Owning a home is a big deal, and it’s the biggest investment most people will make in their lifetime. So let’s hear it for being house-proud!
But being house-proud also means keeping your home in good condition inside and out. It’s about tackling those maintenance jobs that (let’s face it) some of us forget or put off until it’s too late.
So get out your tool kit, because we’re about to take you through the essentials of home maintenance.
What Home Maintenance Items Should I Budget For?
Okay, first think of the necessities—water, heat, cooling and the roof over your head. These are year-round needs for all households, and the things that make them possible require love and attention!
Budget every year for the cost of an expert to service your HVAC unit and water storage heater and to check your roof. Let’s take a closer look at each of these services and how much they cost.
Heating, Ventilation and Cooling (HVAC)
The HVAC is that boxy, noisy thing that sits outside your home, doing its job day in and day out. It gives you cool air in the summer and heat in the winter. The major parts inside an HVAC unit typically last between 10 and 25 years, so you need to have it serviced annually to make sure things are running smoothly.
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How much does it cost to have it tuned up every year? That’ll run you about $100 to $200.(1) But if you need to replace your HVAC unit, it will cost you thousands of dollars to buy a new one and have it installed. So it’s well worth paying for the annual checkup, especially if you spot a problem before it’s too late.
Hot Water Storage Tank
Just like the HVAC, you should have a professional look at your hot water heater every year. A tank lasts 10 to 15 years on average, and a new one can cost from $300 to $2,000 depending on the type you need.(2) The average cost of installing a new tank is about $1,000.(3)
During the annual service, the professional will flush and drain the tank (to remove sediment built up inside) and check the pressure relief valve. The cost of a service should be in the range of $100 to $200.(4)
Roof Inspection and Gutter Cleaning
Have an expert inspect your roof every year, especially if it’s on the older side. And if your home is framed by large trees, keep your gutters free of gunk and blockage with a cleaning once a year. If you’re fine with heights and have a sturdy ladder, you could do this yourself. Or, for around $100, you could opt to have a pro take on the task.(5)
Home Maintenance: What Should I Do and When?
Now, here’s what you can do yourself to keep your home running like a well-oiled machine inside and out! Do these jobs to get the most out of your appliances and fixtures. It’ll help your biggest asset—your home—hold onto its value!
Clean the inside of your washing machine.
Use store-bought sachets or throw a cup of white vinegar into an empty machine during a hot wash cycle to banish limescale and soap scum. Leave front-loading machine doors open after a wash to prevent mold from forming around the rubber seal.
Give the garbage disposal a workout.
Run some ice cubes through the disposal to sharpen the blades. Vinegar and baking soda make a sizzling combo for breaking down food and grease buildup and freshening the whole thing.
Clean drains around the home.
Hair. Soap. Limescale. Ugh! Rid your sinks, showers and bathtub drains of these things by using the vinegar and baking soda trick, or grab a store-bought solution if you have a slow-flowing or pungent drain.
Degrease your range hood filter.
If you love to cook (and even if you don’t), the extractor hood filter soaks up all the grease and aromas, so give it a clean every month to keep it running well.
Replace your HVAC air filters.
The amount you use your HVAC really affects how often you need to replace your air filters. Some folks will replace their filters every couple of months, and some do it monthly. But, at minimum, you should do it quarterly. Experts agree if you use thinner filters and change them more often, they’re easier on your HVAC compared to thicker ones that use more energy.(6)
Clean faucet aerators and shower heads.
Dirty aerators on the end of your faucets could mean limescale and dirt are blocking the water stream, and that can affect water pressure. The same goes for showerheads!
Clean your washing machine filter.
This filter in your machine picks up larger bits of debris and lint from your clothes. Unscrew the filter and clean it every few months to keep your machine running well.
Test smoke alarms.
Alarms come with a test button to make this a quick and easy job. You should also replace the batteries every year, even if the low battery beep hasn’t kicked in yet.
Lubricate garage doors.
Garage doors have moving parts that need dusting and proper lubrication every few months. Visit your hardware store to grab some heavy-duty white lithium grease to do the job.
Test GFCI outlets.
Usually, in your bathroom and kitchen, you’ll see outlets with buttons that say test and reset on them. These are ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets, and they monitor the electricity flowing through them to prevent shocks. Press test and then reset every few months to make sure the trip function is working correctly.
Check salt levels in your water softener.
If you have a water softener unit (it removes minerals that cause hard water), check the salt levels inside every few months.
Check for pesky pests.
Ants? Termites? Spiders? Wasps? It’s worth keeping your eyes peeled for signs of pests inside and outside your home every few months. You can take care of some problems with over-the-counter products, while some might require professional attention.
