Regular home maintenance is essential to keep your home in tip-top shape. It doesn’t have to take hours of work. A little bit of maintenance upfront can save you a lot of pain if you catch a problem early. Things like mold and leaky pipes don’t get better on their own.
Whether you just moved in or need a little refresher, here’s a checklist of routine household maintenance. We’ll go through some year-round maintenance tasks first, then cover seasonal maintenance.
Year-Round Home Maintenance Tasks
These are tasks that should be done multiple times a year, no matter where you live. By completing these tasks, you’re ensuring the safety and integrity of your property.
Check Your Plumbing
Regular plumbing maintenance will help you keep leaks at bay and make sure wastewater leaves. Be careful not to rinse anything down the drain that may cause clogs, including hair and other debris, and when a clog occurs, clear it ASAP. Taking the pipe below the sink apart, using chemical drain cleaner or using a drain snake are all effective means.
Keep an eye out for leaky pipes, whether it’s a bathtub faucet or beneath your kitchen sink. Fixing a dripping faucet or pipe early on with plumber’s tape or replacing a gasket is much cheaper than a hefty water bill.
Check Your Foundation
Your home’s foundation is the basis for your property’s structural integrity. Large fluctuations in temperature and humidity can have a huge impact on your foundation. Even when you leave for vacation, make sure your home never goes above 95°F or below 40°F.
Proper drainage is also necessary to maintain your foundation. Water pooling around the base of your home can crack or erode your foundation, especially if that water’s freezing and thawing. If the ground angles toward your home, you may want to install special drains to keep the water away from the foundation.
If you live in a dry climate, you can have the opposite problem. You may need to wet the ground around the base of your home, especially if you have dens clay soil.
Keep your eye out for cracks and bows in your floors, walls and ceilings. Catching a foundation problem early means a repair will be much easier. If you notice anything suspicious, consult a professional.
Check Your Roof
Before inspecting your roofing, enlist a partner to help, even if it’s just someone who knows you’re up there and can hold the ladder for you. The last thing you want is to slip and not have anyone around if you need help. Go up on your roof on a dry day so there’s better traction
One of the biggest parts of maintaining your roof is keeping it clean. Remove any debris, like leaves, branches or other small pieces. Inspect for moss and mold. If you find moss or mold, scrub with cleaner and a soft-bristle brush. Do not use a power washer, as it can damage your shingles.
Regularly inspect soffits, fascia, gutters and downspouts. Soffits are the area underneath your roof’s overhang and the fascia are the boards that cover the ends of the roof rafters. Soffits can be vinyl, aluminum or wood. Fascia is wooden. Inspect these for mold and rot, as those can be signs of a larger water drainage problem.
Make sure your gutters and downspout are clean and free of debris throughout the year. Also make sure they’re properly fastened and that water isn’t pooling in them.
Check Your Porch And/or Deck
If you have a porch, patio and/or deck, you want to regularly check for signs of damage. If it’s a porch or patio made of concrete, keep an eye out for cracks and sinking. Both of these can happen over time as the ground underneath moves. Small cracks can be easily repaired, but large cracks with sunken pieces may need professional help.
For a porch or deck made of wood, check for rotting pieces. Be on the lookout for warping or buckling wood and replace these pieces. Wooden porches and decks need to be cleaned throughout the year, with a deep clean happening at least once. They may also need to have a stain or other protective layer applied annually or biannually to ensure they stay in good shape for years to come.
Spring Home Maintenance Tasks
Spring involves a bunch of maintenance that’s meant to keep things fresh, clean and full of life. Let’s get started.
Clean Up Your Landscaping
If you’ve been cooped up all winter, there’s a good chance you want to get outside and get a little vitamin D. If that’s the case, it’s a good idea to start with the landscaping and bring a little life back to the yard.
There are various ways to spruce up your yard that don’t cost a ton of money. Probably the easiest thing to do is mow the lawn. The lawn should also be fertilized periodically to make sure it’s being given the proper nutrients.
If the lawn is the carpet, your plants are the furniture that give the yard character. With that in mind, pay attention to not only the different plants you select, but also their placement within the yard.
