15.Comprehensive Maintenance Guide

The Importance of Maintenance

Benjamin Franklin once said, “don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today,” and the same holds true even now. Performing regular maintenance will help to ensure your home is running efficiently, including everything from the physical appearance to the mechanical workings of your home.

According to the experts, an unmaintained home could lose up to 10% of the appraised value, or an equivalent of $15,000 to $20,000 for an average American home, while performing consistent home maintenance can increase the value of your home by approximately one% every year.

To protect your new home investment, you’ll need to perform regularly scheduled maintenance. While it may seem somewhat overwhelming to deal with so many aspects of being a new homeowner, DomiDocs can help you stay organized and ahead of the curve. Our Calendar feature will keep track of your tasks, reminders, and events relating to your maintenance, warranties, and insurance policies in an easily accessible format so you’ll never miss a deadline or opportunity.

Make a plan to establish an emergency fund for household repairs, as research shows that many Americans have less than $500 saved to cover such expenses.

Appliances

The Importance of Appliance Maintenance and Repair

Simply put, a semi-functioning appliance with issues is a safety hazard in your home. It’s important to conduct preventative maintenance to ensure an appliance doesn’t get to that point, but if it does, you’ll need to decide whether to repair or replace it.

Repair or Replace? Items to consider when making the repair vs. replace decision include the:

  • Likelihood the appliance will continue to break down – maybe it’s time to upgrade to new technology/features
  • Warranty – is coverage still in effect? If so, you may qualify for a free or reduced-rate repair. 

Pro Tip: The Warranty Documents feature of DomiDocs allows you to upload and safely store all of your appliance warranties so you’ll know where they are when you need them.

  • Price – can you afford a new appliance right now? Angie’s List states: “appliance repair professionals say when the price of the repair totals more than half the cost to purchase a new appliance, you’re better off replacing the appliance.”

Before you call a contractor, check the following:

  • Is the appliance plugged in?
  • If it’s plugged into a GFCI circuit, have you tried resetting the outlet?
  • The circuit breaker for the appliance should be in the ‘on’ setting

Save Money And Energy. Although the initial cost may be more, you can save money in the long run by replacing your appliances with Energy Star efficient models. Some specific models may even be eligible for utility company rebates, or federal/state tax credits. Some new refrigerators come with Wi-Fi LCD touch screen monitors that work with your smartphone; you can keep an inventory of food or make a grocery list.

 

 The average lifespan of appliances, according to Consumer Reports  Years
 Air conditioner room)  10
 Air conditioner (central)  15
 Boiler (electric)  13
 Boilers (gas)  21
 Dishwasher  9
 Dryer  13
 Freezer  11
 Furnaces (electric; gas; oil)  15 – 20
 Stove (gas; electric)  13 – 15
 Refrigerator  13
 Washer  10
 Water heaters (gas; electric; tankless)  10 – 20

 

How to Keep your Major Appliances in Good Condition

Besides reading your appliance operational manuals, here are some preventative maintenance tips you can follow:

Dishwasher:

  • Add a small amount of vinegar and regularly run your dishwasher while it’s empty to remove any soap buildup
  • Clean the filter
  • To save energy, only run when it’s full and by using the shortest washing cycle for the content needs
  • Ensure the spinning arms are free-moving and there is no debris caught anywhere 
  • Check the hoses for any sign of leakage and at the same time vacuum underneath the unit

Pro Tip: Before calling for service on your dishwasher, check to ensure:

  • It’s turned on
  • The door is closed and locked
  • The water shutoff valve under the sink is turned on
  • The garbage disposal switch is also on

Dryer:

  • Ensure the lint trap is emptied before each use to reduce the risk of fire
  • Inspect the outside vent and remove lint build up each year
  • Switch to reusable dryer balls, especially to those made of wool, as they’ll speed up the overall drying process by up to 25%; and no more chemicals that are bad for the environment

Stove/Oven:

  • The best way to deal with spills is to clean then up when they occur instead of using the self-cleaning function
  • Use drip pans to catch spills before they get out of hand
  • If you’ve got a glass cooktop, don’t use an abrasive cleanser, as it will badly scratch the surface; follow the manufacturer’s recommendation for cleaning

Refrigerator/Freezer:

  • Vacuum underneath the unit annually, and vacuum the condenser coils quarterly to remove accumulated dust, which can cause the fridge to consume more energy, as it’s not working efficiently
  • Check temperatures to ensure they’re set to the manufacturer’s recommendation
  • Regularly clean the shelves and bins
  • Empty and clean the drip pan to prevent odors or nasty mold from forming
  • Clean the door seal regularly and replace it if it’s beginning to look shabby and isn’t sealing properly
  • Never plug a fridge or freezer into a GFCI outlet as it could trip and may not be discovered until the food has begun to spoil

Washer:

  • Try not to overload your washer as it could wear out earlier than expected; it also won’t produce the cleanest of clothes if items aren’t able to circulate to become clean
  • Adjust the water level to the load of clothes you’re washing
  • Always empty pockets so a foreign object doesn’t get stuck in the washer
  • Inspect hoses monthly, vacuum underneath yearly, and replace the washer fill hose every five years

Boiler/Hot Water Tank:

  • The U.S. Boiler Company recommends having your hot water tank/boiler serviced annually, which involves draining the tank completely, followed by an overall inspection
  • A lack of hot water could mean your pilot light went out; you’ll need to re-light the pilot manually on a full tank (never on an empty tank as it can cause failure of the tank lining over time) using a flame source, or by using the electric spark generator feature on newer heaters. If in doubt, call a professional.

Appliance Maintenance Checklist

With each use:

  • Empty the dryer lint trap
  • Clean up all spills immediately

Monthly: 

  • Check washer hoses
  • Clean out the dishwasher filter (or more frequently, if needed)
  • Add vinegar and run the empty dishwasher through a cycle to clean it
  • Clean your oven
  • Empty out your fridge, clean shelves, drawers, and trays

Quarterly:

  • Vacuum the fridge condenser coils
  • Check the door seal on the fridge
  • Check the temperature of your fridge/freezer
  • Empty and clean the drip pan in order to prevent odors or nasty mold from forming
  • Inspect your dishwasher for possible signs of leakage

Yearly:

  • Check and clean the outside dryer vent/hose
  • Vacuum underneath your dishwasher, fridge, and washer

Five years:

  • Replace the washer fill hose

Bathrooms

How to Care for Your Bathroom

Next to your kitchen, your bathroom will be the most used area of your home. It’s important to ensure it’s functioning and in good working order at all times. While it will seem the daily tasks to do in the bathroom alone are enough to keep you more than busy, it’s all about keeping nasties away from you and your family. 

Bathrooms can easily harbor germs and mold, so if you can get everyone in your family to agree to use the exhaust fan when showering, hanging up their towels afterward, and to always closing the toilet lid before flushing, you’re on the right path. According to Accredited Home Care, mold and dust from an unclean bathroom can affect your breathing especially if you already experience breathing problems such as asthma or bronchitis. Bacteria, microorganisms, and viruses can live on bathroom surfaces for more than a week, so it’s vitally important to wipe down surfaces daily.

