If spending big money on home repairs isn’t your thing, creating and keeping a solid house maintenance routine probably should be.
Regularly monitoring, cleaning, and caring for your roof, windows, plumbing, and appliances could help avoid costly leaks and breakdowns, make your home more energy efficient, and protect its value.
If you aren’t exactly sure what needs to be done—or when to do it—you may want to follow the suggestions on this Ultimate House Maintenance Checklist, which you can keep on your phone or fridge.
The Ultimate House Maintenance Checklist
Many of the tasks on this list should be pretty easy for DIYing. Others might require phoning a friend with the proper tools and know-how. And there’s nothing wrong with calling in a pro if the job is too time-consuming or beyond your capabilities.
Monthly Home Maintenance Tasks
If the only time you remove the gunk from your gutters, garbage disposal and dryer vent is when you notice they’re no longer working properly, you could be facing a hefty bill to fix the problem and repair any damage to your home.
Doing a little upkeep every month, instead of once or twice a year, can help keep small tasks from becoming major projects. Here are some things that can benefit from monthly maintenance:
• Check the shower, tub, and sink drains for clogs. (If hair is your main headache, you may want to do this every week or more. Or you might want to consider purchasing a hair catcher for problematic drains.)
• Clean showerheads and faucet aerators (that little mesh screen the water pours through) to keep sediment from slowing the flow. While you’re at it, check to see if any faucets are dripping when they shouldn’t and replace washers if necessary.
• De-gunk the garbage disposal. Here’s home-improvement guru Bob Vila’s tips for getting it done.
• And give the dishwasher a deep cleaning. Good Housekeeping recommends using cleaning tablets or placing a measuring cup filled with 2 cups of distilled vinegar on the top rack of an empty dishwasher and running it through the normal cycle.
• Check and clean air conditioner and furnace filters, and kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans.
• Make sure the dryer vent is free of debris. Doing so can help keep it running efficiently. And if there’s a bird’s nest or lint blocking hot air from escaping, it could become a fire hazard. You also may want to have your dryer duct inspected and cleaned once a year. (Most manufacturers recommend cleaning your lint screen, the piece near the door that’s easy to remove, after every dryer load.)
• Vacuum HVAC registers and vents. Regular maintenance can keep some dust from building up, but you may want to call in a pro for a more thorough duct inspection if you suspect mold or if you have pets.
• Test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Test safety equipment every month and replace the batteries twice a year. (Many people use the change to and from daylight saving time as a reminder.) According to statistics from the National Fire Prevention Association , nearly three out of every five home fire deaths result from fires in properties without working smoke alarms.
• Check electrical cords and outlets for damage. Replace or repair cords that are showing wear. And if an outlet cover is cracked, the prongs on an electrical cord won’t sit firmly in the outlet, or if the outlet is loose, don’t use it until you have a chance to repair it.
Seasonal Maintenance: Fall Tasks
Spring gets all the love when it comes to going all-in on sprucing up a house, but fall can also be a good time to take care of tasks both inside and out.
• Do a top-to-bottom tour of the home’s exterior. If it’s a cool, sunny, and dry day, head outside and check out the roof for damaged or missing shingles or tiles. Inspect the exterior of the house (siding or stucco) and the foundation for any problems.
• Check the chimney for exterior damage and clean the fireplace flue.
• Give windows a once-over. Seal gaps, and if the windows are old and drafty, it might be time to replace them with a more energy-efficient model. (Keep in mind that you may need to get a building permit to install new windows that are bigger than what you had.)
• Make sure exterior doors aren’t letting any cold air inside. You can get DIY weatherstripping materials at your local hardware store.
• Wash windows and siding. If you notice any cracks or gaps during your walking tour, it may help to fix those first—especially if you’re pulling out the power washer. And if you see mildew or a buildup of dirt, check to see if it’s a symptom of a more serious problem.
• Clean those gutters. If you’re ladder-phobic, there are pros out there who will be happy to clean your gutters and windows.
• Winterize exterior plumbing. Drain hoses and sprinkler systems if you live in a colder climate. And drain, clean and cover your swimming pool.