While plants are like furniture for your yard, there can also be actual furniture on your patio or deck, which brings me to my next point. Manufacturers have really upped their game in the outdoor entertainment space. Fire pits, outdoor lamps and waterproof televisions are just a few things that were less commonplace on the patio even a few years ago.
Prep Your AC
If you haven’t checked your air conditioning in a while, spring is a good time to do it. That way you’re not super surprised when it gets to be 95° and the air doesn’t turn on.
While you’re thinking about your AC, you should also think about your ductwork. When was the last time you had it cleaned? Cleaning your ducts helps with the removal of dust and all sorts of other debris and allergens. If you find yourself getting sick a lot, this might be worth looking into.
Declutter Your Belongings
Let’s not forget the annual societal ritual that is spring cleaning. It’s good to clear out all the crud we accumulate that we no longer need. For what you want to keep, invest in some storage bins and labels. Decluttering your home will open up your space and give you more room to live.
Check Your Batteries
This is basic and can really be completed at any time of the year. Check the battery in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Doing this every 6 months will avoid the infuriating beeping for which we can never seem to find the source.
Summer Home Maintenance Tasks
You might be getting ready for cookouts and pool parties at this point, but there are some things you need to get prepared beforehand.
Inspect Your Grill
Before firing up the barbecue, it’s best to make sure that your grill is in good shape for safety reasons. Burners should always be checked for rust. They can always be replaced. The same goes for checking any gas lines and connection points.
Whether you use gas or charcoal, always be sure to use the grill in a well-ventilated area and ignite it from a safe distance.
Protect Your Electronics & Electrical Systems
Summer is the season of thunderstorms and even heat-based electrical outages. With that in mind, make sure to protect sensitive electronics from power surges.
Computers are particularly fragile, and you don’t want your data fried by a brownout that lasts three seconds. Take the time to connect everything to a surge protector.
While we’re on electrical, manufacturer guidelines recommend that the electrical outlets used in bathrooms and outdoors to protect against electrocutions be tested at least once a month and after every power outage.
Treat Your Pool And Hot Tub
Summer is also the time to take the cover off the pool and clean it up so it can be used. The most important tasks are to make sure there’s nothing floating in the water and that the pool is properly chlorinated.
Your hot tub also needs maintenance, mostly in the form of regular chemical treatments. The water should also be drained about every 4 months.
Fall Home Maintenance Tasks
Before you get bombarded with all things pumpkin, you need to do a few fall maintenance things before the chill sets in.
Winterize Your Pool
Let’s jump back into the pool for a second. Not literally. It might be a little cool after Labor Day.
You’ll probably be able to make the process of opening the pool easier on yourself by properly winterizing the pool in the fall. This includes not only the right chemical treatment and draining to the proper level, but also some things you might not think about.
For instance, you might want to buy a pool pillow before your swimmer’s paradise settles in for its long winter nap. As water freezes, ice expands and puts pressure on your pool wall. By putting the pillow in the middle, this pressure is instead redistributed to the pillow.
Check Your Furnace
It’s time to make sure that furnace works now before it gets too chilly. You don’t want it malfunctioning in bitter temperatures. A regular inspection can also prevent serious safety issues like a cracked heat exchanger that can lead to dangerous carbon monoxide buildup.
Your filters should also be regularly replaced to prevent dust and allergens from being spread throughout the house.
Prevent Burst Pipes
Whenever you decide your lawn probably doesn’t need to be watered anymore, drain the water from the hose and cover the water spigot. This helps prevent ice from building up and causing problems with your pipes.
Keep The Heat In
It’s very important to make sure you keep all the heat in your house that you can to operate at peak efficiency and save on energy bills.
With that in mind, take a look at the insulation in your house. This could be something as simple as installing a door sill or a foam outlet cover to prevent cool air from slipping through the cracks. On the other hand, you could go so far as to spray expanding foam around window casings or put more insulation in the floor and wall.
If you choose to go the insulation route, make sure you have the proper level of insulation for your climate.