At some point during your homeownership, you may consider doing a bathroom remodel. According to some real estate professionals, you could recoup almost 80% of your overall cost when it’s time to sell your home, so a bathroom remodel is a great idea indeed. After taking measurements of your existing bathroom to evaluate the space, you can start collecting ideas as to what features you want to change. Establish goals, a contingency plan for usage, plus a clear budget for your bathroom remodel. Experts suggest many homeowners spend anywhere from $3,500 on a small-sized bathroom renovation to upwards of $25, 000 for a master bathroom. Consider adding a second bathroom if your home only has one currently, as it’s very appealing to prospective buyers when it comes time to sell down the road. Other fun and appealing bathroom features could include adding under-floor heating, a soaking tub, or his-and-her double sinks. Quicker bathroom fixes could include updating the toilet, lighting, mirror, flooring, and/or wall coverings or paint colors.

Important Bathroom Items to Maintain

Bathroom fixtures: Regularly inspect for signs of damage or leaking; follow manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning while noting brass and nickel scratch easily so it’s best to avoid any type of abrasive cleansers. Descale the showerhead monthly by tying a plastic bag filled with vinegar over the shower head and letting it soak overnight. If your faucet is leaky, change out the washer. 

Pro Tip: Reduce your carbon footprint by installing a touchless smart faucet that’s designed to save upwards of 15,000 gallons of water annually. Or consider using a self-powered energy and water meter for your shower, which could save an additional 2,245 gallons of water per year. Here’s how to change the washer in a faucet:

  1. Shut off the water valve underneath the sink.
  2. Using a wrench, remove the hexagon-shaped cap at the top of the assembly.
  3. Take out the inside piece, flip it over, and you’ll see a washer held in place by a screw. Remove the screw, then the washer and replace both, if necessary.

Caulking: To prevent leakage, inspect the caulking around your tub, shower, and toilet every six months for discoloration or damage; re-caulk your fixtures every five years.

Countertops: Depending on the countertop material, use a household cleaner on a daily basis to maintain the surface and ensure cleanliness for you and your family. Always follow manufacturer instructions for care.

Doorknobs: Use a disinfectant type cleanser daily to help stop the potential spread of germs throughout your house.

Exhaust fan: Always utilize your bathroom’s exhaust fan when showering to help remove moisture.

Grout: Use a grout sealer to ensure there won’t be water leakage and to guard against spills, but be sure to test before use as some sealers can cause discoloration.

Medicine cabinet: Empty and clean out every month; ensure contact lenses and toothbrushes are always stored inside the medicine cabinet and never near a toilet to avoid airborne bacteria when it’s flushed. The same applies to towels – don’t hang them near the toilet area, used or unused. If you have old medicine in your cabinet, be sure to safely return your unused or unwanted medication to your local pharmacy.

Mirrors: Wipe clean at least once per week to ensure cleanliness and to lessen the possibility of de-silvering along the edges due to frequent water contact.

Rust stains: if a rust stain forms, such as from the bottom of a can, you’ll need to use a rust remover specifically designed to remove stains.

Soap scum: it’s a common issue for homeowners and is mainly caused by water that’s high in mineral content; a mild vinegar solution generally works well.

Showers: Use a squeegee to help keep the glass shower door clean; consider drying the shower after each use and/or cleaning from top to bottom at least once per week.

Tiling: Floor tiles can be kept clean daily by using a dry mop; wet mop the floor once per week.

Toilets: If there’s an unused bathroom, flush the toilet and sink at least once a month to maintain use. Scrub the toilet daily; consider using a toilet bowl cleaner continuous action puck, which can last up to three months depending upon usage and reduce the need to scrub daily – but check manufacturer instructions before doing so. Always keep a plunger nearby in case of an emergency. Never stand on your toilet seat even if only for a second as it could easily crack because it’s not designed for standing upon. If your toilet is running, take a look at the flapper valve – if it’s worn, that’s a common cause of a running toilet as the valve can’t completely seal; this could also be the result of the flush handle chain being too tight, which could prevent the flapper valve from sealing. Pro Tip: Consult the toilet warranty manual before using any puck/cleaner/tablets containing chlorine as they could cause parts to fail (such as the tank flapper) and/or the use of such could void any warranty. 

Tubs and surrounds: Always use a non-abrasive cleanser so as not to scratch and damage the surface. If you’re using any type of anti-skid mat, be sure to remove it after each use otherwise water damage/stains could occur in the tub.

Walls: Do spot-cleaning as necessary and wash the walls every week, but don’t scrub as that could cause unnecessary staining or discoloration. Consider a glossy paint which absorbs less moisture and dirt overall

Bathroom Maintenance Checklist

Daily:

  • Always use your exhaust fan when showering or bathing
  • Clean countertops and doorknobs
  • Dry mop the bathroom floor
  • Scrub the toilets
  • Sink, shower and fixtures
  • Spot clean your walls
  • Squeegee your glass door after showering to help prevent water spots; dry your shower

Weekly:

  • Clean your mirrors
  • Clean your shower top to bottom at least once per week
  • Deal with soap scum
  • Wash the walls
  • Wet mop your bathroom floor

Monthly:

  • Clean out the medicine cabinet
  • Deal with rust stains
  • Descale the showerhead
  • Flush toilets and sinks in unused bathrooms
  • Inspect bathroom fixtures
  • Replace toilet bowl cleaner pucks

Six Months:

  • Inspect the caulking around your shower, toilet and tub

Five Years:

  • Re-caulk your bathroom fixtures

Electrical

How to Care for Your Home’s Electrical

The U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission (USCPSC) reports there are an estimated 31,000 fires and 200 deaths resulting from home electrical system malfunctions annually. The National Fire Protection Association concurs as they found 69% of electrical fires were caused by damaged or faulty wiring/electrical equipment. 

Monitor the Situation. While it may seem mundane, it’s extremely important to inspect all electrical cords before use, and to never use cords or equipment that are clearly damaged. You’ll need to regularly maintain the electrical system throughout your home to help identify any potential fire hazards before an accident can occur, all with the safety of you and your family in mind. 

Do This Every 10 Years. The USCPSC also suggests having a licensed electrician perform an electrical inspection of your home at least every 10 years, which includes checking the wiring, main electrical panel, the electric meter, wall switches, and Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) outlets.

Do You Have Permission? Before undertaking any significant electrical repairs or upgrades within your home, you’ll need to obtain any necessary permits – which may or may not be included as part of your electrician’s invoice – so you’ll need to confirm. Reach out to family, friends and neighbors for a recommendation for a reputable electrician. According to research, replacing just the electrical panel can cost anywhere from $1,200 to $2,000. Rewiring a whole house can run from $8,000 to $15,000 for a 1,500- to 3,000 square-foot home.” 

Important Electrical Items to Maintain

Circuit Breakers: Circuit breakers are either in an on, off, or tripped position. If a circuit breaker trips, you’ll need to turn it off before turning it back on or it won’t restore service. Why does this happen? It could be you’ve got too many appliances plugged into that specific circuit, a voltage issue, or even an appliance with an issue. If you’ve got a circuit that trips over and over, consider calling in a professional electrician to diagnose the problem. Your furnace may have a fuse (near the power switch) that trips during a power surge; it’s a great idea to have extra matching fuses in case of an emergency.

