Buying a home is the biggest investment that most American families will make. Smart homeowners know that maintaining that home in good shape protects their investment and enhances their enjoyment of their home. In addition, the terms of the mortgage may require the homeowners to "adequately maintain the property."
Home maintenance, however, can cover a wide range of activities. They can be categorized into interior and exterior tasks or by home system, such as plumbing, heating & cooling, electrical, and landscaping/grounds maintenance. Certain maintenance tasks should be performed monthly, seasonally, or annually. How do you know what to do when? Why not review the basics first and then use one of a number of good home maintenance checklists to help you organize further.
Important Basic Home Maintenance Activities
Once a month
- Check the filters on your heating/cooling unit. If you have humidifiers and electronic air cleaners, their filters should also be checked. Change or clean on the recommended schedule.
- Check faucets for drips and the rest of the plumbing for leaks. Repairing minor drips and leaks can prevent major water damage in the future. It also will help with convservation and keep down your water bill.
Semi-annually or seasonally
- Change the batteries in your smoke detector twice a year. Fire experts suggest changing the batteries when you change your clocks at the beginning and end of Daylight Savings Time. Or choose two family birthdays that are about 6 months apart.
- Draining a gallon or two of water from your hot water heater at least twice a year can extend its life expectancy.
- Clean out your roof gutters. Particularly don't let the gutters get clogged with leaves. General recommendation is twice a year in the spring and fall.
- Trim shrubs and trees so that they clear the foundation, exterior walls, and roof of the house. Shrubbery that's too close to the house can promote the growth of mildew, mold, and algae, particularly during warmer weather. Root growth can damage foundations. Limbs can scrape paint on siding and trim.
- Clean leaves and trash out from under decks and porches. Pull mulch away from foundation walls.
- Check and service lawn care equipment in spring before you need it. Check snow removal equipment in fall before you need it.
- Have your heating and cooling system(s) serviced.
- If you have a wood-burning fireplace or stove, check the chimney and have it cleaned if there is any creosote or soot build-up. Check the soundness of the mortar at the same time.
- Inspect, repair and reseal tile grout in bathrooms, kitchens, and any other areas.
- Make a quick inspection of the exterior of the house. Check foundation for cracking, blocked vents, and leaks. Check caulking around doors and windows. Check paint for peeling, cracking, fading or blistering.
- Check the roof for leaks. You don't have to get on the roof necessarily, but can inspect the underside of the roof in the attic for any signs of leaking. If you spot any, it's probably time to call a professional.
- If you don't currently have a termite service, have a thorough termite inspection. Follow up on any treatment and repair recommendations. Keep your termite protection current, it will save you money in the long run.
- Make sure that you know where the main cut-off valves or switches are for the home's plumbing system, electrical service, and gas service.
Home Maintenance Checklists Available Online
The Internet is full of home maintenance information. The article, Online Resources for Homeowners, will help you explore some of the resources.
But if having a checklist helps keep you on focus and on target, you might try one of the following checklists:
- Checklist for a Trouble-Free Home from the DIY Network
- Preventative Home Maintenance Checkup (pdf), this very detailed checklist is from the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service.
The popular PBS program Hometime also provides a series of preventative home maintenance lists and other useful articles.