How-To Keep Your Home In Tip-Top Shape: First-Time Buyers Guide to Home Maintenance
You get the oil in your car changed every 3000 miles, like clockwork. You rotate the tires, tune the engine and head to the shop at the first sign of a check engine light.
Your car has a lot of moving parts, parts that need to be maintained regularly to avoid a complete breakdown.
You, as a renter, might not have noticed how many times you rang your landlord to get someone over for a little repair here and a small fix there. But you are the landlord now, though. You own the problems, they are yours and yours alone.
Home repairs can get expensive too. The first few times you dish out the cash for home repairs will open your eyes to a new world of responsibility. You will began to value the everyday maintenance you ignored for years as a renter. You will quickly learn that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to home maintenance.
With so much to do you will want to bring some order to the situation. The easiest way to get your bearings is to attach a set of home maintenance tasks to the season in which it is best performed. While this list is sure to have some dissent for the seasons in which several items have been placed, it represents a reasonable consensus as to what you should do and when you should perform the task.
Spring. Never much cared for the season. Being from the South it was generally miserable for an allergic like myself. Spring is also a big month for home maintenance of all shapes and forms. “Spring Cleaning” is called so for a reason.
Regardless, if you are a married man you can expect a daunting and, quite possibly, unattainable honey-do list. If you want to hire someone to drop by and give you a hand while the wife is away you should absolutely do it. The neighborhood kids got your back for a $20 spot I’m sure.
- Check the exterior drainage. Will rain water flow away from the house? Puddles should not stand around your home for more than 24 hours. If water stays, or moves toward your foundation, you have a few options. First, check your gutters. It could be a bad spout or a loose connection there; they may also just need cleaning.
- Clean out gutters. They’ve likely accumulated leaves from the fall and grime/sediment from the winter snows and/or rains.
- Inspect the exterior of your home. Is any paint chipping? Is any siding damaged from winter? Are there any holes in your brick? Take a close look all around your house, and make any repairs as needed.
- Get your air conditioning system ready for summer; consider having it serviced if you live in the warmer – or more humid – parts of the country and especially if you have central air. Central air systems have a lot of working parts and many of them are strained under the intense summer heat. Getting it serviced by a professional should be around $100 or less if you keep a close eye on the Groupon and Amazon Local style sites for a solid deal.
- Repair/replace damaged window screens. You don’t want bugs making their way in because you missed a hole in a window screen. And no, duct tape doesn’t count IF it is visible. What folks can’t see won’t offend them.
- Clear dead plants/shrubs from the house. This could double as a gardening tip, but if you didn’t trim trees or shrubs in the fall, do so now. Plants, especially decorative vines hugging the exterior of your house, can work their way into cracks and holes on the exterior of your home. Obviously, that exacerbates the issue and should be addressed immediately.
- Check trees for interference with electric lines. Have professionally trimmed if necessary.
- Inspect roofing for damage, leaks, etc. Repair as needed; you may need a professional. I always needed one.
Summer means prolonged daylight. That provides more hours for your wife to expect honey-do list items to be crossed off your list. Awesome.
Clearly exterior projects, especially lawn, garden and deck/patio jobs, are abundant. Did I mention more daylight hours for you to work?
- Check grout in bathrooms, kitchen, etc.; repair as needed. This will prolong the life of your tiled surfaces and just looks better.
- Inspect plumbing for leaks, clean aerators on faucets. Go around to all your faucets and toilets and check for any small leaks.
- Take care of any insect problems you may have. Summer is their playground. You probably won’t have to look too hard to notice any insect problems. Ants, spiders, moths, etc. are all common, and fairly easy to take care of.
- Clean and repair deck/patio as needed. It generally just needs a good washing. A deck may also need re-staining. Also check for any loose boards or posts and repair as needed.
- Clean out window wells of debris. If you have a basement, you also have window wells. All kinds of things can get down in there from leaves, to trash, to animals.
- Check and clean dryer vent, other exhaust vents to exterior of home. While the dryer is running, check that the exhaust is coming out. It should smell nicely of fresh laundry. If there isn’t much exhaust, check for blockages as well as you can. You may need a professional. Also vacuum the lint from the hose at the dryer.
- Clean garage. Cleaning the garage should be a summer ritual for every man. Keeping it clean and tidy will extend its life, and it often gets neglected of regular care. With all the extra dust it gets from the manly projects you’re working on, you should actually clean it even more. Once a year, however, give a thorough going-through.
Fall is an in-between season where you’re finishing up your summer home maintenance tasks as well as getting your home ready for winter. Cold, snow, and rain can do a number to a home, so you don’t want to ignore winter preparation.
- Clean out your gutters frequently.
- Winterize air conditioning systems. Remove and store window units. If you have central air, cover the outside unit with a tarp or plastic sheeting and secure with bungee cords.
- Get heating system ready for winter. Check for any leaks in windows or doors; these can cost an arm and a leg. Make sure heating vents are open and not blocked by furniture. Get furnace serviced/inspected at least every other year, preferably annually. Don’t forget about fireplaces if you have them.
- Turn off and flush outdoor water faucets. Also flush hoses and store them. Winterize sprinkler systems as well, if you have one. You might also want to completely turn off the spigot where the hose lived during spring and summer.
- Check driveway/pavement for cracks. Make sure to have re-sealed before winter; water can freeze and expand in the cracks, causing more damage.
- Buy winter gear. Have sidewalk salt, ample stores of liquor in case of being snowed in, good shovels or, at the very least, an agreement with a neighborhood kid. Don’t forget the liquor. Be ready for winter.
- Clean out your gutters one more time while you still can.
Winter is the time to focus on the interior of your new home. Whether it be painting, building shelves, repairing a loose towel rack or adding a backsplash to the kitchen, now is a great time to tackle those projects.
- Regularly check for ice dams and icicles. De-icing cables that sit at the front of the roof work well. Don’t let icicles grow they’re incredibly heavy and can cause damage fairly easily. They melt too. Where’s that melt water going? Winter is the time to check.
- Test your electricity to the extent that you can. Always, always be extra careful when working with electricity.
- Tighten any handles, knobs, racks, etc. Go through the house and inspect anything that could have a loose screw.
- Check all locks and deadbolts on your doors and windows. If anything doesn’t work right, replace.
- Check caulking around showers and bathtubs; repair as needed.
- Remove shower heads and clean sediment. This prolongs its life and helps with water pressure as well.
- Deep clean and inspect the basement. Basements are notoriously overlooked, especially if they’re primarily just storage areas. Give your basement a good inspection at least once a year.
I hope you are the handy types because I was never much of the manly man who can build and/or fix things. I guess it was for the best though. Instead of parting with my time every weekend I parted with my money. The good news is once the word spreads throughout the neighborhood that you are unhandy the neighborhood kids will see the opportunity and come to you.
The fact that a 12-year-old performed quite a few of the honey-do list items better than I ever could should probably bother me, but it doesn’t. Not in the slightest.