Electrical Outlets: ensure they’re securely held in place and that you’re not overloading a socket with more plugs than you should. Use an electric surge protector for items like your desktop computer, video game console, and television. Consider using a smart power strip, which can control the flow of power to multiple items such as a television, a sound system, and a DVD player, all by simply using the on-off status of just one device. It’s important to note that damage caused by a lightning strike, which then causes a power surge, is not generally covered by homeowner’s insurance. Options for smart power strips/bars come with motion detectors that will automatically turn off if there’s no human movement detected within 20 feet for 30 minutes; you can also ensure that something vital as your internet router never gets turned off.

General Household Electrical Safety Tips Include:

  • Ensuring all electrical devices are kept away from water to prevent shock.
  • Do not use an extension cord with any type of appliance.
  • Unplugging any appliances that aren’t in use.
  • Maintain your exhaust fans to prevent buildup by cleaning the filters/blades.
  • Reading the safety tips and manuals for your appliances.
  • Organize and label the cables under your desk; you can use pieces of colored tape or bread bag tags. Regularly wipe down with a dry cloth to prevent dust buildup.

GFCI Outlets: If your home has ground fault circuit (GFCI) outlets, standard in many geographic locations susceptible to moisture, you’ll need to check them using the purple ‘test’ button on the outlet.  You should also ’test’ the breaker on the GFCI electrical sub-panel. Labeling breakers in your electrical box can save a lot of frustration if you lose power to a specific area of your home, as it’ll be simpler to diagnose the location of the problem.

Lightbulbs: Periodically check to ensure you’re using the correct lightbulb wattage for your fixtures, lamps, and appliances. If you’re not sure, Constellation NewEnergy recommends a 60-watt bulb or less if there’s not wattage noted, or 25-watt bulbs for ceiling fixtures that aren’t marked. Consider using wireless LED light bulbs, which can be controlled through your smartphone; you’ll be able to schedule lighting, or to turn them on/off at will.

Common Household Electrical Issues Include:

  • An outlet that sparks can sometimes be normal as it’s similar to a static electricity buildup; if an outlet heats up, an electrical fire could ensue so it’s best to check with a professional
  • Flickering lights is a sign there’s a poor connection which requires an electrician to source it out and repair
  • Recessed lights that continually turn on and off again are designed to do so when they start overheating; this can be a result of mismatched light bulbs for the wattage, so do a quick check. The same applies to light bulbs that frequently burn out – chances are the wattage being used is incorrect
  • If using too many appliances consistently overloads and trips a breaker, you’ll need to avoid running too many appliances at the same time on that circuit. The best solution is to move some to a different circuit; an electrician can also install an entirely new circuit.

Electrical Maintenance Checklist

  • Clean your exhaust fans
  • Consult an electrician if a breaker repeatedly trips
  • Don’t mix electricity and water: ensure all electrical devices are kept away from water
  • Electrical outlets
  • Get an electrical inspection done a minimum of every 10 years
  • Label the breakers in your electrical panel
  • Light Bulb wattage (initially, and then again when a bulb need to be changed)
  • Monitor extension cord usage
  • Organize your desk cables; wipe down with a dry cloth
  • Read your appliance manuals including the safety tips
  • Test your GFCI outlets using the purple ‘test’ button
  • Unplug appliances that aren’t in use

Heating and Cooling

How to Care for Your Heating and Cooling

You’ll be depending on your home’s heating and cooling system to keep you comfortable year-round, so it’s important to perform regular checks and maintenance on your fireplace, heat pump, air conditioner and/or furnace. It’s just as important to read the instruction manuals for all your heating and cooling devices, so you’ll know what to do if something doesn’t seem to be working quite right.

When it’s time to hire a pro for your HVAC needs, many states require a licensed HVAC expert to have accrued two to five years of HVAC experience. Some offer searchable databases of license holders so you’re able to ensure your potential choice is qualified. It’s a good idea to ask where or not a potential contractor services your brand of HVAC unit, and if they offer any type of guarantee on the repairs once they’re completed.

 

Important Heating and Cooling Items to Maintain

Change Those Filters: Check the manufacturer’s recommendation and be sure to change your system’s filters at least as frequently as the manufacturer specifies.  Keeping your filters clean will result in reducing your heating costs, as well as to extend the lifespan of the furnace and/or central air conditioning system.  

Circulation: Consider installing ceiling fans to keep the air circulating in your home, but remember to switch the direction of the fan blades to spin clockwise in winter and counter-clockwise to cool your rooms during summer. Be sure to dust them off every spring and fall.

Clear the Condensate Line: Every air conditioner has a condensate line that removes water created when the evaporator exchanges the refrigerant from liquid to gas. Your condensate line will be situated on the exterior of your house, either beside your HVAC unit or sometimes on the opposite side of your house. Ensure the exterior condensate line isn’t clogged and is exhibiting proper drainage; remove any debris from on or around your condenser unit. Do regular maintenance on the condensate line by adding 1 cup of vinegar into the line each month to keep the line clear and mildew free. 

Close Those Windows: Your air conditioning operates as a closed system, meaning the air within your home is continually cooled and recycled. Cooling isn’t possible if hotter outside air is interrupting the circulation, so always check to ensure all windows within your house are closed and locked when the air conditioning is running. 

Did a Circuit Breaker Trip? If your heater, fan, or air conditioner are not operational at all, it’s likely a circuit breaker has tripped and you’ll need to reset it. If you experience a burning smell when your heat is first turned on, there could be a dust accumulation on the coils that you’ll need to gently brush off.

Fireplace Health: Check your gas or electric fireplace to make sure it’s in working order; if you ever smell gas, evacuate your home and call your gas company immediately. Call a professional to inspect and clean your wood-burning fireplace to prevent the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and/or chimney fires from creosote build-up.

Ghosting. Ghosting is a phenomenon caused by burning candles in your home for extended periods. In essence, the soot from the candle is emitted into the air, carried throughout your home by the air conditioner, and released through the vents. This soot then sticks to things like fabrics, countertops, ceilings, and carpets. HVAC experts recommend purchasing low fragrance candles made of hard wax, and to extinguish them after an hour of continuous burning.

Maintain Optimal Temperature Settings: Install a programmable thermostat to maintain a comfortable temperature within your home. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers recommends setting your thermostat to 70° for heating and 78° for cooling. Keeping steady temperatures without a huge fluctuation year-round is a great way to save money overall. Periodically check the thermostat settings as other household members could be making their own adjustments, which may need to be brought back to the recommended baseline. You can also help regulate the temperature within your home by keeping your window treatments closed on hot sunny days and open when the sun is shining brightly. 

Regular Inspections Will Maintain Your System Over Time: The EPA’s Energy Star program recommends having a professional inspect your HVAC system twice a year in the spring and fall, using daylight savings time as a reminder.

Schedule That Delivery: If you’ve got an oil-burning furnace, make sure you schedule a fuel delivery well before the cold season sets in.