• Remove and store or insulate window air-conditioning units.
• Give carpets and floors a thorough cleaning and get your home ready for the holidays. If you haven’t cleaned your garbage disposal or dishwasher lately, this might be a good time to give them some love. And if you’re hosting Thanksgiving, maybe do a quick check to be sure all appliances are ready for the challenge.
• Winterize your garden and lawn equipment. Depending on your climate and the type of grass you have, fall (not spring) may be the right time to fertilize your lawn . Bring in any delicate plants you hope to save from the cold. (Make sure no insects come along for the ride.) Clean garden tools. Empty gas-powered equipment before storing.
• How’s your curb appeal? Raking leaves, aerating the lawn, patching the driveway or walkway, and touching up the exterior paint are fairly simple tasks that can make you house proud, improve your property, deter pests, and keep your family and visitors safe.
• Flush the water heater and check for leaks. According to Angie’s List , most manufacturers recommend flushing your water heater at least once per year to avoid sediment buildup.
• Reverse ceiling fans to a clockwise rotation. This can help move the cooler air off the floor of your home and push warmer air down. Look for the switch on the fan’s housing, or you may be able to make the change with a remote or by giving the correct command to a smart device.
• Remember to change the smoke detector batteries.
Seasonal Maintenance: Winter Tasks
If winter weather is a factor in your neck of the woods, prepare to hunker down.
• Cover the barbecue or store it in the shed or garage.
• Cover your outdoor AC unit.
• Store patio furniture and cushions in the garage or shed. If you prefer to leave heavy pieces in place, try to keep them covered.
• Inspect the roof, gutters, and downspouts for damage after a heavy snow.
• Check the basement for dampness or leaks when there’s a thaw.
• Clear the driveway and walkways of snow so passersby can get by safely.
• Focus on indoor tasks when you’re trapped by the weather. Clean the attic, caulk the tub, paint a room, and/or clean the fridge (inside and out, including the drip pans and coils).
Seasonal Maintenance: Spring Tasks
Shake off the winter blues, stow the alpaca throws, and get ready to enjoy warmer weather. Spring is for cleaning up, inside and out.
• Throw those fall tasks into reverse. As soon as the last of the cold weather is past, uncover the outside air-conditioning unit and have it serviced. If you have window air-conditioning units, clean and return them to their rightful rooms. Bring the barbecue out from hibernation and make sure it’s in good working order. Prep the pool and outdoor sprinkler system for warm weather use. Return ceiling fans to a counter-clockwise rotation to bring cool air down. (And while you’re up there, maybe give those fans a good dusting).
• Set up a termite inspection. There’s no wrong time of year to have your house inspected for termites, but since spring is when they tend to swarm, it may be a good way to tell if there’s a problem. It’s also an opportune time to check for carpenter ants, which can damage a home.
• Clean and refinish the deck. Here’s a quick how-to from HGTV .
• Look into any necessary lawn care. If you live in a warmer climate and have Bermuda, St. Augustine or some other warm-season grass, it may be time to fertilize your turf.
• Clean up fallen branches or leaves you missed in the fall. And clean out gutters and downspouts.
• Inspect the roof, chimney and siding for any winter damage.
• Inspect indoor plumbing.
• Check the attic for uninvited guests. Critters can invade your space almost any time of year, but squirrels, raccoons, bats, and rats are most likely to show up in the spring.
• Wash windows and screens.
• Clean patio furniture and cushions.
• Call a professional about inspecting and pumping the septic tank. Some pros recommend emptying the tank every three to five years, but larger households may need more frequent pumpings.
• Clear the clutter and do a traditional spring cleaning. Dust everything. Polish furniture. Clean out closets and donate or sell anything you no longer need. Clean the refrigerator, pantry, and cabinets. Scrub the floors or have the carpets cleaned to get rid of late-winter’s muddy mess. Scrub the bathrooms and laundry room. As you go, you can check to see if anything is damaged and needs to be repaired or replaced.
