Your Definitive Home Maintenance Checklist For Every Season
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 monthly home maintenance tasks first, then cover seasonal maintenance and close out with an annual home maintenance checklist.
Monthly Home Maintenance Checklist
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 a monthly 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. It’s also important to clean sink aerators and shower heads with a vinegar solution to remove and sediment that may have collected.
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 a monthly test along with changing the batteries every 6 months will avoid the infuriating beeping (for which we can never seem to find the source …).
Look At The Pressure Of Your Fire Extinguishers
Should a fire ever start in your home, it’s important to know that your fire extinguisher won’t fail you. Evaluate the gauge levels on your extinguishers monthly to make sure that they are correctly pressurized.
Do A Full Perimeter Check
While you may spend a great deal of time both inside and outside of your home, you should still be setting time aside to do a full perimeter inspection. Take a walk around and make a list of things you notice need fixing or touching up. Some things to look for are ensuring all lint is removed from your vents to prevent dryer fires, gutters and drainpipes are clean and that nothing is broken or damaged.
Change Your Filters
There are a variety of home systems and appliances that use filters that you may not even realize do. Things like HVAC systems, dishwashers, kitchen range hoods and air filter units all should be checked quarterly or monthly to see if they need to be replaced.
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.
Start by cleaning up your yard from winter. Checking for any damage from snow and ice is a great place to start. It’s also important to clear away dead branches. Raking up old leaves and pruning back trees and shrubbery will provide your garden with the environment it needs to thrive.
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 leads us to our 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 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.
Clean The Exterior
Before summer comes around, spring is a great time to prep and clean the exterior of your home. Scrubbing mold, mildew and dirt off the siding of your home with a soap and sponge, or even a pressure washer, can help your house shine again. You’ll also want to make sure that the caulking on the perimeter of your home is well sealed off and that your screens don’t have any rips. This will help ensure that bugs and water can’t get in.
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 prepare 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 And 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 3 seconds. Take the time to connect everything to a surge protector.
While we’re on electrical, we should note that 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 things 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 when the chill starts setting 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 the 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 are 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.
You should also take this time to rake the leaves out of your yard. While some leaves can be beneficial to protecting your plants in the winter, the rest should be raked up and bagged for removal.
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, you need to be ready. In some states, you can expect cold winds and heavy snow. In other states, maybe winter is your rainy season. Or, if you’re in a place like Los Angeles, 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.
Do yourself a favor and buy a decent shovel. Buy two if you’re ambitious: one for scooping up snow and a 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. As with 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 formations, also known as ice dams, are 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 you 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. If you must start your generator, do so outdoors in a well-ventilated area to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning from the fumes. Be sure to also keep your gas in approved safety containers.
Annual Home Maintenance Checklist
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 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 dense 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, you might consider enlisting 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. Don’t 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. Check these for mold and rot, as those can be signs of a larger water drainage problem.
Make sure your gutters and downspouts 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’ll need 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 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.
Evict Any Pests
Maintaining a contract with a pest removal company is a great way to ensure that bugs and other animals don’t try to move into your property. Having an annual appointment set up will help you prevent and eliminate unwanted infestations.
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.
The Tools You’ll Need
Here are some basic tools you should budget for:
- Broom, mop and vacuum cleaner
- Extension ladder (for roof access)
- Lawn care 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.
Consider The 1% – 4% Rule
If you want to create an exact budget, consider the 1% – 4% rule. This is a general rule that helps homeowners estimate what they can expect to put toward the maintenance of their home each year. Under this rule, an average homeowner can expect to put around 1% – 4% of the cost of the sale of their home toward maintenance. Generally speaking, the newer or smaller your house is, the more likely you’ll be on the lower end of this range, whereas a larger or older home will be on the higher end.
It can also be helpful to monitor your spending over the course of your first year maintaining the home; this might give you a more accurate budget in the second year.
The Bottom Line: Home Maintenance Is A Full-Time Job, But Worth Your While
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 stay on top of making quick repairs than for damage to worsen over time and cause a required complete overhaul.
Nothing good comes from neglect. By maintaining your home, you’re protecting yourself, whomever 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.
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