Before You Call a Professional about an air conditioning problem, check to ensure the:

  • Circuit breaker is ON
  • Filter isn’t clogged or dirty
  • Thermostat battery is working
  • Thermostat is turned to A/C
  • Thermostat setting is set below the thermostat thermometer

Heating and Cooling Maintenance Checklist

Regularly:

  • Inspect the exterior condensate line
  • Check the programmable thermostat settings
  • Install ceiling fans throughout your home
  • Test your gas or electric fireplace by turning it on periodically, even if it’s off-season
  • Have your wood-burning fireplace inspected
  • Schedule an oil delivery for your furnace well in advance of winter

Monthly:

  • Change the filters in your air conditioning units
  • Change your furnace filters as per the manufacturer’s recommendation

Spring and Fall:

  • Changed the direction of your ceiling fan blades (clockwise for winter; counter-clockwise for summer)
  • Dust off your ceiling fan and blades

Yearly:

  • Schedule a furnace inspection by a professional

Home Exterior

How to Care for your Home Exterior

The exterior of your home is the first impression to anyone who enters or passes by. What does your house say to others? Are you a proud homeowner who regularly takes care of your home, or are you a little slack when it comes to exterior maintenance? Either way, there are important things to be maintained on a regular basis to help hold the value of your home and to increase the value in the future. 

Important Home Exterior Items to Maintain

Bricks: While bricks used for walls or decorative purposes are generally low maintenance, it’s a good idea to check for plant damage, issues with the caulking around doors/windows, and/or to check the mortar joints every few years for possible deterioration. If your brick is becoming dirty or otherwise discolored by efflorescence (a naturally occurring white, somewhat powdery substance), there are many commercial cleaning products available to help clean your bricks.

Caulking: Caulking around window and door frames should be inspected monthly to prevent water or moisture damage. The same applies to areas around your chimney/vents; any outlets or vents located on your house exterior; as well as between the siding and your foundation. Don’t mix caulking types, as they won’t bond properly.

Doors: It’s important to regularly inspect your exterior doors to keep them functioning smoothly. Exterior entrance doors should have weather stripping that seals completely. Clean off any hinges, ensure locks are in working order, clean out the sliding glass door track, and do any touch-up painting along the door trims, if necessary.

Dryer Vents: A dryer vent full of lint poses a fire hazard so it’s important to regularly check the external vent and to clean out the exhaust duct annually; your dryer vent may be located on your roof, so hiring a professional may be the best choice in this scenario.

Landscaping: Besides looking great for your enjoyment, landscaping can add value to your home by creating curb appeal, but you have to be willing to maintain it on a regular basis. If you’re not sure landscaping will be your thing, consider starting with a small area to plant and take care of. You can break it down into affordable projects you can undertake when it’s convenient. Trees can offer cooling shade for your home during the summer months; if you want to plant a tree(s), you’ll need to know what species grow best in your geographic location, as well as the overall height and size they’ll achieve over the years. You’ll also need to know the location of your utility lines before planting. If your property has sloped areas, hiring a professional landscaper is key to avoid future drainage or engineering issues. If you’re not sure about planting trees or have an issue with existing trees such as dead or low-hanging branches, consider the services of a certified arborist.

Lawn and Yard Work: It’s all up to you to maintain your lawn’s appearance. You can do it yourself by purchasing a good lawnmower with a safety handle. Remember to always clear your lawn of debris before mowing and to change direction every time you mow to help create straight grass. Sharpen your lawnmower blade once per year and always mow grass when it’s dry, preferably in the morning after the dew has dried which gives newly cut grass the time to gather nutrients for the remainder of the day. Besides a lawnmower to maintain a standard suggested height of three inches, you’ll need to consider purchasing or renting other tools such as aerators, edgers, grubbing hoes, leaf blowers, fertilizer spreaders (done annually in the fall), pruners, rakes, rototiller, shovels, and/or weed eaters. You can also consider hiring a reputable lawn care service to take care of your property. Here’s some food for thought: according to a study by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, “there are approximately 6,400 lawn mower injuries reported annually, most of which require surgery and hospitalization.” Pro Tip: Rototilling your yard parallel to any drainage swales can help reduce them.

Light Fixtures: Ensure all exterior light fixtures are working, especially any lights used to highlight your house number in case of an emergency. Check the caulking around each fixture and turn off any lights that aren’t necessary.

Garage Door: Besides being a place to store your vehicles, your garage door is an important safety feature of your home. Always ensure it’s closed at all times and that it flows freely along the track without any obstructions or grinding noises. Tighten up any loose hinge screws, touch up the paint, and lubricate moving parts with a 30-weight vehicle oil (or similar) every six months, including the hinges, pulleys, rollers, springs, and tracks. Electricity to garage doors run on GFCI outlets, so if yours doesn’t seem to have any power/won’t open, the breaker may have been tripped. You can always open your garage door manually by pulling on the red cord.

Gutters: During the spring and fall, ensure your gutters are free of debris so the downspouts will be operating properly. On the gutter corners, check for any caulking that may have become cracked to otherwise damaged. This is also the perfect time to inspect your roof for possible damage including loose, damaged or missing shingles/tiles, as well as for debris, clogged roof vents, and/or leaks. If you have something attached to your roof such as a TV antenna or satellite dish, check the supports and the caulking surrounding each. If you’ve experienced a harsh winter, clear ice and snow build-up regularly. Pro Tip: Always lean an extension ladder against your house and not the gutters themselves to prevent dents or damage.

Paint: Repainting your home’s exterior will also be a large task to consider undertaking. While you’d probably be able to save money by doing the job yourself if you’ve got a one-story home with minimal paint peeling, you’ll still need to do all of the prep work including scraping and sanding, plus you’ll need equipment such as scaffolding and extension ladders. Even more so, do you want to take the risk of working on that type of equipment? If you were injured by falling off the scaffolding, how would this affect your family’s income and ability to pay next month’s mortgage if you’re not working? Obtaining estimates from professional house painters will give you insight as to your home’s overall condition, as well as to types of paint and color choices. 

 

Common Painting Issues Possible Cause Solution
Bleeding wood knots Alkali compounds exist on the foundation Sand, apply an alkali stain killer, repaint
Blisters Moisture or solvents are present under the paint surface Scrape away the blister, fill the area, sand, prime, and repaint
Efflorescence The surface may not have been cleaned property initially; moisture or solvents are present underneath the paint Scrape, apply an alkali neutralizer, repaint
Exterior paint peeling The surface was not cleaned properly initially Scrape, sand, prime, and repaint
Interior/exterior or caulking shrinks or cracks Paint may have been applied too thick Re-caulk any open gaps
Mildew Resin from the wood could be seeping out; fungus could be growing due to little sunlight/moisture Wash with a diluted bleach solution
Wrinkling, running, or drips Solvent underneath the paint caused poor adhesion Sand, smooth, and repaint

 

Roof: How old is your existing roof? While an asphalt shingle roof has a lifespan of about 20 to 25 years, if you don’t know when your roof was replaced, it could be time to have your roof inspected. Besides looking for possible leaks, are there any missing shingles? Rows that are out of alignment indicate they’re loose, while sagging in certain areas means the wood underneath is beginning to rot. Roofing is a huge job to undertake and requires the same thought process as repainting your home – do you have the time, equipment, and want to take the risk of doing it yourself? Asking friends or neighbors for referrals, and getting estimates from reputable contractors, may be your best overall choice. Pro Tip: Minimize walking on your roof as the movement and weight can loosen materials resulting in the potential for leaks; never walk on your roof if the shingles are wet/slippery.

Screens: Every year, remove the screens (if applicable) from your doors and windows and give them a thorough cleaning to get rid of any dust or debris. Clean the sills and frames, and replace any screen mesh if damaged. 

Pro Tip: Some homeowners choose to remove window screens and store them during winter to allow more light indoors; if you decide to do so, clearly label each screen as it’s removed so they’re easy to replace in spring. Store them upright and in a safe area where their delicate frames won’t become bent or damaged.

