Now that you are a home owner, you need to be aware of the upkeep both inside and outside that will maintain your home’s value, safety and comfort. If you are handy, you can take care of many of these chores yourself, especially with the help of online videos and articles. It might be wise to have experts handle some of the others, even if it just means you don’t have to climb a ladder, buy expensive tools or spend your own valuable time doing something you’d rather pay someone else to do.
The intent of this article is just to give you an idea of the things you need to be aware of, not all the how-to or know-how you will need to perform the maintenance yourself. When in doubt, call an expert. You can find one with good reviews online or from your neighbors.
We are usually less likely to look carefully at the outside of our home than we are the inside, where we spend more of our time and are impacted by needed repairs, so let’s start out there.
- Roof: Materials and workmanship—as well as the weather in your location—determine the lifespan of a roof. Check regularly for missing or damaged shingles, or damage to other roofing materials. Check in the attic for leaks or any sign of weather damage.
- Chimney: If you have a fireplace, your chimney should be inspected annually and cleaned periodically, depending on how much you use it. Even a gas fireplace can leave deposits on the inside that could be a fire hazard. A cap on a chimney to keep out animals is also a good idea.
- Gutters/downspouts: Trees are notorious for filling your gutters with leaves. Even dirt from the air and particles from shingles can fill them up to the point when water cannot reach a downspout, will back up and cause damage to your roof or the siding of your home. If you live in an area with cold, snowy weather, consider heat tape in the gutters to keep ice from blocking the flow of melting snow. Call an electrician about that.
- Siding: Whether the outside of your home is brick, stucco, vinyl, or wood, it will need power washing, painting, checking for mold or rotting wood, caulking of holes made for wiring, repairs to damaged brick or stucco or other signs of wear and tear. Give it a good inspection every year.
- Foundation: Check your foundation at least once a year for cracks caused by weather, shifting of the ground the house is built on, damage by insects or leaking pipes. Correct small problems before they become big ones.
- Windows: Wash or have your windows washed regularly. Besides adding to the beauty of both the outside and inside of your home, regular washing prevents hard water buildup that may eventually damage the glass and be very difficult to remove. While you’re there, check the caulking around the windows for possible wear that is allowing air or water to get in or out.
- Doors: Wash the outside of your doors as needed using mild detergent and water. Check the weather stripping on all sides and bottom for leaks where heat can get out or cold get in. Replace hardware that is sticking, loose or might make it easy for someone to break in.
- Garage door and opener: Oil the opener, hinges and chain according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. If you suspect trouble, call an expert before you find yourself unable to get your car in or out.
- Driveway and sidewalks: Cracks in concrete or damage to the surface can be caused by weather, salt, trees, or even heavy use. Repair cracks while they are small. Remove trees whose roots are cracking or raising the concrete. Wash off salt picked up by your car on icy roads or sprinkled there yourself to melt ice and snow. Check into the surfaces now available to protect garage floors and driveways.
- Deck: If you have a deck, click here to see our article on deck maintenance: https://citywidetemdev.wpengine.com/article/how-to-maintain-your-wood-deck/
- Fencing: The type of fencing you have, the weather and its age will determine the amount of maintenance it requires. Even a vinyl fence needs power washing. Wooden fences need weather protection, staining or paint. Chain link fences can rust. Animals can dig under any type of fence.
- Sprinklers: Check all your sprinkler heads and valves in the spring before hot weather sets in. Replace any that are damaged or that could be buried or blocked by overgrowth of lawn and other plants. Be sure to turn off the water and drain the lines in the fall before the ground freezes and can break the pipes.
- Water spigots: Repair any drips or leaks ASAP. Be sure water is not getting inside your walls. Remove hoses before winter sets in.
Some inside maintenance can be purely esthetic, but other tasks that should be performed regularly can become issues of safety and additional damage in the future, if neglected.
- Flooring: Carpet, tile, vinyl, wood or laminate flooring all require a different kind of care, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Following those instructions will keep your flooring beautiful for years to come and protect the subflooring underneath. Normal wear will eventually lead to the need for replacement.
- Electrical: A home inspection should have verified that your home’s wiring is safe. Know where your circuit breaker box is and write beside each one which section of the house it controls. If one is tripped, you’ll know where to look for a possible overload or problems with an appliance, light fixture or outlet. If something needs to be fixed, you’ll know where to turn off the power for repairs.
- Lighting: Light fixtures, ballasts or switches might need to be replaced. Some small jobs are easy to do, but others could require the knowledge of an electrician. Be sure to turn off the power before making any changes to wiring, DIY or professional.
- Plumbing: Check often for leaks under sinks, along the water line to a refrigerator’s ice maker, and around toilets. if it goes undetected, even a small drip or leak can cause big damage to flooring or cabinets. Small leaks often become bigger ones. Call a plumber if you’re unsure how to fix the problem. Turn off the water to that area before disconnecting any pipes or faucets.
- Water heater: The smallest leak in the bottom of a water heater is cause for alarm. The only fix is a new one, so you’ll have to call a plumber to come ASAP. If your water heater has reached its life expectancy, check for leaks periodically.
- HVAC: It’s good to have a professional do a bi-annual checkup and servicing on your HVAC system. Change filters every 2-3 months. If you have steam (forced hot water) heat, drain the boiler and check the valves or call a plumber to do it at least once a year.
- Cracks in walls: If small cracks appear in your walls, don’t be too alarmed. All new homes settle a little, and that can cause small cracks. If they reappear or get bigger after being patched, you might need a structural engineer to look at your foundation. A problem like that is rare but it could happen.
- Paint/wallpaper: You might not know how much you needed new paint until you have a fresh coat in a room that gets lots of use. Spackling nail holes and other damage to plaster done at the same time also makes a big improvement. Wallpaper is coming back into style. If any strips start to peel at the corners, use wallpaper paste to re-stick them. Any other kind of glue could damage your walls and make future removal difficult.
- Stair railings: Railings that are attached to walls can become loose and screws pull out, creating the dangerous possibility of a fall. To be up to code, new railings must have the posts close enough together that a child’s head can’t go between them. Always consider safety wherever you have stairs.
- Smoke alarms/carbon monoxide detectors: Check batteries or electrical connections on smoke and carbon monoxide detectors at least once a year. If you have a security system, include the detectors in the package so help will be on the way quickly, if one is triggered.
- Dryer vent: Home fires can be caused by dry vents and tubes that are blocked by lint. Check yours periodically and vacuum out the inside of the tube and the vent where it exits the house.
- Shower & bath caulking and grout: If water is allowed to get behind tile in a shower or tub, the wall or floor behind it could have serious damage. Remove moldy or loose caulk and replace before using again. Also be on the lookout for gaps in grout between tiles that could allow water in and/or mold to grow.
Although these lists may look long, they only amount to a couple of things to check on each month. Many of them will pass inspection and won’t require any action for years. The important thing is to be aware of the problems that could occur if maintenance is not performed as needed.