When you buy your ﬁrst home, it’s normal to be focused on the ﬁnancial responsibilities that go along with it.
Beyond ﬁnancial obligations, there’s also a commitment of your time and labor you’ll need to make to keep your home in mint condition.
Completing regular home maintenance helps save money and eliminate potential headaches that sometimes can be part of being a homeowner. Just like your car needs regular oil changes and inspections to keep it running well, your house needs regular maintenance.
When you start to think about all the things that you need to keep an eye on in your home, it may seem daunting. However, with a little organization and a good game plan, staying on top of home maintenance doesn’t have to be stressful.
Depending on your skill and comfort levels, there may be some things that you prefer to have a professional take care of — and that’s totally ﬁne! The good news is there are plenty of things you can take care of yourself, and by having a list you follow, you can break these jobs up into small, manageable tasks throughout the year.
Here’s our ﬁrst time home buyer’s guide to home maintenance.
- Test your GFCI outlets. GFCI outlets are outﬁtted with a “TEST” and a “RESET” button. On a monthly basis, you should press the TEST button, which will trip the circuit. Once you’ve done your test, hit the RESET button to restore normal power. If your GFCI breaker trips, it could either be the item that was plugged into the outlet, or it could indicate a more serious problem requiring investigation from a licensed professional.
- Inspect, and possibly change out, HVAC ﬁlters. While it’s unlikely you’ll actually need to change your HVAC ﬁlters on a monthly basis, they should be checked. Most homes usually need the ﬁlter changed every two to three months, but for homes with pets or people with allergies, it may need to be done on a monthly basis.
- Clean range hood ﬁlters. This is one job that people often forget about. Range hood ﬁlters will build up grease, and as the ﬁlter gets dirtier, the effectiveness goes down. Leave ﬁlters to soak a few minutes in a degreaser mixed with hot water and they’ll be good as new.
- Inspect your ﬁre extinguisher(s). A ﬁre extinguisher inspection is a quick and easy task that can make a huge difference in the case of an emergency. Ensure the extinguisher is easily accessible, is not showing signs of wear and tear, and the gauge shows adequate pressure.
Every Three Months
- Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are equipped with a test button. If the alarm goes off when you press the button, your detector is just ﬁne. If it doesn’t go off, then replace the battery, and do another test. If it’s still not working after the batteries have been replaced, it’s recommended you replace the unit completely.
- Run water and ﬂush toilets in unused spaces. If you have a guest bathroom or any other spaces that have water sources that don’t get used on a regular basis, you want to ensure there’s no build-up of grime or anything else.
- Check all sinks. Early detection is one of the best ways to avoid water damage, which can turn into mold, so checking under sinks for any leaks should be done regularly. Inspect the sinks in your kitchen and bathrooms. Then, clean out sink traps, and ensure all drains are clear of blockage.
Twice a Year
- Deep clean your house. Pick one day every six months to give your home a proper deep clean. Not letting dirt and dust accumulate is one of the simplest ways to keep your home looking in top shape. When doing this, you’ll want to include tasks like pulling out appliances and cleaning them fully and washing down all the windows.
- One item that should be included on your deep clean day is vacuuming your fridge coils. You want your fridge to run as efﬁciently as possible and over time, as the coils build up dust, the fridge has to work harder to run at the same level, which means it draws more electricity.
- Check your bathroom caulk. Joints that get wet are likely to deteriorate over time, so checking the caulking to ensure your seals are water-tight will help prevent leaks, mold, and dry rot.
- Test your water heater pressure relief valve. Testing the valve will help prevent build-up of minerals and corrosion, which can cause leaks. It can also help with the overall efﬁciency of your heater.
Each new season brings different tasks that need to be performed in preparation for the change in weather. Here are some suggestions for what maintenance you should focus on each season.
- Check the exterior drainage. To ensure there’s no water moving towards your foundation, you want to check that puddles close to the house don’t stand for more than 24 hours. If water is sitting or seems to be moving towards the foundation, check all of your downspouts for any loose connections.
- Clean out gutters. Leaves and other debris that can collect in your gutters should be cleaned out twice a year. Blocked gutters compromise your drainage, which can end up affecting your roof or your foundation long term.
- Inspect the exterior of your home. This task requires a simple walk around where you make note of anything that may need attention on the exterior of the home. Is there any paint chipping? Any cracks in the foundation? Addressing these sorts of issues as soon as they arise can save you a bundle later on.
- Repair/replace damaged window screens. Winter can sometimes be rough on the exterior components of a house, so checking your window screens to ensure there are no holes or other damage is a must.
- Clear dead plants/shrubs from the house. If you didn’t bother with this task in the fall, trim back and clear any excess brush. Plants and trees can slowly work their way into any crack or holes in the exterior of your home, so you want to keep them tamed.
- Clean and repair deck/patio. Outdoor decks and patios usually just need a good washing. Depending on the material they are constructed from, re-staining may be required. Also, check for any loose boards, and repair as needed.
- Check and clean dryer vent. When the weather is warm, it’s the perfect time to tackle this task. Run your dryer, and check the exterior vent to see if the exhaust is coming out. The exhaust coming from the vent should smell like clean laundry. If there’s nothing coming out, you’ll need the line checked for blockages, which may require hiring a professional.
- Clean the garage out. The garage tends to be one area of the home where things pile up, so planning to clean it out once a year is a great way to keep too much “stuff” from accumulating. The garage gets dusty, so it should be given a thorough cleaning while you remove any excess items. If you use your garage for projects involving wood, paint, or other DIY type items, ensure the garage is aired out on a regular basis.
- Turn off and ﬂush outdoor water faucets. If you have an outdoor hose connected, it should be ﬂushed out and stored indoors for the winter. Sprinkler systems should also be winterized. The water supply to the outdoor tap should be turned off completely, as it can freeze, and then leak, if the temperature gets too cold.
- Get heating system ready for winter. Your furnace should be inspected at least every two years, but we suggest having it done annually. Turn on your heat to test that everything is working properly, and check all of your vents to ensure they aren’t being blocked by furniture or other household items.
Regularly check for ice dams and icicles. As much as they may look pretty, letting icicles on the exterior of your home get huge is not a great idea. Not only can a falling icicle be a danger, but the bigger the icicle is, the heavier it gets, and this can cause damage to your home. As they melt, they can also cause water damage to your foundation, so it’s best to deal with any icicles before they have a chance to get too large.
Ice dams form at the edge of a roof and are a ridge of ice that stops the melting snow from draining off the roof. As the water backs up behind the dam, it can leak into your home, causing damage to the interior. If you think you have an ice dam, call a professional to take care of it.
By spending the time throughout the year staying on top of your maintenance schedule, you’re ensuring that your home will stay in tip-top condition for years to come.