Winter is fast approaching and now is the time to make sure your home is prepared for the cold months ahead. Here are three tasks to put at the top of your To Do list.

Have Your Chimney Cleaned

Creosote build-up is the culprit behind most chimney fires. That’s why it’s critical to have your chimney and pipes thoroughly inspected and cleaned at least two times each year—especially before the start of the winter season.

What exactly is creosote, you may wonder? Creosote forms when gasses that are released during the wood-burning process combine and condense into a liquid or hard layer that coats the inside of your chimney. It can also take the form of a fluffy substance that can obstruct your piping. In any of its incarnations creosote is combustible and can cause a dangerous fire.

Equip Your Home With Carbon Monoxide Detectors and Smoke Detectors

You may already have smoke detectors installed in your home, but if you don’t there’s no time like the present. Be aware, though, that carbon monoxide detectors are just as important. During the winter months you’re most likely to consistently use your wood-burning fireplace, and it can be one of the most dangerous producers of carbon monoxide in a home. Over 400 Americans die from carbon monoxide poisoning each year, according to the CDC. So be sure to install carbon monoxide detectors near your wood-burning fireplace, and in bedroom areas.

Fortify Your Home’s Exterior

Outdoor temperatures are only getting colder and that means small animals and insects are seeking shelter and warmth. That’s why it’s important to check the outside of your house for any gaps or spaces that may be large enough for rodents to gain entry. Fix any breaches you find. While you’re at it, be sure to cover exposed exterior vents with hardware cloth. Also, when your fireplace isn’t in use make sure the flue is closed, since it can be an easy entry point for squirrels, birds, and bats.

On your exterior doors consider installing door sweeps to keep insects and small animals from getting inside.