Siding: Besides being aesthetically pleasing, your vinyl or composite siding helps protect your home from damage, water or otherwise. It’s normal for caulking of your siding to dry and shrink over time, so pay close attention to connections and corners, while re-caulking as necessary. It’s important not to subject your siding to any unnecessary contact with water such as directly from a sprinkle or a downspout that’s improperly placed. There should always be a minimum six-inch border from the ground to where your siding begins to avoid water absorption. Keep plants and landscaping approximately two feet away from your siding to avoid any staining or damage from unwanted roots. Vinyl siding melts easily so always ensure a BBQ grill is no closer than three feet. Check to ensure the corner trim is firming attached. If you need to do some spot cleaning, use a clean cloth with a soapy solution; using abrasive chemicals, wire brushes, or steel wool will cause immediate damage that can only be repaired by replacement.

 

Common Exterior House Issues Possible Cause Solution
Cracks in the masonry Normal settlement Seal with a flexible masonry caulk
Dents in the fascia of soffits May have been accidentally hit with a ladder or object Replace the panel
Dirty or streaked siding Weather; fungus or mildew Regularly clean the area; apply a mildew cleaner
Efflorescence is present on masonry From the use of sale Scrub with a stiff brush and water
Gaps in the wood trim Normal shrinkage over time Fill and re-caulk
Peeling or cracking of paint Normal wear and tear due to aging Clean, sand, prime, paint
Sap is present along wood trim The trim is naturally drying out Clean, sand, prime, repaint
Sections of siding have blown off Strong wind Check your homeowner’s policy to see if you’re covered

 

Storm Panels: If your home has hurricane/storm panels, slide the panels across and wash them with soap and water twice a year. If you’ve got accordion-type shutters, you may need to lubricate the track.

Stucco: Stucco surfaces tend to accumulate dust/dirt and may even develop small cracks over time. Just as with vinyl siding, check to make sure there’s no unnecessary water contact, along with keeping landscaping and BBQs at a safe distance. You can spot clean your stucco with a laundry soap/water solution. If you find any cracks, repair them. If you find any mildew spots, use a 50/50 water and bleach solution to clean the area. If the entire house needs to be cleaning, pressure/power washing is a great option but to avoid any issues, it’s best to hire a professional to take on such a huge task.

Windows: Windows require maintenance right down from regularly cleaning the glass with a vinegar solution to cleaning out the weep holes with a small brush or even a toothpick. Your window hardware should operate freely. Check to be sure any screws are tight, and that the weather stripping and seals are all in good condition. A broken or cracked pane of glass needs to be replaced immediately; if your home has glazed windows, your best bet is to contact a pro to repair it. If your home has windows that are between 15 and 30 years old, you may want to consider replacing them with new energy-efficient options that are easy to clean/maintain (such as double-hung windows and tilt-out sashes), plus replacing your windows will add resale value to your home. The U.S. Department of Energy states that 10 to 25% of your home’s heating bill is a result of heat loss due to having inefficient windows in your home. Experts estimate installing new energy efficient windows in your home can easily cost upwards of $10,000. 

 

Common Window Issues Possible Cause Solution
Condensation Too much humidity within your home Reduce humidifier use; open windows to exhaust any excess humidity
Cracked glass Occurs with normal settlement and/or accidental scenarios Replace the glass
Vinyl window sticks or is hard to open A broken window balance; dirt or paint along the jamb Replace the balancer; clean up the jamb and lubricate with a silicone spray
Vinyl window won’t stay open Window balancers are weak Replace the balancer, or adjust the tension rod
Vinyl window sash comes out when the window is opened fully The tension rod clips on the side jambs could be in the open position Change to the closed position before opening the window
Vinyl window won’t lock Dirt or debris in the window track, or it’s not aligned properly Check the alignment, clean out the track

 

Home Exterior Maintenance Checklist

Monthly:

  • Check exterior light fixtures/caulking
  • Caulking – check around doors/windows, chimneys, vents and/or pipes

Twice Yearly:

  • Brick – inspect your brickwork for possible damage
  • Doors – check weather stripping, clean hinges and sliding glass door tracks, check locks
  • Garage door – tighten screws, lubricate, paint touch-ups
  • Gutters and downspouts – clean, check for damage
  • Roof – check for damage and debris, inspect supports and caulking
  • Storm shutters – clean and lubricate the track
  • Windows – clean the glass; check the seals/weather stripping

Annually:

  • Inspect your external dryer vent/clean out the exhaust duct
  • Inspect and/or repair small cracks in your stucco
  • Remove and wash window/door screens
  • Siding – check for damage, water deflection, and corner trim

Every few years:

  • Check the mortar joints along any brick walls
  • Hire a professional roofer to do an inspection

 

Home Interior

How to Care for Your Home Interior

Besides caring for each room, the general interior of your home also requires some attention including everything from the attic to your water shut-off valves. While it may seem like a lot of work overall, taking care of your home helps you to maintain its investment value now and in the future.

Important Home Interior Items to Maintain

Attics and Crawl Spaces: Many homeowners don’t really think about their attic but it’s important to annually inspect it for water damage, ensuring vents are not clogged by debris, and that the louvered openings are unobstructed. After particularly high winds, check to ensure the roof vents are securely attached. It never hurts to have a professional inspect your attic for signs of pests, molds, or mildews (fungus). Ensure your attic contains enough insulation to keep any water pipes from freezing. If your home has a crawl space, be sure to open the vents during summer and close them again before winter. Pro Tip: Consider purchasing a hand-held thermal leak detector to identify possible leaks within your home. Simply scan the area or appliance with the detector: red areas identify heat, while blue areas are colder. 

Carbon Monoxide, Radon Gas, And Smoke Detectors: Use the test function monthly to ensure all detectors throughout your home are working properly. Change the batteries at least once per year; many homeowners change twice per year at Daylight Savings Time. Pro Tip: If the battery in your smoke detector starts to beep, that means it’s time to change the battery.

Carpet/Flooring: For hardwood, vinyl, and ceramic tiles, dry mop or sweep flooring daily, followed by a light wet mop once per week with a manufacturer recommended cleaner, if applicable. Vacuum the carpet at least once per week and schedule a professional cleaning annually to eliminate air pollutants, dust mite infestations, and/or mold issues. Spot clean as necessary. Rotating your furniture to change a traffic pattern in any given room will help to eliminate common crushing carpet issues, especially in heavy traffic areas. Never place potted plants directly on hardwood surfaces, and use area rugs to protect hardwood in frequently used areas. High-heeled shoes and your pets’ toenails can easily damage hardwood floors. Never drag furniture across your flooring; always use a two-wheeled dolly, which can also prevent injury. Consider asking everyone to remove their shoes before coming into your home, or think about purchasing a robot-style vacuum cleaner to help do the work for you. Pro Tip: Hardwood floors can easily be damaged by water, sunlight, high-heeled shoes, and/or scratching that occurs from simply moving a chair away from a table, so be sure to attach furniture protectors to help preserve your hardwood flooring.

