Annual Hudson Valley home maintenance guide

Homes, like humans, need regular check-ups to stay healthy and functioning — particularly in a region known for extreme weather changes and pests like deer, mice and ticks. This regional-specific handy checklist is organized by season, making home care manageable so you can stay on top of admittedly unsexy tasks like chimney and gutter cleaning to better enjoy the spoils of life here year-round.

After the snow and ice melts, not only are the forsythia buds visible, so is any damage around the house. This is the season to give everything a checkup, from the roof to the basement, and outside, too.

Inspect the house and grounds: Check the exterior siding and paint to see if it’s peeling. Clear the patio or deck of any debris, and make sure there are no cracks or wobbly boards. Make sure the gutters are still clear and reattach any hanging sections and netting. Check attic windows and outbuildings, and clear fallen branches and trees.

Tools and machines: Now is the time to tune up both the lawnmower and snowblower, one to use and one to store. If you have a generator, get it checked and tuned up now also. Pull out your yard and garden tools and have them sharpened and made ready for spring work.

Garden and yard: Turn on the water to outside faucets, reseed the lawn, pull out the patio and porch furniture and wipe down, prepare and turn over flower and vegetable beds for planting.

Wood delivery: If you have a fireplace or woodstove, put in your wood order by the end of March, so you have six months for it to season. Additionally, if you wait too long, you might find yourself scrambling to find any firewood by summer. If you light a fire almost daily, but don’t depend on it to heat the whole house, 1.5 to 2 cords of wood will see you through. Be sure to order split hardwood. Most services will dump the split wood in the area where you want it, so after delivery, you will need to stack it and cover it so it’s seasoned by fall. Some will stack it for you for an additional fee, just ask or search for one that does.

Furnaces and chimneys: Have your oil furnace serviced and the chimney cleaned. If you have a different chimney for your fireplace or woodstove, have it checked annually and cleaned if there is creosote buildup – this will depend on how often you use it and if you bank your woodstove overnight.

Sump pump: Many homes in our area rely on sump pumps to keep basements dry throughout the year. Test it to make sure the motor is in good shape.

Bear proof your garbage: The black bears are out of hibernation and they’re hungry. Keep your garbage inside a shed or the garage from April to Thanksgiving and only put trash out the morning of collection day or wait until you take to the dump. Even bear-proof cans don’t always live up to their billing.

Deadhead spring blossoms: Many spring blooms, like regionally prevalent lilacs, benefit from deadheading after the blossoms put on their glorious show and turn brown.


Water plants early in the morning or in the evening during summer, and clear out invasive plants like barberry which serve as homes for deer ticks.

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Everything is green, in bloom and looking its best, and this should include your house. Hopefully summer is a time to relax and enjoy, but some simple home tasks are required.

Deer proofing: Your tender buds and flowers are a super meal for local deer. Protect flower beds with fences and deer spray, and any standalone prized bushes or trees like quince and magnolia with chicken wire surrounds.

Critters: Check the attic and basement for holes and places mice and other small animals can get in. Fix cracks and holes where you can and for problem spots, leave traps and check regularly to dispose of what you find. For more substantial issues, call a local pest control service.

Tick checks: Ticks come out in force in the summer. Assure ticks aren’t brought into the house by being vigilant about head-to-toe nightly tick checks of pets, kids and adults.

HVAC and air conditioners: If you have central air, have your system serviced; clean and install window units if you use them. Make sure filters are clean and they are tilted to drain out of the window.

Think about snow: Now is the time to find someone to plow your driveway and schedule them to come by at first snow. Know the length of your driveway, so they can quote you a price.

Gardening and mowing: Keep your lawn mowed – not too short – and invasive barberry bushes removed to keep the worst of the ticks at bay. Vegetable and flower gardens should be watered early in the morning or at dusk – don’t water during the day or the soil dries out much faster.


Rake leaves away from any drainage areas and away from the house to avoid flooding during the winter.

Rake leaves away from any drainage areas and away from the house to avoid flooding during the winter.

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The autumn colors in upstate New York are some of the most beautiful and vivid in the Northeast. And then they fall and fall and fall. Now is the time to get everything ship shape before winter sets in.

Clear the leaves: While mowing and mulching leaves into the lawn is recommended by lawn care experts and landscapers to use as natural fertilizer, it depends on how many leaves and if the volume will clog up your mower. If you have kids who love leaf piles, rake some up away from any drainage areas and away from the house. You don’t want a frozen leaf pile to cause flooding in winter. Make sure the gutters are clear and any other place they collect.

Rake the roof: Pine needles need to be cleared off the roof of the house, garage or outbuildings. Pine needle mat and clump easily, trapping moisture and growing moss which can damage your roof, according to roof experts. Use a special nylon leaf roof rake or a brush with bristles.

Check windows and doors: Now is the time to repair cracked windows, old caulking, replace storm windows, and make sure all the places where drafts come in are covered.

Gather ye kindling: While the weather is still mild, head into the woods to collect dried branches and break them into kindling. How often you use your woodstove or fireplace will determine how much kindling you need. For the first year, plan to fill at least one or several 33-gallon pails. You can always supplement with fire starters if you failed to gather enough and make a mental note for next year.

Split wood: If you plan to split your own wood, get started now. For the ambitious homeowner, splitting wood from downed trees saves dollars down the road. Use an ax or rent a splitter (some Home Depot and equipment rental companies offer them by the day) to cut your own wood a year in advance to dry out in time for next winter.

Save and store: Put away tools and machines. Take houseplants inside, store patio and porch furniture, turn off the water to outside faucets by November 1 – frozen pipes are no joke.

Fill the tanks: If you heat with oil, make sure you have deliveries scheduled. Check and fill your propane tanks to ensure your generator will kick in when you need it.


Cleaning gutters and raking the roof to remove snow can help prevent ice dams. 

Cleaning gutters and raking the roof to remove snow can help prevent ice dams. 

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The cold months are when we can enjoy sitting by the fire and staying indoors, but it’s important to be prepared for storms and bad weather.

Prep for snow: Buy and store bags of rock salt and at least two snow shovels, along with your snowblower. Keep the rock salt in a bucket by the front or back door so you can shovel it out onto the steps and paths.

Clear the roof: Prevent ice dams on the roof by clearing it with a roof rake or lay roof heat cables along the edges of the roof to melt the snow.

Clearing brush and bushes: If you have any serious clearing to do, winter is an ideal time to bring in heavy equipment like bulldozers when the ground is frozen to keep your lawns from getting torn up.

Don’t forget your septic tank. If you are not on a municipal sewer system and have a septic system, it has to be emptied and cleaned every three to five years, depending on how many people live in the house.