Your home is a significant investment that needs proper maintenance to safeguard you and your finances. Most first-time home buyers pick up household maintenance skills following a move. For a home to be safe and functional, it’s got to be well looked after from the inside out. Cleaning and inspections should be a regular occurrence. During the lifespan of your home, make sure its utilities and appliances are inspected and repaired promptly. The good news is that with an annual house maintenance list, you can fast-track the learning process.
Given a choice, few of us would want to spend our Sunday climbing a ladder to remove leaves from a gutter. However, your home is one of the most significant investments you’ll ever make, as it is for a majority of Americans. While home maintenance can feel overwhelming, it doesn’t have to. Here’s a detailed read on four primary tasks to include in your annual house maintenance list.
1. Clear Your Plumbing
Always clear your plumbing with the help of local plumbers as part of your annual house maintenance list. Clogged drains are a prevalent plumbing issue. While you can use chemicals to clear them, these products can do more harm than good. In fact, they tend to corrode cast-iron drainpipes. Additionally, because chemicals aren’t effective at completely clearing clogs, the problem will likely recur, necessitating frequent administration of the chemicals. Each time, the pipes will deteriorate a little more. Instead, have a plumber snake the drain and remove all of the oil or hair clogs.
Clogs are more than a nuisance. Backed-up water exerts too much pressure on your waste pipes, shortening their lifespan. To prevent plug-ups, be careful about what goes down your drains. This entails keeping food scraps out of kitchen drains, hair out of bathroom drains, and everything else out of toilets except sewage and toilet paper. To prevent buildups, cover the shower head and bathtub drains with screens and remove as much hair as you can every few weeks. Whether you have a garbage disposal system or not, pour food into your trash can before doing the dishes. Never pour liquid oil down the drain; instead, pour it into a sealable container to throw in the trash after it has cooled.
To prevent flooding, test your sump pump. These devices are often the last line of defense against floods and are often found in basements. You should have sump pump maintenance done at least once every six months to avoid having a compromised foundation.
The minerals in hard water can reduce the longevity of your plumbing. These naturally occurring minerals, often calcium or magnesium, accumulate within your pipes and obstruct flow, raising pressure. They may also corrode fittings and joints. Hard water can be identified by a white deposit on faucets and showerheads. Or, you can establish how hard it is if your home has a municipal water connection. Every municipality is required by law to submit an annual water quality report to the EPA. Check the most current water test report for information on the hardness of your water. Hard water is defined as anything with a part-per-million level above 140.
Installing a water softener is the most practical and effective solution for dealing with hard water. Most water softeners use sodium to get rid of the minerals in your water, but modern electronic softeners dissolve minerals using electromagnetic pulses, which don’t add sodium to your water. Installing a conventional, sodium-based softener will cost $500 to $1,000 and require the services of professional local plumbers. You can also have an electronic unit installed, which costs less than $200 and doesn’t necessitate the opening of pipes. That said, note that you’ll need a nearby outlet to power the appliance.
If you decide to use a sodium-based softener, consider having a whole-house pre-filter installed concurrently. Pre-filter installation may only add $100 to the overall cost of the job, as the plumber will already be opening up your pipes to install the softener. Additionally, by eliminating chlorine and particulates from your drinking water, you’ll lessen the strain on your pipes that might result from those particles clogging faucet filters.
2. Clear Your Ducts
Clearing your ducts with the help of a duct cleaning service is an important part of an annual house maintenance list. Due to duct leaks, the typical home loses between 10% and 30% of its conditioned air. This means the energy used to cool or heat the air is wasted. If the ducts are stored inside the thermal envelope of the home, the energy may be held inside your home, but it may still be released into crawl spaces and wall cavities rather than the living areas whose temperature you wish to control.
You should also ensure that the return vents and valves aren’t blocked. A piece of furniture or other object placed in front of your vents might obstruct airflow and prevent it from circulating through your rooms. When a blockage is significant, it may affect the whole ductwork design, altering the system’s pressure and causing HVAC fan motor burnout.
You should also insulate the ducts. Whether your ducts are situated inside the thermal shell of your home or not, insulation helps maintain the temperature of the air flowing through the ducts until it reaches your living areas. Having a UV light installed in the ductwork is also an important aspect to include in your annual house maintenance list. UV lights sterilize the air by using ultraviolet radiation to kill germs, mold, and fungal spores. This can prevent the buildup of mold and fungus colonies inside the ducts. Your interior air quality may also benefit from this installation.
Having your ducts tested by a professional is also important to include in your annual house maintenance list. During AC maintenance, an HVAC expert will measure the air pressure in the ducts while the system is running to determine how much air is being lost and if the system is balanced. They can also provide suggestions on how to make your home’s ducting design better.