Tips for treating carpet spills:

  • Coffee, tea, beer or wine – Blot the spill then neutralize with a white vinegar/water solution; apply a detergent/water solution (1/4 teaspoon of detergent in 1 quart of water), then rinse using a spray bottle of tap water while blotting to remove moisture. Apply paper towels and weigh them down to soak up moisture
  • Ketchup, blood, cheese, chocolate, colas, cough syrup, soft drinks, soy sauce, toothpaste – These spills must be removed with cold water as hot will set the stain on the carpet permanently. Use a detergent/water solution, then rinse with a spray bottle of tap water while blotting to remove moisture. Apply paper towels to absorb excess moisture
  • Dirt or mud – After it’s dried completely, scrape off what you can and vacuum it up. Use the same detergent/water solution above to clean up any dirt
  • Pets – If your pet has an accident on your flooring, blot up what you can with paper towels, followed by applying a solution of ¼-teaspoon dishwashing liquid dissolved in a cup of warm water; rinse and blot. Then apply a one cup vinegar/two cups water solution by blotting and drying. Finally, apply a layer of paper towels and weigh down with a heavy, flat object to soak up any remaining moisture. Change out the paper towels until the area is dry.

Ceilings and Walls: Spot clean walls as necessary with non-abrasive cleaners, and plan to wash all walls throughout the home twice yearly in the spring and fall. If you notice a hole or a crack in the drywall, you can fill it in yourself by using a drywall spackle and a putty knife. Repainting requires knowing the type of paint that’s already in use (oil- or water-based) as the two clearly don’t mix, along with closely matching the existing color as possible. Nail pops, displayed as a bulge or a missing circle of drywall, occur with the natural contraction and expansion of wood; nails can be tapped back down and touch-up paint/spackle can be applied.

Central Vacuum System:  Clean the filter and vacuum canister every three to four months to ensure they remain as dust-free as possible.

Condensation: If your windows regularly exhibit condensation caused by high home humidity in relation or lower outside temperatures, condensation will form. If you’ve got a humidifier, check the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure you’re using features to the fullest, which also means operating it when the furnace is in use, and not when the air conditioner is running. 

Exhaust Fans: Unplug the unit, then remove and clean the filter; if it’s not removable, try using a damp cloth

Doors, Knobs and Locks: Check to make sure all are in working order; lubricate patio doors with a silicone-based spray if needed. Avoid slamming doors, which can cause damage to the jamb and the door itself, or can even create cracking in the surrounding drywall. Sticking doors are common, mainly due to humidity changes, but always check to see if the door still sticks in different temperatures. You can tighten the screws, apply a light coat of wax, or sand if necessary as a last resort. If a door swings open by itself, you’ll need to adjust the hinge pins.

Electrical Shut-off Valves: Your electrical panel consists of individual circuit breakers, along with a master circuit breaker, which will shut off the electricity to your entire home. Ensure the cover is always on the panel and that it’s always closed to avoid dust from accumulating. 

Fixture Finishes: Fixture materials can vary so it’s important to follow your manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning. 

Furniture: Weekly dusting is a must, especially during times of high winds that carry pollutants into your home.

Repainting: There are generally five categories of paint sheens:

  1. Primer – this is an undercoat that assures paint will adhere properly; it’s especially useful when painting porous surfaces like concrete or wood to prevent peeling later on.
  2. Eggshell – this easy to clean paint has a slight sheen; 
  3. Glossy – while the reflective surface is quite impressive, flaws are also quite noticeable
  4. Matte – used in high-traffic areas of your home like a hallway, matte paint is great for hiding smaller imperfections, but it’s generally non-washable and not suggested for use in bathrooms
  5. Satin – the most popular sheen with an almost velvet-like appearance, satin can withstand cleaning and is a good finish for doors, walls, woodwork, kitchens, and bathrooms.

Pro Tip: Always keep a small amount of any leftover paint so you can touch up areas when necessary.

Water Shut-off Valves: You and your family need to know how to shut off various water sources found throughout your house. Regularly check to ensure each valve handle is free from debris and can be turned with relative ease.

Home Interior Maintenance Checklist

Weekly:

  • Dust all of your furniture

Monthly:

  • Carbon monoxide, radon gas, and smoke detectors – test monthly
  • Carpet/flooring 
  • Ceilings and walls 
  • Fixture finishes 

Quarterly:

  • Attach/check furniture protectors
  • Central vacuum system – clean the filter and canister
  • Check and clean exhaust fans
  • Make sure your electrical panel door is closed and free of dust

Every Six Months:

  • Check doors/knobs/locks to keep them in good working order
  • Ensure your water shut-off valves are debris-free and easily turned
  • Inspect your attic
  • Replace batteries in carbon monoxide, radon gas, and smoke detectors 
  • Crawl space vents: close (in the fall) and open (in the spring)

Every Three to Seven years:

  • Scuff your existing hardwood floors, followed by a recoating of the finish layer

Kitchen

How to Care for Your Kitchen

With today’s busy families, the center of your home could easily be the kitchen as compared to your living room. Ensuring everything from cleanliness to keeping appliances in good working order will help to ensure your household runs as smoothly as possible.

Dreaming Of A Kitchen Remodel? At some point within your homeownership, you may want to consider doing a kitchen remodel. You’ll need to take measurements of the existing space, brainstorm what features you want to change, collect ideas, and write up a list of the overall goals for your kitchen remodel. It’s also a matter of establishing a clear budget to follow. Know that any renovation will take time but a kitchen remodel could be upwards of five months. This means your family will not be able to use certain items of convenience as the process takes place, so having a contingency plan in place is key. 

Inexpensive Ways To Update Your Kitchen.  Easy ways to update your kitchen without doing a full-on remodel include:

  • Change out your flooring 
  • Change out your sink or faucets; reduce your carbon footprint by installing a touchless smart faucet that’s designed to save upwards of 15,000 gallons of water annually.
  • Going with some new lighting
  • Refacing or refinishing the existing cabinet doors/fronts
  • Replacing the drawer/cabinet knobs

Important Kitchen Items to Maintain

Cabinets: Kitchen cabinets are subject to a lot of wear and tear in a home. Regularly clean the exterior doors and fixtures, plus inspect the hardware to ensure hinges and drawers glide freely. Empty your cabinets completely and do a thorough interior clean at least once per year; check any food products for expiration dates when doing so. Check the grout or caulking around the sink and/or backsplash. For the exterior of your cabinets, use a damp or lint-free cloth for cleaning; avoid using abrasive products that can scar, or wax that can build up, discolor and/or attract even more dust overall.

Countertops: Countertops can be constructed with anything from concrete to laminated plastic, so it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for cleaning. General tips to help maintain your countertops include: 

  • Always use coasters for drinks and hot pads before placing hot dishes or pots on your countertop
  • Avoid any acid-containing products or even vinegar as they can easily stain countertops
  • Wiping up any spills immediately
  • Watching out for ink that can easily transfer from a grocery bag or label
  • Never using your countertop as a cutting board

Caulking: You should also check the caulking/grout lines for discoloration or damage, and repair if necessary. If you notice grout stains, the following is a general stain removal guide:

 

Blood Bleach or hydrogen peroxide
Coffee, tea, juice, food, lipstick A general cleaner with hot water, followed by bleach or hydrogen peroxide
Dyes and inks Bleach
Grease and Fats A mixture of water and soda; or a commercial spot lift cleaner
Mercurochrome antiseptic Ammonia

 

Dishwasher: A great dishwasher performs tough work so that you don’t have to. But if the interior drains become clogged with food particles or it springs a leak, it won’t perform well for you and your family. Once a month, run a manufacturer-recommended dishwasher cleaner through an empty cycle. Every three months, inspect and clean the pump, strainer, and spray arms to avoid those nasty clogs and odors that can result from such.

