December can be a busy month for many homeowners, with decorating, baking, shopping and spending time with family.

December can be a busy month for many homeowners, with decorating, baking, shopping and spending time with family.

But that doesn't mean you can neglect routine home maintenance tasks. Here are some commonly overlooked duties that you may want to build into your schedule this month.

Monitor ice build-up in gutters and downspouts

If you spot an icicle hanging from your roof, then there's a chance you also have built-up ice in your gutter. When ice clogs your gutters, overflowing water can seep into your home, ruining ceilings, walls and other interior spaces.

Don't try to chip the ice out of the gutter, because it will end up causing more damage. Instead, melt ice dams by filling pantyhose with calcium chloride pellets and laying it perpendicular to the gutter. This will melt ice quickly, and with fewer complications than other processes.

Inspect all interior plugs and switches

Lights, trains and other fun holiday electronics can easily overload an electrical outlet. Avoid holiday fires by inspecting all interior plugs and switches.

When it comes to light strands, the United States Fire Administration (USFA) advocates: not linking more than three strands, connecting strings of lights to an extension cord, then plugging them into an outlet. Monitor the temperature of wires because they shouldn't be warm to the touch.

Check and maintain fire extinguisher

It's important to make sure your fire extinguisher is in working order.

Start with the pressure gauge. The needle should be within the recommended level, typically shown as a green area.

Also be sure to inspect the hose and nozzle for dents, cracks and other defects.

Grind ice cubes in garbage disposal to sharpen blades

Over time, your garbage disposal collects all kinds of sludge and debris.

One of the best ways to clear unwanted residue is by grinding ice cubes in your disposal for about 10 seconds. For even better results, add a cup of salt or some vinegar.

If your disposal smells, grind orange, grapefruit, lemon and other citrus peels with water. The citric acid will neutralize the odor and leave a pleasant citrus smell in your kitchen.

Store firewood at least 30 feet away from the house

Why store firewood away from the house? Firewood is often home to small wood-eating insects that can do significant damage to your home. If you want to avoid termites and other small bugs, don't stack firewood next to your house.

Instead, the best way to store firewood is by stacking it with the bark facing upwards. It's also helpful to stack it on a palette to keep the wood from absorbing moisture from the ground, and so air can circulate better. Finally, cover the pile with a tarp. Canvas or plastic works best.

For more information on how to maintain your home during the crazy month of December, call your local agent.

Harley E. Rouda Jr. is the CEO of Real Living, one of the nation's fastest-growing real estate companies.