Mark Roemer image of a nativity scene.

Things to Do Around the House Before the Holidays

Are you hosting this year’s holiday celebrations? Don’t worry, Mark Roemer knows you’ve got it. Run through our home vacation checklist to make sure your place is as ready as it can be before your friends and family invade your home.

Clean the Microwave

During this holiday, all of your appliances take a pounding, so make sure they start on the right foot. Take the spinning tray out of the microwave and rinse it or pop it into the dishwasher. Wipe the interior of the microwave down with a soft cloth and a little soapy water. Ensure that the air vents are free of dust and grease.

If the microwave is an over-the-range model and offers general ventilation for the kitchen, its vent surfaces should be cleaned incredibly thoroughly of greasy dust. Try using a soft cloth moistened with an ammonia glass cleaner if you do not have a spray degreaser on hand.

But Don’t Clean the Oven

The self-clean cycle is complicated in your oven, and the last thing you want is for it to malfunction right before the big day. Give a quick cleaning around the top burner elements and let the rest be. Stop the big cleanup until the comfort of the leftovers is nestled in the fridge. By then, he’ll need it.

Make Sure the Refrigerator Is Ready

Once you have big holiday meals together, you can open and shut the fridge more times a day than you usually do in a week. Right now, here’s what you can do to ensure the unit survives the holidays:

· Tighten screws on any door handle that are loose.

· Fix door gaskets that are loose or misaligned. Take a nut driver or socket and wrench, loosen all the screws of the hex head gasket, reposition and retighten the gasket using a putty knife to maneuver it into place. After the holidays, try adding a new gasket.

· Clear blocked vents for freezers. In the freezer compartment, reposition the food to clear the space around the vents.

· Transparent cold air vents. Place food in the fresh food compartment to allow cold air to pass more easily from the freezer. By placing all beverages on ice in a cooler, you obtain desperately needed space.

· Replace burned-out lights with an appliance bulb, usually a clear 40-watt bulb (a $3 item in hardware stores and home centers) for appliance usage. After its replacement, if the fresh food compartment is still dark, that usually indicates a failed door switch.

Prepare the Vacuum Cleaners

On these machines, empty canisters or replace bags position them for rapid deployment in a hall closet or other spot.

Clean Your Drip Coffeemakers

You can be unpleasantly shocked if you haven’t recently tested the drip opening (and the area around it). Unplug and turn the coffeemaker upside down. Clean with a soft cloth and a warm water and dish detergent solution if the drip opening appears like it’s coated in asphalt. It could take many attempts to get rid of the crud.

Inspect the Dishwasher

At the bottom of the washtub, search the strainer/drain area (it’s positioned under the spray arm). Remove food debris and clean away traces of detergent. Remove utensils from the bottom of the dishwasher tub and any plastic or glass pieces that you find. Wipe off the door gasket and around the door trim with the detergent residue, mold, and slime, as well as the latch arm that locks the door.

Check the Oven Temperature

This is the ideal opportunity to treat yourself to a more robust test instrument: a battery-powered infrared thermometer if you don’t have an oven thermometer to check the appliance’s temperature. The Heat Seeker is a point and shoots diagnostic tools from General Tools. The laser aims directly at the surface that you want to calculate. You can use it for testing heating/cooling equipment after you’re finished analyzing the range and for any number of repairs around the building, such as whether the dryer is getting warm enough. It is flexible and packs a -4 to 9051⁄4 degrees Fahrenheit capacity diagnostic punch. That’s a lot of scope for a test tool worth $60.

Change the oven temperature range, if necessary, using the instructions in the owner’s manual or using an appliance repair manual. It’s nothing more complex often than changing the temperature dial, so it points appropriately.

Sharpen Those Knives

It’s quick to tune up kitchen knives, so don’t settle for bird hacking when you can carve it like a pro. The conventional approach calls for the long axis of the blade to be laid at 90 degrees to the long axis of the sharpening stone and then pushed with a gently curving arc down the stone’s length. Keep the knife so that it is about 22 degrees from the surface of the block.

You can tighten loose wooden knife handles while you’re at it by tapping them using a center punch hit with a ball-peen hammer in the center of their rivet. The mechanism slightly stretches the rivet and tightens the handle.

Tune Up Cabinets

All it takes to whip loose parts into form is a few minutes with a screwdriver. Loose cabinet hinges tighten. Tighten the screws that are connected to the cabinet wall and the door. Tighten the loose drawer and door pulls and drawer slides while you’re at it. Now’s the time to take out some of the clutter if kitchen drawers are over-stuffed and liable to jam in the middle of the cooking frenzy.

Take Care of the Toilet

Not to get too graphic here, but toilets see a stricter workout than any other house fixture, especially when visitors pull up a seat. Now is the time to take care of lousy flushing behavior by removing the flapper valve or the whole flush system or a toilet flushing by itself. Try tightening the mounting bolts if the toilet rocks slightly. Leave well enough alone if you remove the bolt caps, notice badly corroded fasteners (don’t be surprised), and let go until after the holidays.

Replace Burned-Out Lightbulbs

Pay careful attention to the front entrance and walkway lights that lead to the front door or other busy entrances.

Make Your Home Slip-Proof

Fix loose treads on front walkways on exterior stairs, flexible deck boards, or loose pavers. While you’re at it, take care of those tripping/falling risks, like using double-sided tape to hold slippery rugs down. On loose handrails, tighten up the mounting screws. To clear walkways and the road, buy a de-icer.

Bring in Firewood

Before lighting the happy holiday flame, stack it and let it dry for a few days. Before the big day, test-run gas fireplaces, mainly if they haven’t been used since last winter. Split kindling safely for a holiday fire. Using a scrap of wood with a roofing nail driven through its end to keep the kindling in place. To hold it in place and to keep your hand secure away from the hatchet or hammer, stab the nail into the kindling you’re splitting.


To avoid dangerous falls, make all child protection plans in advance, such as covering electrical outlets, moving lamps and vases away from table edges, and making arrangements to block stairways.

A Final Safety Checklist

· Changing batteries for the smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector.

· Keep jumper cables, particularly if you expect a big crowd, on hand. It often seems like someone has a low battery, and it’s usually a vehicle that traps anyone in the driveway.

· Double-check your kit for first aid. To treat kitchen-related cuts, you should at least have burn cream, ice packs, and bandages.

· In the kitchen, have a fire extinguisher handy.

I, Mark Roemer, wish you a happy holiday season.