Garbage Disposal: The same goes for a hardworking garbage disposal system. Always running cold water before turning on and putting food into the disposal will help to ensure it maintains it’s good working order. Don’t overload the disposal as it could easily jam, and allow the disposal to run at least 15 seconds before turning it off. If a jam occurs, you could perform a do-it-yourself diagnosis after turning off the electricity to the unit, but if you’re not successful within a short period of time and the red reset button doesn’t restart the unit, it’s best to call a plumber. Pro tip: run a cup or so of ice cubes, or frozen lemon peels, through your garbage disposal monthly to help keep blades sharp and build-up free.

Kitchen Fire Safety: Ensure flammable items such as dish towels or aprons are kept away from stoves; don’t wear loose, flowy clothing when cooking. If a grease fire starts in a pan, cover it with a lid and shut off the heat; do not douse with water as the fire may spread. Baking soda can also be used to quell a fire.

Oven/Stove/Cooktop: Your oven, cooktop, and/or range will probably experience daily use, so it’s important to maintain them on continuously. You’ll need to clean up surface spills immediately, while attending to other aspects such as cleaning the range hood and oven interior monthly or as needed. If your oven doesn’t have a self-cleaning feature, you can clean a cold oven interior by first spraying an oven cleaner directly onto a cloth and then cleaning the surface; never spray directly into the oven itself because this will cause unnecessary odor the next time you use the oven after cleaning if you spray onto the bake elements and/or discoloration on the chrome racks.

Sinks: Your sink should be kept free of debris and possible stain-causing items such as coffee grounds or a teabag. Don’t clean a stainless steel sink with any type of steel wool, as it will damage the surface. If you’re using a rubber dish mat, always remove it from the sink to avoid discoloration from trapped water underneath. Pro Tip: maintain your sink, add washing soda (not baking soda) to your drain to help keep the drain soap and grease-free.

Small Appliances: For small appliances such as microwaves, coffeemakers, and toasters, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning.

Kitchen Maintenance Checklist

Daily:

  • Clean the cabinet hardware

Monthly:

  • Clean the cabinet exteriors
  • Check the countertops for caulk/grout damage
  • Run a manufacturer-recommended cleaner through your empty dishwasher 
  • Clean your oven

Quarterly:

  • Clean and inspect the dishwasher strainer, pump, and spray arms
  • Reinforce garbage disposal operational tips with your family

Twice a Year:

  • Check the grout/caulking around the backsplash and/or sink.

Yearly:

  • Completely empty and clean cabinets from top to bottom; discard any expired food products. 

Landscaping

How to Care for Your Landscaping

You don’t necessarily need a green thumb to keep your landscaping in tiptop shape; it’s more about the pride and desire to take care of your home. You can have a low maintenance-style yard of native plants and wildflower, or a tropical haven, the choice is entirely up to you. If you choose the latter, you’ll need to be willing to invest your time and money to maintain the greenery, or hire a gardener to do so for you. Landscaping isn’t limited to plants and trees, it also includes things like your driveway, concrete pavers, and patios, to your lawn and garden sprinkler system.

Important Landscaping Items to Maintain

Driveways and Patios: Some driveways are accented by the use of contrasting concrete pavers along the edges, which can easily be replaced if they become damaged so it’s always a good idea to purchase more pavers than needed initially for replacement purposes. You’ll need to remove any weeds as they appear, and to fill in the joint sand every year. Besides removing any accumulated debris, an asphalt driveway requires a twice-yearly cleaning with a stiff broom, followed by a good hosing off with water. Caring for your walkways can involve sweeping with a stiff broom, cleaning off with a hose, and monitoring for any cracks in the concrete, which can be filled in with a concrete crack sealer. Salt is commonly used on walkways to prevent freezing but know that it actually deteriorates both concrete and asphalt, along with the possibility of leaving stains. Hose off your patio once a month; if you’ve got a wooden deck, inspect it to see if it requires staining and/or re-sealing to prolong its life by preventing water damage. 

Pro Tip: It’s important to note that your newly poured asphalt driveway requires from six to 12 months to harden completely; during this time it will still be somewhat pliable and soft, so try not to park in the exact same spot every day, nor to use any type of jack/car ramp unless you place plywood underneath them first as excessive weight can cause damage. 

Pro Tip: An inexpensive safety feature to consider is installing solar-powered LED lights along your walkway which automatically turn on and off; they’re especially welcome during winter when walkways can appear clean but still be icy.

Irrigation System: Your underground irrigation system consists of water supply lines, pop-up sprinkler heads, valves, and a backflow preventer, which keeps irrigation water from mixing with your drinking water. Once a week, do a walk around at different times of the day to ensure all sprinkler heads are functioning and there aren’t any leaks along the lines. Twice yearly you’ll need to flush your irrigation system. Fall is the time to shut off the water and drain the pipes, while spring means turning the master valve back on to restart your irrigation system. Pro Tip: Always be aware of any irrigation restrictions placed by your local water authority.

Landscaping: In general, professional engineers should have designed the landscaping around your home to drain water away from your house and structures. Within the landscaping world, berms are the high spots and swales are the lower areas. If your home has been newly constructed, it could take a year or more for your soil to settle, so don’t take on any major landscaping projects before that time. Don’t place landscaping too close to your home as overwatering could create a swale, and any excess water could cause serious damage to the foundation; leaving a space of at least six inches from where your home sits and soil begins is a great rule of thumb to follow. Pro Tip: For native plants to thrive, you’ll need a rich organic soil base of about 3 inches in depth, which is optimal for holding moisture, while preventing soil compaction and weeds from growing.

Outdoor Plumbing:  In the fall, you’ll need to disconnect, drain, wrap up, and store any hoses. If you accidentally leave a hose out over winter, any water inside may freeze, expand, and cause damage or breaks in the hose. Turn off the interior water valve leading to your outdoor faucets; you can also purchase an insulation kit to wrap up your faucets if you choose. FYI: the term hose bib refers to any exterior faucets (spigots) on your home.

Termites/Pests: In the spring, do a walk around of your home to inspect for the possibility of termite damage, which can include peeling paint, the presence of mud tubes as they burrow along, and/or buckling wood. Common contributing causes of termite infestation are moisture and structural cracks.

Landscaping Maintenance Checklist

Weekly:

  • Pull weeds from your driveway pavers
  • Monitor your sprinkler lines for damaged heads or leaks

Monthly:

  • Wash your patio

Spring:

  • Clean your asphalt driveway with a broom, followed by hosing down
  • Flush your irrigation system; shut off the water in the fall, turn it back on during spring
  • Check your deck to see if restaining or re-sealing is required

Summer:

  • Check for an irrigation restrictions placed by your local water authority

Fall:

  • Clean your asphalt driveway with a broom, followed by hosing down
  • Flush your irrigation system; shut off the water in the fall, turn back on during spring

Yearly:

  • Fill in the joint sand between your driveway pavers
  • Check for termite damage every spring
  • Nourish your lawn with an application of 18-5-9 fertilizer (nitrogen-phosphate-potash or NPK), using a ratio of about four pounds to 1,000 square feet.
  • Trim any shrubs, plants, or trees away from your home.

