When buying a home, most people probably first think of financial responsibility. Just like regular oil changes for your car keep your engine happy and healthy, keeping up with regular home maintenance tasks will keep you from future headaches and wasted money.
It can be intimidating to think about these various jobs, especially if you’re a new homeowner. It’s a long list – there’s no denying that. The good news is that you can do the majority of it on your own without much experience. Google is your best friend, and if you really get stuck, call up your local handyman to help you out.
In order to maximize your efficiency and actually get all of these duties done, you might want to create a home maintenance calendar for yourself. Whether online or on paper, you can jot down small, regular tasks for each weekend and not be too overwhelmed. We’ve listed jobs that need to be done monthly, quarterly, and biannually. We’ve also given you a list of duties to be completed seasonally. Not every expert agrees as to which task needs to be done in which season, so this isn’t a black-and-white list, necessarily. Do what works for you and your schedule, and as long as all these things get accomplished, your home will be happy for years and years to come.
- Inspect, and possibly change out HVAC filters. Many experts will say to change the filter systems monthly, but that’s not always necessary. For smaller families without pets or allergies, you’ll likely be okay changing the filters every 2-3 months. If the filter is dirty, change it out, otherwise inspect it again next month. I’ve also been told by handymen to go with cheaper filter systems and replace them more often versus going with expensive filters. (You can also get it out of your mind by using a delivery service like Cleaner Filters.)
- Clean kitchen sink disposal. There are a bunch of ways to do this, but the handiest and the best all-around solution seems to be vinegar ice cubes. Put some vinegar in an ice tray and let it freeze, then run the ice through the disposal. It freshens it, but as a bonus, ice sharpens the blades.
- Clean range hood filters. If you’ve never thought of doing this, you’re in for a real “treat” when you get that filter off the hood to clean it for the first time. The Family Handyman suggests simply utilizing a degreaser from an auto parts store mixed with hot water. Let the filtration system sit for a few minutes, rinse it off, and you’re good to go.
- Inspect your fire extinguisher(s). We’ll assume you have and know how to use an extinguisher. This inspection doesn’t require much: ensure it has easy access (not being blocked by a garbage can or anything else), that the gauge shows adequate pressure, and that it has no visible signs of wear and tear.
- Test smoke/carbon dioxide detectors. Another simple task; your detectors should have a “test” button. If the alarm sounds, you’re all set. If not, replace batteries immediately and test again. If it still doesn’t sound, it’s possible there’s simply corrosion on the battery terminal, and it won’t detect new batteries. Clean it and try again. If it still doesn’t work, you’ll likely need a fresh detector.
- Test garage door auto-reverse feature. In 1993, federal law required all garage area doors to have this feature after multiple child deaths. Test every month by placing a 2×4 on the ground where the door would close. It should reverse after a second or so when the door hits the wood. Also test the photo-electric sensors if you have them by putting something in front of them (not your body). If the entranceway doesn’t immediately go back up, you have a problem.
- Run water and flush toilets in unused spaces. This mostly applies to guest bathrooms, or any other sinks/drinking water sources you don’t use on a regular basis. The idea is to prevent grime or any other kind of build up. Regularly running a little bit of water through will prevent this.
- Check drinking water softener, add salt if needed. You shouldn’t need to add salt on a monthly basis, but better to check anyway, as it only takes about 5 seconds.
- Test your water heater’s pressure relief valve. This will prevent mineral and corrosion buildup, which safeguards against leaks. It will also help your heater run more efficiently.
Give your house a deep clean. Take one Saturday every six months with your whole family, and give the whole house a proper deep clean. Appliances, windows, dusting every nook and cranny (including the basement), etc. Keeping things clean rather than letting dirt/grime/dust build-up over years and years will help keep the home in tip-top shape.
- Replace batteries in smoke/carbon dioxide detectors. I’d never heard this before, actually. I just assumed you changed it out when it started giving you the low battery beeping noise. This tip was in everything we researched, however. With something as important as this, you can’t be too careful, and batteries won’t break your bank. Change ‘em out every half a year.
- Vacuum your refrigerator coils. I actually learned this tip from a refrigerator repairman, and our research confirmed it. The fridge can use up to 15 percent of your home’s total power, so you want it running as efficiently as possible. Over time, the coils get dirty and your refrigerator requires more juice. You can save up to $100 a year by doing this, and it’s not at all a difficult job.
Annually (Organized by Season)
Spring Spring is a big month for home maintenance. They don’t call it “Spring Cleaning” for nothing. Especially focus on the exterior of your home as it’s just gone through winter and is preparing for summer heat, and in some parts of the country, brutal humidity.
- Check the exterior drainage. Will rain water flow away from the house? Puddles should not stand around your home for more than 24 hours. If water stays, or moves toward your foundation, you have a few options. First, check your gutters. It could be a bad spout or a loose connection there; they may also just need cleaning. Second, you can grade the area around your home yourself with some dirt; this has worked just fine for me in the past. Third, for pavement, you can have professionals come out and raise it so it drains away from your home.
- Clean out gutters. They’ve likely accumulated leaves from the fall and grime/sediment from the winter snows and/or rains.
- Inspect the surface of your house. Is any paint chipping? Is any siding damaged from winter? Are there any holes in your brick? Take a close look all around your home, and make any repairs as needed. Also be sure to check the foundation for any cracks. A good silicone/caulk can fix a lot of your problems.
