For many of us, our homes are our biggest financial investments. Which is exactly why we also need to regularly invest time into their upkeep. Home maintenance is just one of the costs of owning a home, important for everyone from first-time buyers to long-time owners who have been in their homes for years and intend to stay for many more.
When you’re thinking about putting your home on the market, home improvement tasks become more important than ever. Believe it or not, unresolved maintenance issues are one of the main reasons why pending sales fall apart. If your home is in poor condition, your buyer may request you make time-consuming repairs, give them a costly concession, or cancel the contract altogether.
Don’t know where to start? Here’s the ultimate home maintenance checklist, covering both the interior and exterior of your home and complete with recommendations for when to take care of each item. Follow our list to make sure you’re crossing everything off your home maintenance checklist at the right time.
Keeping up with the maintenance of your home’s interior is essential to ensuring that your living space remains comfortable, functional, and safe. Neglecting interior maintenance can lead to problems, from unpleasant odors to mold growth to electrical hazards. Additionally, regular interior maintenance can increase the value of your property, as well as prolong the lifespan of your pricy components, such as appliances, flooring, and HVAC systems.
❏ Clear away any debris: Change the air conditioner filter every month, and clean the area around the outdoor unit, so it’s free of debris like leaves and grass clippings.
❏ Clean fans and vents: Vacuum bathroom exhaust fans, intake panels, heat registers, and vents to improve indoor air quality throughout your home.
❏ Invest in regular maintenance: If you have central air, the bulk of your HVAC maintenance will need to be done by a qualified professional. Have them visit your home in both the spring and the fall so you can tackle any issues before the major heating and cooling months.
❏ Reverse the direction on ceiling fans: Setting your ceiling fans to go counter-clockwise pushes air down, which can create a breeze in the summer and help you save on cooling costs. In the fall, set them clockwise to disperse warm air that rises.
❏ Clean and check: Clean your fireplace flues and inspect for any damages.
❏ Drain the water heater tank: Every three months, drain about a quarter of the tank to remove any debris or sediment that may have settled at the bottom. To do this, turn off the cold water supply and hook up a garden hose to the drain valve. Allow the water to drain into a bucket until it runs clear. This will help you save on energy and may even help you get more hot water out of your tank.
❏ Test the temperature and pressure relief valve: Quickly discharge the valve two or three times. Afterward, look out for any leaks that may be coming from the valve.
❏ Get your sump pump serviced: Regularly check to make sure that your sump pump is standing upright and connected to its GFCI outlet. Once a year, have it serviced by a professional.
❏ Unclog drains: Use a snake or drain cleaner on your shower, bathtub, and sink drains to remove debris on a monthly basis. This prevents build-up and water pooling.
❏ Inspect all your pipes: Check under sinks to make sure there are no signs of leaks. Check faucets for drips, and look at the flapper in your toilet tanks to make sure it’s not worn down.
❏ Check for water stains: Look at your ceilings for water stains, which is evidence of a leak in the wall. You may need to call a plumber if you notice any issues.
❏ Insulate pipes: To avoid your pipes being damaged by frozen water, or being burst by melted ice, make sure all outdoor faucets are drained and shut off and set the thermostat inside your home is set at a warm-enough temperature.
❏ Washing machine: Inspect the hoses for leaks or cracks and replace as needed. Check the lint filter and clean it out. Run a cleaning cycle to remove any buildup.
❏ Dryer: Clean the lint filter before every use to reduce fire risk and help dry your clothes faster. Check the dryer vent for blockages and clean it out yourself or hire a professional. (You’ll likely need a dryer vent cleaning kit, which has specially-designed brushes. First, run the dryer and verify that air is actually escaping through the vent. Then, use your brushes to wipe away any debris that may have gathered inside.) Inspect the drum and belt for damage and replace as needed.
❏ Garbage disposal: Use a mix of baking soda and vinegar to eliminate odors and prevent bacteria or mold build-up. Be sure to turn the power to your disposal off before performing maintenance. (Monthly)
❏ Oven and stove: Use a combination of degreaser and hot water to rinse your stovetop vent and ensure good airflow. (Monthly)
❏ Refrigerator: Pull out your refrigerator so that you can clean behind it. Be sure to dust or vacuum the refrigerator coils to remove dust and keep the refrigerator’s cooling system operating smoothly.
❏ Dishwasher: Check the dishwasher's spray arm for clogs and clean it out. Inspect the racks for damage and replace as needed. Clean the filter regularly.
❏ Reseal grout: Inspect the tile grout in your bathrooms and kitchen, and reseal as needed to prevent dirt and water from getting between tiles. This both helps them look better and prevents water damage, extending the life of the tile features.