Cover Up Parts Of Your Home’s Exterior
In preparation for winter, there’s some things you’ll want to cover up to protect from the elements.
You might consider installing gutter guards to prevent crud from getting in there and causing problems by disrupting proper drainage.
You’ll also want to get a cover for your air conditioner so nothing gets in there.
Protect Your Plants
Plants that you want to come back deserve protection from harsh elements so your perennials can survive even the most brutal winters.
To start, make a nice pile of compost. This ensures the plants have plenty of nutrients to feast on all winter long.
Burlap wrap around young trees helps protect them from the elements. For shrubs and other small plants, special tents are available that let sunlight and moisture in while keeping the cold out.
Inspect Your Chimney
The last big thing you should probably have done is a chimney inspection by a professional. This includes sweeping out the chimney, but also an inspection for any visible signs of structural damage. If there are problems, they’ll recommend a more detailed inspection and go from there.
Winter Home Maintenance Tasks
When winter arrives, we need to be ready. In some states, you can expect cold winds and heavy snow. Other states, maybe winter is your rainy season. Or if you’re in LA, chances are you have no idea what winter is.
We’ll focus here on some of the more extreme seasonal tasks you’ll have to deal with if you live anywhere that gets below freezing regularly.
If you plan on suiting up and removing your own snow this winter, you need the right tools.
Do yourself a favor and buy a decent shovel. Buy two if you’re ambitious: one for scooping up snow and wider one for plowing it.
If you want to move even more snow faster, you should probably buy a snow blower. You’ll need to check your snow blower before the first big snowfall to make sure everything is in working order. Like a lawnmower, you should change the oil annually.
If you’re a little handy and don’t want to take it to a professional, you can follow this snow blower maintenance checklist.
Break The Ice
There is nothing more hazardous about winter than ice. One little slip can lead to an awfully big homeowners claim, not to mention the danger to you personally.
With that in mind, you should salt liberally to melt the ice. Also, focus on breaking up icicles that might be hanging over your roof. This is particularly important when they’re over high traffic areas like the porch.
Note that large icicle formation is a sign of poor insulation. The heat is traveling out of your home, melting the snow on the roof and causing it to drip down. Paying to have your home properly insulated would save you on heating bills. Installing insulation is even something you could DIY.
Prepare For Power Outages
Although we mostly associate power outages with summer thunderstorms, it’s important to realize that a severe snowstorm can knock out the electrical as well. In some ways, it’s more of a problem when we lose power in the winter because it could knock out your heating.
If you’re lucky enough to have a generator on hand, it would probably be good to make sure that’s working. Keep in mind a few basic safety tips:
- Keep your gas in approved safety containers.
- If you must start your generator, do so outdoors in a well-ventilated area to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning from the fumes.
How Much To Budget For Home Maintenance
Budgeting for home maintenance can be difficult. The tools and supplies you need will vary widely depending on your home, climate, seasons and specific tasks. Many of these maintenance tasks require little money once you have the tools.
Here are some basic tools you should budget for:
- Broom, mop and vacuum cleaner
- Extension ladder (for roof access)
- Lawncare and landscaping tools (mower, trimmer, rake, hedge clippers, etc.)
- Snow shovel
- Caulk gun
After you have the tools, you just need the supplies. Things like gasoline for your mower or cleaning supplies are relatively cheap, but they add up over the year.
If you want to create an exact budget, estimate how much you will spend on supplies for regular maintenance, then compare that to how much you spent. Monitor this over the course of your first year maintaining the home and you can have a more accurate budget in the second year.
The Bottom Line
Most of this maintenance is affordable. All it takes is a little time and effort and a few simple tools. It’s much cheaper to make a quick repair than for that damage to worsen, requiring a complete overhaul.
Nothing good comes from neglect. By maintaining your home, you’re protecting yourself, whoever else lives in the home and your investment. Simple actions like checking smoke alarm batteries or looking for leaky pipes can save you a lot of hurt in the long run.
Interested in more homeownership tips? Check out more articles in the Quicken Loans® Learning Center.