Watch CBSN Live

Your 2012 winter home maintenance checklist

It's December, and if you're like many Americans, you're kicking yourself right about now for putting off weatherproofing your home for winter. Freezing temperatures and snow are right around the corner (if you haven't experienced them already) and correctly winterizing your home can mean the difference between a peaceful holiday season and total disaster.

Check out this winter home maintenance checklist for tips on weatherproofing your house:

Clean your gutters: If you haven't done so already, now is the time to remove the debris from your gutters and roof. Backed up gutters means water won't drain, and sitting water can lead to big problems - especially in cold weather climates.

Matt Bordonaro of Travelers Insurance says many water-damage claims are made after sitting water leaks down into the walls of a home. "Any backed up water can get under the shingles. The damage might not even be visible - the shingles can re-adhere after the water is already under them and into the house." Make sure your gutters are clean so they can divert water away from, instead of into, your home.

Oprah's Chicago apartment for rent
Housing market forecast grim, survey reveals
Real estate trends: College town real estate

Inspect your heating system: According to Chris Nixon, vice president of property claims at Travelers Insurance, the leading causes of home fires are heating-system related. Whether you use a furnace, space heater or pellet stove, maintenance is important to keep it working properly. If you maintain your heating unit regularly, check for anything out of the ordinary. If not, call in an expert to make sure everything is in working order.

Another easy way to avoid total havoc this holiday? Follow the directions on all heating appliances. Nixon says this simple step is one of the most important things you can do to avoid home fires. Don't use space heaters near curtains, for example, and use wood-burning fireplaces for burning wood only.

Make sure your home is properly insulated: The benefits of proper insulation are substantial. Not only does a properly insulated home reduce heating costs, it also keeps water from damaging your home. If pipes are not properly insulated they can freeze and burst, causing considerable water damage throughout your home. This costs time and money - two things most people don't have enough of over the holidays.

A well-insulated attic is another key to avoiding major damage. According to Travelers, warm air can rise through the attic and cause ice on the roof to thaw when the attic is not properly insulated. The water then flows down the eaves and re-freezes, causing an ice dam. This dam prevents water from draining off the roof, and that water then backs up under the shingles and into your home.

Check out the EnergyStar website for the recommended level of insulation in your region of the country.

These tips are helpful for winterizing your home this holiday, but year-round home maintenance is key to preventing disasters that could drain your bank account.

View CBS News In