❏ Confirm that generator still works: Every three months, power up your portable generator to make sure it still works, and to check for corrosion and wear. Don’t let fuel sit in the tank because this could damage it.
❏ Change the batteries in your smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector: =You should change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors twice a year. While you’re doing that, you should also test all of the detectors according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
❏ Test your fire extinguisher: Newer fire extinguishers will probably have a pressure gauge with a green section and a red section. If the needle on your extinguisher is in the red, you need to replace it. For older versions, you may have to press down a pin to test the pressure. If the pin pops back up after being pressed, your extinguisher is properly pressurized.
The exterior of your home and property is the first thing that visitors, neighbors, and, if you’re selling, potential buyers will see. Keeping up with outside maintenance affects not only for the curb appeal of your home but also its overall functionality and safety. Neglecting outside maintenance can lead to costly repairs, decrease the value of your property, and even pose potential hazards to you and your family.
❏ Check for leaks: In the spring, inspect your roofing for leaks and any damaged, loose or missing shingles. Replace or repair on your own, or with the help of a professional roofer.
❏ Monitor for ice and snow: Throughout the winter, keep an eye on your roof for icicles or ice dams that can damage your roof or melt into your home and cause water damage. If your roof tends to collect icicles or ice dams, purchase a roof rake and clear snow before it can melt or freeze into ice.
❏ Clear gutters: Clear your gutters and downspouts of any debris that accumulated over the winter to prevent water from pooling on your roof and to protect against potential damages from leaks or overflows.
❏ Inspect and clean chimney: Chimneys should be inspected and cleaned at least once per year, ideally by an expert. Wood-burning fireplaces produce tar and creosote build-up in the chimney, which is a fire hazard and affects the air in your home.
❏ Touch up exterior paint: In addition to looking nice, exterior paint helps protect your shingles from water damage and rot. Inspect the outside of your house for peeling paint, and either touch it up yourself or hire a professional.
❏ Add insulatation: Apply a bit of peel-and-stick weather stripping around any drafty areas in your home. (Be sure to measure the relevant area first so that you can get a proper seal.) Weather stripping will also protect against the risk of water damage.
❏ Install storm windows: Installing storm windows can help you drastically save on your energy bill. To start, first measure the size of your existing window. The exact measurements you need will depend on the type of window you buy. Once you have the storm window in hand, position it in the middle of your existing window frame, and screw it in place.
❏ Wash siding: Close your windows and doors, and cover your hedges and lawn with plastic sheets. Attach a siding kit to your garden hose, and spray down the siding and masonry of your home, being sure to spot-clean especially dirty areas.
❏ Check for insect entrances: Walk your home’s perimeter to look for and repair any insect entrances in windows and doors. Apply a repellent or poison to prevent bugs from entering your home.
❏ Organize garage: Clean out and organize your garage, being sure to address dust, and to remove any mold build-up.
❏ Tighten any moving parts on garage doors: Once a year, take a socket wrench and tighten up all the bolts and roller brackets in the door.
❏ Replace the weather stripping on garage doors: Keep an eye on the weather stripping on the garage door so that you can replace it when it gets worn down.
❏ Clean the deck: Sweep deck clean and inspect it, looking for cracked wood and loose nails. Pull out any debris from between the boards.Then clean it thoroughly by wetting it with a garden hose, spraying it with a cleaning solution using a pump sprayer, scrubbing it with a broom, and then spraying it down with a hose again. If your deck is wood, you should also treat it with borate for algae, which will protect against wood rot. Once the deck has had a few days to dry, stain it and seal it.
❏ Open pool for the summer: Treat your pool’s water, check and change valves and filters, and inspect all the equipment.
❏ Close the pool for the fall: Clean your pool, test the water, and add any winterizing chemicals. Then drain your pool, store the pumps and hoses, and cover it for the season.
❏ Spring lawn touchup: Reseed any bald patches on your lawn, plant any flowers, and, later in the season, fertilize.
❏ Prepare your sprinkler system: Run the sprinklers and looking for any leaks or broken lines. Then, take a closer look at the sprinkler heads and clear away any debris that may be blocking the flow of water.
❏ Remove leaves: Rake and bag the leaves on your lawn. You might also consider mowing over them, which, when done once a week, breaks them down and provides nutrients to your lawn. Either way, you don’t need to get rid of every single leaf: a light layer of leaves under your trees and shrubs can act as a kind of natural mulch.
Regular home maintenance, both interior and exterior, is crucial for homeowners to ensure their property remains in top condition and retains its value over time. Neglecting maintenance tasks can lead to small issues turning into big, expensive problems. By prioritizing home maintenance, homeowners can protect their investment, save money in the long run, and ensure a safe and comfortable living environment.
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