Exterior maintenance checklists for fall & winter

With the soils frozen and the ground often covered with snow and ice, work on the outside of the home is limited toward preparations for the harsh winter. Our exterior winter home maintenance checklist provides maintenance tips to protect shrubs and other plantings throughout the cold, harsh months. Go through snow and ice removal tools and chemicals and make sure supplies are ready for the snowfalls. Take a few precautions to also guard the home against ice build-up that could cause damage to the home if untreated. Prepare and put up exterior decorations early and enjoy the holidays.


  • Winterize yard tools and store them until spring when they can be maintained before the weather warms.
  • Spray, wipe, and clean soil and grass clippings off of lawn mower, string trimmer, hedge trimmer, and other yard power tools to prevent rust formation.
  • Use a brush, putty knife, and water to clean blades. Remember to remove the spark plug before beginning work.
  • Scrub rust spots off of the equipment with a wire brush and spray the area with rust-inhibiting enamel.
  • Drain the oil and gasoline tanks.
  • Lubricate all hinges and moving parts on each power tool per the manufacturers’ recommendations.
  • Massage Tung oil into wooden handles to avert cracking during the cold months.
  • Store the tools in clean, safe places.
  • Avoid storing unused gasoline tanks in a garage or shed over the winter months.
  • Provide shelter and protection to winterize shrubs and plants that are susceptible to harsh winter winds and temperatures.
  • Water shrubs once weekly during the winter as long as the ground is not frozen.
  • Use black mulch or ground up leaves to cover and insulate the base of the shrubs.
  • Put burlap around shrubs to protect them from harsh winds while allowing water and sunlight to penetrate.
  • Apply a wax spray designed for shrub leaves once monthly during the winter months as long as the temperatures were above 40° F.
  • Tie up the tops of tall, fragile plants, i.e. arbor vitae, with jute twine to prevent snow load damage. Then, cover the entire shrub with burlap or composted leaves.


  • Prepare for snow removal with tools and deicers organized and ready for the first wave of snow and ice.
  • Protect plant beds located near paths and driveways from snow shovel damage by driving down wooden stakes around the plant beds as shoveling guides.
  • Purchase shovels suited to the user, i.e. a bucket width that is no larger than the homeowner can handle when it is fully loaded with snow. Consider purchasing shovels that have s-shaped ergonomic handles.
  • Stock up on soft pusher shovels or brooms for soft building surfaces such as wood decks.
  • Refresh the supply of deicer chemicals such as magnesium chloride or calcium chloride as rock salts are hard on plants and tend to break down concrete.
  • Purchase a snow blower to remove snow from large, flat areas.
  • Add snow guards to the roof in climates where excess snow falls and slides off the roof especially if the roof has metal panels.
  • Install plug-in snow melting devices for homes in areas that are regularly hit with snow and ice through the winter.
  • Attach a heated cable to the inside of gutters to prevent ice formations within.
  • Install heated cables in a zigzag pattern at the edge of the roof to melt snow and ice before it reaches the gutter.
  • Purchase an electric front-door mat that melts up to 2″ of snow.
  • Install electric mats to exterior steps to melt up to 2″ of snow. The step mats connect to each other.
  • Plug in all snow melting devices to GFCI outlets only.


  • Prevent ice dam formations quickly and efficiently because they can lead to serious home damage. Ice dams are caused from trapped heat under the roof above an eave that is freezing, so the snow melts and then refreezes as an ice dam.
  • Install heated cables to prevent ice dam formations. Take care to keep the cables turned on until all the snow has melted from the roof.
  • Add a box fan to the attic at the area where melted ice is leaking through. Sufficient air circulation will stop ice dam formations.
  • Remove snow and loose ice with a roof rake from the edge of the roof while standing on the ground.
  • When the weather warms, make plans to permanently increase ventilation and insulation within the attic.
  • Regularly remove snow and ice throughout the season.
  • Periodically remove snow and ice from the base of foundation walls to avert the concrete from freeze / thaw damage.
  • Store up a liquid magnesium chloride blend to spray on paths and driveways a few hours before a storm hits to help melt snow and prevent ice from bonding to the surfaces.
  • Store deicers in sealed buckets and off the floor to keep them dry.
  • Add silicone spray to the snow blower’s exit chute before each use. Allow the blower to run after each use to clear out the machine from excess water that may later freeze.
  • Evaluate all exterior light fixtures.
  • Replace all blown-out bulbs.
  • Replace the fixture if the temperatures and weather permit.
  • Hang Christmas decorations outdoors before the weather becomes harsh and the home is snow-covered.
  • Gather up interior and exterior decorations in one central location.
  • Take inventory of the supplies.
  • Replace any burned out bulbs.
  • Verify extension cords to make sure they are all rated appropriately for the Christmas lights supplies. Also verify extension cords used outside are rated for outdoor use.
  • Purchase new decoration supplies for the season early to avoid empty shelves.


  • Trap outside snow at the foot of the door before allowing its mush to travel throughout the home.
  • Install a runner or large mat inside the front door to trap wet, muddy, slushy shoes and boots before tracking through the house.
  • Install a coat and mittens station near the main point of entrance
  • Build a temporary car shelter for the winter to protect the vehicles from snow, ice, and wind. A shelter will also prevent the need for scraping snow and ice off each morning.
  • Purchase and install the temporary car shelter kit.
  • Check with local municipalities regarding building codes for temporary structures.
  • Take down the shelter as the weather warms.

Source Rona

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