- Get your air conditioning system ready for summer; consider having it serviced. This one really depends on your individual home, and even which part of the country you live in. Some places mostly just use window air units, while other places (like my home in Colorado) use a large swamp cooler up on the roof – these are fairly basic machines where a quick internet search can help you fix any issues that come up. Also refer to the user guides for specific regular maintenance. Central air is obviously a more complex system. Getting it serviced by a professional should be around $100 or less, and it will save money and headaches down the road.
- Repair/replace damaged windows screens. You don’t want bugs making their way in because you missed a hole in a window screen. And no, duct tape doesn’t count. It can be a quick fix, but don’t leave it for long. It just looks bad.
- Clear dead plants/shrubs from the home. This could double as a gardening suggestion, but if you didn’t trim trees or shrubs in the fall, do so now. Plants can weasel their way into splits and holes on the exterior of your home, causing damage and shortened longevity. Nip that in the bud before it’s an issue. If you have decorative vines externally, pay close attention.
- Check trees and shrubs for interference with electric lines. Have professionally trimmed if necessary.
Inspect roofing for damage, leakages, etc. Repair as needed; you may need a professional.
Summer is a great time to concentrate on the exterior of your house, as well as your lawn and garden. It’s also perfect for having that garage door open and utilizing the prolonged daylight to work on any manly projects you’ve had on the backburner.
- Check grout in bath rooms, kitchen, etc.; repair as needed. This will prolong the life of your tiled surfaces and just appears better.
- Inspect plumbing for leaks, clean aerators on faucets. Go around to all your faucets and toilets and check for any small leakages. When you have poor drinking water pressure out of a faucet, the aerator is the likely culprit and it’s an extremely easy fix.
- Take care of any insect problems you may have. Summer is their playground. You probably won’t have to look too hard to notice any insect problems. Ants, spiders, moths, etc. are all common, and fairly easy to take care of. Keep cobwebs clear, have ant poison handy, make sure all doors are tightly closed, etc.
- Clean and repair deck/patio as needed. It generally just needs a good washing. A deck may also need re-staining. Also look for any loose boards or posts and repair as needed.
Remove window wells of debris. If you have a basement, you also have windowpane wells. All kinds of things can get down in there from leaves, to trash, to animals.
- Check and clean dryer vent, other exhaust vents to exterior of home. While the dryer is running, check that the exhaust is coming out. It will smell nicely of fresh laundry. If there isn’t much exhaust, check for blockages as well as you can. You may need a professional. Also vacuum the lint from the hose at the clothes dryer.
- Clean garage. Cleaning the garage area should be a summer ritual for every man. Keeping it clean and tidy will extend its life, and it often gets neglected of regular care. With all the extra dirt it gets from the manly tasks you’re working on, you should actually clean it even more. Once a year, however, give a thorough going-through.
Fall is an in-between season where you’re finishing up your summer time home maintenance tasks as well as getting your home ready for winter. Cold, snow, and rainfall can do a number to a home, and that means you don’t want to ignore winter preparation.
- Flush warm water heater and remove sediment. This prolongs the life span of the heating unit and helps with efficiency as well.
- Winterize air-con systems. Remove and store home window units. When you have central air, cover the outside unit with a tarp or plastic sheeting and secure with bungee cords.
- Get heating system ready for winter. Check for any leaks in home windows or doorways; these can cost an arm and a leg. Make sure heating vents are open up and not clogged by furniture.
- Get furnace serviced/inspected at least every other year, preferably annually. As with the AC, this shouldn’t be a huge expense. Don’t forget about fireplaces if you keep these things.
- Turn off and get rid of outdoor water faucets. Also flush hoses and store them. Winterize sprinkler systems as well, if you have one.
- Get chimney cleaned, if you have one. Some folks say to do this in the spring, some say fall. Either way, just make sure it’s done once per year.
- Test sump pump. You don’t want to wait until you need your sump pump to find out it’s not working.
- Check driveway/pavement for breaks. Make sure to have re-sealed before winter; drinking water can freeze and expand in the cracks, causing more harm.
- Buy winter gear. Have sidewalk sodium, good shovels, etc. ready for winter. You never know when that first snow will come!
Winter is enough time to go around the interior of your home and look for any little things you might have overlooked, or perhaps noticed and said, “I’ll get to that later.” Winter is your later. If you have any interior honey-do projects, whether it be painting, building shelves, etc., now is a great time to tackle those as well.
- Regularly check for ice dams and icicles. De-icing cables that sit at the front of the roofing work well. Don’t let icicles grow, as much as the kids may want you to. They’re not only a danger to people standing beneath them, but they’re incredibly heavy and can cause damage to your home. They also can cause water damage to your basis when they melt.
- Test your electricity to the extent that you can. Always, always be extra careful when working with electricity. You can do a couple things by yourself, though. Check that all outlets work; if they don’t, you can re-wire them on your own. Also, test your GFCI stores. There are wildly varying opinions on how often to test this. Some say regular monthly, others say annually.
- Tighten any handles, knobs, racks, etc. Go through the house and inspect anything that could have a loose screw.
- Check all locks and deadbolts on your doors and windows. If anything doesn’t work right, replace.
- Check caulking around showers and bathtubs; repair as needed.
- Remove showerheads and clean sediment. This prolongs its life and supports water pressure as well.
Deep clean and inspect the cellar. Basements are notoriously overlooked, particularly if they’re primarily just storage areas. Dust ‘em up, clean any windows, make sure there isn’t mold anywhere, etc. Give your basement a good inspection at least once a year.
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