Consider hiring an air duct cleaning service that’s NADCA-certified. A ductwork obstruction may be just as destructive, if not more, than having furniture in front of your vents. Obstructions like a blown-in air filter can accumulate, interfere with the operation of the central HVAC system, or even pose a fire danger if they blow through and enter the ductwork.
3. Fix Your Exterior
Maintaining the exterior of your home should be part of your annual house maintenance list. This is because the exteriors are usually exposed to the elements, which causes deterioration and wear of critical structures of your home. A roof inspection is a great place to start as it shields your house, but it may need some updating to continue doing so. You can detect signs of flaws and irregularities in your roof by performing an exterior and interior check. If you notice any issues, have them addressed as soon as possible as they may let bugs, rot, and moisture into your house. An inspection will expose rust spots, cracked caulk, missing shingles, broken or damaged shingles, evidence of degradation, sagging, damaged flashing, and more. If your roof is still within the range of its estimated lifespan, you may be able to fix it through a local roofing repairs company rather than replace it entirely.
Deck cleaning, staining, and/or sealing are also important to include in your annual house maintenance list. Your deck should be cleaned, and pressure washed regularly by professional pressure washing services. While you’re at it, think about whether it’s time to reapply the sealant or stain. Check the deck for cracks and wear signs, then make any necessary repairs.
You should also check the windows in the basement. In the late fall, make sure to check the windows in the basement before the snow starts to fall. Check for any cracks, gaps, or breezes that might let chilly air and moisture in. Caulk drafts and repair frames or broken glass. Additionally, remove any material from window wells, including trash, leaves, and even animals.
It’s also a good idea to clear your yard of garbage and fallen branches. Remove any fallen foliage from the yard. This will prevent insects and snakes from making nests in the fallen plants around your property and keep it looking tidy. Consider hiring affordable tree services for the best results.
Cleaning your walkways and driveway is also an important task to include in your annual house maintenance list. These areas are full of toxins, mold, mildew, dirt, and other debris that may be brought into your home and lead to trips and falls. Give your driveway and pathways a pressure wash to get rid of dangerous build-up as well as stains. To further guard against grime, seal your driveway.
You should also pressure wash exterior walls. Whether they are made of brick, siding, stone, or stucco, a pressure wash will get rid of dirt, mildew, and mold. This prevents decay and improves the appearance of your property.
4. Keep Your Home Safe
Keeping your home safe is one of the important aspects to include in your annual house maintenance list. Start by making sure the foundation is intact by contacting a foundation repair business to give it a thorough check. Next, install a smoke alarm system on every floor and regularly conduct a fire alarm inspection. The National Fire Protection Association advises placing one outside each sleeping area, in the basement, and in each bedroom. Avoid installing them in or close to bathrooms or the kitchen, as the heat from a hot shower or the stove may cause them to trigger the alarm repeatedly.
Test each alarm every month by pressing the test button. It ought to emit a loud beeping sound. Replace the alarm’s batteries if it doesn’t or if the sound is a little weak. Your owner’s manual should cover the process in more detail. If you don’t have one, you can hunt for a copy online by searching for the make and model of your alarm system.
Change the batteries right away if a smoke alarm starts to beep on its own. Otherwise, unless the alarm comes with 10-year, non-replaceable batteries, replace the batteries in each alarm at least once a year. Every ten years, replace your smoke alarms as well.
Also consider including the installation of carbon monoxide detectors in your annual house maintenance list. Carbon monoxide (CO), which has no smell or color, has the potential to be fatal. When gas-burning appliances are used, a car is left running in the garage, or gas or wood fires are used, its concentration can increase in your home. For this reason, every floor of your home should have a carbon monoxide detector. Replace CO alarms as often as recommended by the manufacturer because their shelf life can vary. If you can’t find the owner’s manual, you can look it up online.
Include fire extinguisher installation or maintenance as part of your annual house maintenance list. If you don’t have fire extinguishers, get one installed in the kitchen and on each floor of your house. ABC-rated extinguishers are recommended. These are applicable to fires involving regular household objects such as wood and cloth (A), liquids such as gasoline and oil (B), and electrical equipment such as faulty wiring.
Drawing up a fire escape plan is also a great task to include in your annual house maintenance list. For every room in your home, establish two escape routes. The most obvious choices are doors, but easy-to-open first-floor windows are also ideal. Make sure everyone in your household knows the plan. You can perform practice drills to reinforce the plan.
Just like with regular health check-ups, maintenance is key to ensuring the optimal functioning of your home. Maintaining regular inspections of your home’s exterior, furnishings, HVAC, plumbing, security, and electrical systems will save money, prevent breakdowns, and maintain the visual appeal of your home.
For a new homeowner who has never seen a boiler up close, much less an emptied one, performing routine maintenance on the home might seem like a daunting task. However, it doesn’t have to be. Include the above tasks in your annual house maintenance list so you can know when to call the relevant service providers.