• Inspect and maintain the garage door opener. Listen for grating noises and look for a jerky motion when the door goes up and down. Make sure the tracks are clear of debris. Some maintenance may be simple for DIYers (including spraying moving parts with lubricant, or repairing damaged weatherstripping). But if you suspect there’s an operational problem, you might want to bring in a pro.
• Clear the garage of clutter and possible food sources. The garage may be another home for critters. Clean out the clutter and look for damage from pests, including rodents and ants.
• Time to change the smoke detector batteries. (Yes, we listed it three times. It’s that important.)
Seasonal Maintenance: Summer Tasks
Because summer is so hot in many parts of the country, it can be a good season for inside repairs and outside jobs that might involve getting wet. For example, you could:
• Pressure clean the house, driveway, and walkways.
• Inspect the pool and pool equipment to be sure everything is clean and running well. Here are some pool maintenance steps from the home pros at This Old House.
• Check the sprinkler system to minimize water waste and maximize the benefits to the landscape.
• Plant trees or shrubs to provide shade for your home, deck, and patio. Or consider installing a canopy or some other type of shade structure.
• Install curtains, shades, or window film to minimize sun damage to indoor furnishings.
• Inside, check for leaks around kitchen cabinets, bathroom vanities, and toilets.
• Keep your air conditioner clean, and consider upgrading for better energy efficiency. Change the filter. Clean air ducts. Make sure nothing is blocking the outside unit. And when it’s time for a new unit, check out the benefits of those with the Energy Star label .
You’ll Probably Need Some Tools
Even if you plan to hire pros to take care of most of your home maintenance tasks, it can be a good idea to keep a few basic tools around for DIY jobs. Here are some items that could come in handy:
Basic Tools for Home Maintenance
• Step ladder or fold-up work platform. Why risk falling off a wobbly chair when a step ladder can give you extra height and stability?
• Extension ladder. If you’re planning to clean your gutters or get up on the roof, you’ll likely need to borrow or purchase an extension ladder to safely get the height you need.
• Tape measure.
• Hammer and assorted nails.
• Screwdrivers and assorted screws. Both flat-head and Phillips-head screwdrivers (in a few different sizes) will likely get plenty of use; or you can pick up one screwdriver with interchangeable heads.
• Drill and assorted drill bits. A light-duty, battery-operated drill and a set of bits should be able to handle most beginner-level repair jobs.
• Indoor and outdoor extension cords.
• Hacksaw or reciprocating saw. For quick cuts on wood, metal, PVC pipes, tree limbs, and more.
• Putty knife. You can use it for patching holes, applying drywall mud, and for scraping away paint or dirt.
• Pliers. Great for holding, bending, or reaching in to grab something.
• Sandpaper. The grit or coarseness of the paper will vary depending on the job and the results you’re looking for. It may save time to have a few different types on hand.
• Safety goggles and gloves. These basic pieces of safety equipment could protect you from a DIY disaster.
Paying for Home Improvements
One great reason to keep up with regular home maintenance is to avoid the high cost of major repairs or replacements. But from time to time, you may find you have to—or want to—take on a bigger project.
According to Home Advisor’s 2019 State of Home Spending report, homeowners spent an average of $1,105 on home maintenance projects and completed an average of 6.7 home maintenance projects per year. But the survey found that for every $1 homeowners put toward maintenance, they spent an average of $5 on home improvements, such as buying new appliances, or installing a new roof or new siding.
If your budget can’t handle that kind of big-ticket item right now, or the cost came up unexpectedly, you might want to look into a home improvement loan—especially if you don’t have a lot of equity built up in your home.
A home improvement loan is an unsecured personal loan that can be used to cover the costs of renovations, upgrades or repairs. It’s different from a home equity loan or home equity line of credit (HELOC), because you don’t have to use your home as collateral. Instead, the interest rate and amount you qualify for are based largely on the applicant’s credit history, income, and employment.
A personal loan can be especially appealing if you need to move quickly, as the application process is a little less involved than for a home equity loan or HELOC. And with a home improvement loan from SoFi, for example, you won’t pay any fees, you can apply online, and you’ll have access to customer service any time you need help figuring out what amount or terms best suit your needs.
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