easy to get lulled into complacency when the grass isn’t growing before your very eyes, and trees and bushes are devoid of any green.

And in the dead of winter, there isn’t much you really need to do when it comes to your yard. As soon as temperatures start to rise, however, be ready to jump into action.

  • Give your lawnmower a thorough once-over (or have it professionally serviced) in late winter or early spring.
  • Weed planting beds while they’re bare and easily accessible.
  • Jot down your plans for the spring. Want a vegetable garden this summer? Now is the time to purchase seeds.
  • Start pruning trees and bushes.

Yardwork in the cold might not be your idea of a fun time, but a little work now will pay dividends in the spring and summer — as long as you keep the momentum going, of course!

3. Don’t assume your fireplace and chimney are safe to use.

Fireplaces and chimneys — both gas and wood-burning — can look perfectly fine to the naked eye and still be incredibly dangerous to use. Unless your home is newly constructed, always have a professional inspect your fireplace and chimney before you light a fire.

Wood-burning fireplaces in older homes are of the most concern, though wood-burning fireplaces in relatively new homes can also pose problems. The most common issue is creosote buildup. Creosote is a byproduct of soot, in essence. If wood doesn’t burn cleanly, that smoky residue can condense inside the chimney and eventually cause a chimney fire.

The first stage of creosote buildup is hard to see, but it must be removed before you use your fireplace. Second- and third-stage creosote buildup is a serious problem and can even indicate that a chimney fire has already occurred.

Have your chimney and fireplace inspected and cleaned on an annual basis. These services are in high demand in the winter, so timing is everything to ensure you get a quick response. Try to schedule your fireplace and chimney inspection and cleaning during the summer, before everyone else has the same idea.

4. Know how to stop a home disaster in its tracks.

Before you start getting comfy in your new home, there are a few vital things you need to know:

  • The location of the home’s main water shut-off
  • The location of the home’s main natural gas shut-off, if applicable
  • The locations of the home’s electrical shut-off, as well as the main electrical panel and any subpanels

If you know where all of these things are, you will be able to halt almost any major disaster. Every shut-off valve should be clearly tagged and labeled, but take the time to familiarize yourself with each one — as well as which way to turn the valve to accomplish your goal.

5. Don’t opt out of preventive maintenance.

Preventive maintenance can feel like an expensive drag. Those HVAC service appointments might seem like a semiannual inconvenience, and who actually has their electrical system looked over on a regular basis?

You’re not alone! But in those moments when you’re tempted to cancel that standing service appointment, try to remember the wise words of Benjamin Franklin: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Your HVAC system might be running like a champ right now, but unless a pro takes a look a couple of times per year, you’d never catch small issues until they turn into major (and majorly expensive) problems. The same goes for your home’s other important systems. You wouldn’t avoid routine oil changes on your car, right? Don’t do the equivalent to your house.

6. Know when a task is over your head.

There are plenty of home maintenance tasks that you can easily handle on your own. There’s really no need to hire someone to replace your furnace filter or replace a basic sink faucet, for example.

When it comes to more involved projects, however, it’s important to know when to step aside and let the professionals run the show. Electrical work, complex plumbing tasks, and anything involving your roof should always be jobs for experienced professionals.

Settling into a new house and making it your home is a lot of fun, especially after the bulk of the boxes are unpacked and out of sight. But as much fun as you’ll have decorating and nesting, homeownership involves a lot of responsibility.

Stay on top of routine tasks to ensure that house maintenance tasks don’t pile up and get unmanageable. Few house-related issues improve with time, so the quicker you can deal with little problems here and there, the better off you’ll be in the long run. And don’t forget that the professionals are here to help! Home protection plans can take a lot of stress off your shoulders, and at Cinch Home Services, we offer a range of plans to meet your needs. Check us out, follow us on social media, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date with us.


The information in this article is intended to provide guidance on the proper maintenance and care of systems and appliances in the home. Not all of the topics mentioned are covered by our home warranty or maintenance plans. Please review your home warranty contract carefully to understand your coverage.