We already covered the big-ticket items you should check every year. But what about other annual outdoor maintenance jobs?
Clean your deck or patio.
If you’ve got a wooden deck stained with a thinner, transparent varnish, restain it every year or so. And remember those fences, too!
Check your siding.
If your home has wooden siding, inspect it annually for any signs of damage or peeling paint. Also, check for cracks around the foundation of your home. It’s better to find them now before they turn into bigger issues.
Care for crawlspace vents.
Close your crawlspace vents at the start of winter to protect pipes underneath your home from cold and dry conditions. Then open them in the spring to stop moisture buildup in your crawlspace.
Remember your outdoor faucets.
If you live in a cold region, cover your outdoor faucets with an insulating cover in the winter to avoid frozen and bursting pipes.
Fertilize the lawn and check trees and shrubs.
Monitor trees and shrubs that might be a bit too close to your house or are in need of a trim. Get in touch with a tree doctor to check on the health of your trees if you need to.
Check the clothes dryer vent.
The vent for your clothes dryer should be free of dirt and lint. While you’re running a load of laundry through the dryer, go outside to make sure the vent is doing its job. It should be releasing lots of fresh-smelling air!
Test your garage door’s safety features.
Your garage door should have stop and auto reverse motion detection to sense if an object is in its path. Get a 2x4 piece of wood and place it underneath the open door, then close the door using the button on the wall. The door should stop closing once it detects the wood and go back up.
Let’s step inside your home for a minute to go through those annual indoor maintenance jobs.
Inspect your attic.
If you have an attic, get up there at least once a year to clean, check for pests, and rule out leaks after heavy rain.
Get a pro to clean your carpets.
Get your carpets cleaned professionally every year or so to keep them looking great and to remove allergens and odors.
Check bathtubs and shower caulking.
Retouch caulking around your bathtub and shower if there are places that need it.
Seal your shower floor.
If your shower floor is tiled, clean the grout every year. There are lots of grout cleaners out there. Apply a sealant to protect the shower floor from all the water.
Vacuum around bathroom extractor fans.
Clear away any dust and cobwebs from around extractor fans.
Vacuum behind the refrigerator.
Do you know those coils on the back of your fridge? You should gently vacuum them once a year to stop the fridge from working overtime.
Clean and check windows inside and out.
Clear away dead bugs from between your bug screen and window pane. Check window screens for holes and replace them if needed. Check the condition of weather stripping around your windows and doors, too. Any big gaps could mean loss of heat in winter and cool air in summer.
Maintain your fireplace.
Whether your fireplace works with real wood or is gas-powered, get your chimney swept and have your flue inspected every year.
Check window air conditioning units.
If you have in-window units, clean them every year. Also, think about covering them in the winter if you’re not storing them away from the elements.
Do your basement business.
Basements can be a bit “out of sight, out of mind,” but try not to neglect them! Give basements a thorough cleaning every year and check for mold and cracks in the walls. Clean window wells outside any basement windows, too. You might have a sump pump (it removes accumulated water from the area), so inspect it every year.
How Can I Save Money on Home Maintenance?
Here are some basic ways you can save money on maintenance jobs:
1. Stay ahead of the game.
Get those important things like your HVAC, roof and water heater checked every year. If they do need repair, you’re better off knowing sooner than later.
2. Energy efficiency equals money saved!
If your home is older, check its energy efficiency. With proper insulation and effective weather stripping on windows and doors, you could save money on gas and electric bills. Plus, making your home energy efficient can help increase its value!
3. Build an emergency fund.
Aim to save three to six months’ worth of your monthly expenses in a separate account to pay for emergencies like car repairs or—you guessed it—a replacement water heater or HVAC. Give your emergency fund a boost by putting aside extra money each month to cover the cost of something you know is old and on its way out. Plan ahead and you’ll be set!
Help With Home Maintenance
There are lots of ways to find someone to do a job you might not have the time or expertise to do. These days, sites like Angie’s List, Takl and Home Advisor make up a growing group of online resources to find pros in your area. And don’t forget to ask your friends, neighbors and colleagues for recommendations, too!
If you want to know about the condition of your home, why not have a certified home inspector give it a checkup? For a few hundred dollars, an inspector will assess your whole property from roof to basement. You can use their report to create a budget for future repairs— especially if you’re planning to sell soon.
If you’re fixing up a home to make it ready to sell, get a professional real estate agent to help guide you. They can walk you through an inspector’s report and advise you about specific maintenance projects that will add value to your home before you put it on the market.