Plumbing

How to Care for Your Plumbing

The plumbing throughout your home plays a major role in keeping your family function from day to day, so it’s important to take care of any issues that may crop up including a faucet that’s been dripping for weeks. Some tasks will be fairly easy to tackle, especially with today’s wealth of instructional videos available, but if you’re in doubt at all, it’s always better to call in a professional plumber to ensure the problem is taken care of properly. 

Important Plumbing Items to Maintain

Are you going on vacation for an extended period? Before leaving, drain the water supply lines by shutting off the mainline and opening faucets to relieve any pressure. You can also shut off your hot water heater by shutting off the cold-water valve at the top and/or the gas control valve located at the bottom. If you’ll be away during winter, ensure your heat is set to maintain a constant temperature of 65°F so pipes don’t freeze. 

Burst Pipe: A burst pipe at best can cause floor/carpet damage, but could require a complete home overhaul. According to Peter Kim, Assistant Vice President of Philadelphia Insurance Companies, “our aver loss related to frozen pipes is $27,000, but our most expensive claim was 1.7 million,” stated Kim. “People tend to get complacent about winter storms, but they can be extremely damaging. There’s very little awareness of the significance of the loss potential.”

Clogs: If you’re experiencing a drain clog, options for cleaning include using a plunger to loosen the clog, taking off and inspecting the drain train, and/or using a plumber’s snake. If the clog doesn’t clear, you may need to call in a plumber. Pro tip: To keep your drains free from clogs, run the hot water for a few minutes, turn off, and add three tablespoons of washing soda (sodium carbonate or Na2CO3; not baking soda). Let sit for 15 minutes before running the hot water again. If you do this weekly or monthly, you’ll help keep your drains clog-free. Never pour cooking grease into your toilet or drain; instead, pour it into a glass jar and then dispose of it into your garbage. Pro Tip: regularly remind your household family members to never, ever flush items like cotton swabs, diapers, gauze, paper towels, sanitary pads, tampons, and/or wipes of any kind.

Do you know how to read your water meter? If you have an older home, you could have an odometer-style meter, while newer homes will likely have digital meters. The number shown on your water meter indicates your water usage based on 100-cubic-feet units. Track your monthly consumption and compare it to your utility bill’s estimation. If it’s high, contact them and insist on a physical reading for the upcoming month. Causes of utility bill estimations instead of actual readings can include an obstructed or hard to get to meter, or a somewhat aggressive pet that workers will avoid.

Faucets: Your faucets are made up of several components including washers and aerators, which adds air to the water when it comes out of the faucet. Monthly you’ll need to remove the aerator, remove debris, wash out the screen and the washer, then reassemble and reattach. To tackle that leaky faucet, you’ll need to shut off the water, remove and replace the washer or cartridge according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Reduce your carbon footprint by installing touchless smart faucets designed to save upwards of 15,000 gallons of water annually.

Hot tub: Do a monthly check for leaks around the tub’s base. Never add any bubble-type soap or bath oils to your hot tub. When draining as per the manufacturer’s instructions, always turn off the pump and never run the pump unless there’s at least two inches of water over the jets, otherwise the pump can become damaged.

Identifying leaks: Every month you’ll need to check for possible leaks under each of the sinks with your home; run the water and ensure connections are firm. Use this same time to check your hot water heater for leaks. Ensuring the temperature of your hot water heaters is set to 120°F as recommended by the U.S. Department of Energy can result in 4  to 22% savings annually. Once per year, you’ll need to manually drain your hot water heater to remove any sediment that’s been building up; you’ll also need to clean or replace the heating element as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Regularly monitor appliances/systems for any possible water leaks including:

  • Dishwasher
  • Hot water tank
  • HVAC unit
  • Refrigerator
  • Toilets
  • Washer

Low water pressure issues? Low water pressure within your home could be a result of too much water being used at the same time, such as with running the dishwasher and washing machine simultaneously. If there doesn’t seem to be a correlation, it could be attributed to general household plumbing or the main water line. In this case, a professional opinion would be a great idea.

Outdoor Pool: Your swimming pool will no doubt be a great source of fun for you and your family throughout the years, but it will require adhering to a regular maintenance schedule. The pool’s pump will run for a minimum of eight hours a day and even more if you want to keep your pool heated in winter. When the filter pump hits half the normal pressure expected (ask your pool service technician to identify the normal pressure), you’ll need to clean the filter. Brushing your pool every day will help to keep out any debris; you’ll also need to regularly clean the handrails and ladder. The lint tray needs to be emptied once a month, and you’ll need to vacuum the pool every week. The water balance will need to be tested weekly and monthly to keep everything in order; having a balanced pool means maintaining five pool water components (alkalinity; calcium hardness; pH (acidity); stabilizer; total dissolved solids). During summer, you’ll need to super chlorinate your pool twice a month to maintain cleanliness; adding more than a normal level of chlorine, also known as shocking, burns through any existing algae, oils, etc. After doing super chlorination, you’ll need to wait 24 hours before anyone can swim in the pool, and it’s best to chlorinate at night, followed by brushing and vacuuming your pool in the morning.

Septic: If you have a septic system in place, you’ll need to have a professional empty your system at least every three years, and no more than five. Don’t plant any type of landscaping or let any water accumulate near your septic field. Signs of a septic problem include:

  • Green grass that stays green in a patch over the drainage field, even when it’s dry
  • Pooling water on top of the drainage field
  • Slowly flushing toilets
  • Smelly, black water back up in your home’s toilets or drains

Pro Tip: dissolve an individual package of baker’s yeast in hot water, then pour into one of your sink drains, which helps to encourage the growth of good bacterial culture to break down solids within the tank.

Sewer Lines: Chances are your homeowner’s insurance policy doesn’t cover sewer pipe replacement, but if this is something you’re really concerned about given the age of your home, you may be able to shape around and find an insurer that’s willing to cover you. Before you buy a home, it’s always encouraged to have the sewer line inspected by a professional who can examine the line with a camera so you’ll be aware of any potential needed repairs including issues from tree roots, or deteriorating areas within the line. 

Water Shut-Off Valves: Knowing where individual and the main water shut-off valves are located in your home are keys to successful homeownership; you never want to be in a position with a burst water pipe only to discover you’re not exactly sure where the main water valve is. If you haven’t done so already, take the time to locate and then label the shut-off valves throughout your home including the:

  • Dishwasher
  • Fire sprinklers
  • Hot water heater
  • Icemaker
  • Irrigation system
  • Refrigerators
  • Showers and tubs
  • Sinks
  • Toilets
  • Washer

Pro Tip: Keeping a wrench in close approximation to your vital shut-off valves ensures you’ll be able to turn them off easily in an emergency.

Common Plumbing Issues Possible Cause Solution
Garbage disposal is clogged There’s an obstruction Use a disposal wrench to check the bottom of the unit
Garbage disposal won’t operate The reset button has been tripped Hit the reset button at the bottom of the unit
Hose sprayer in the kitchen is dripping It’s dirty, or possibly defective Clean and/or replace
Hot water recovery takes a long time The heating element of the hot water tank may be burned out Check the circuit breaker; replace the heating element
No hot water from the hot water heater The temperature may be set too low; the circuit breaker may have tripped Check and adjust the temperature setting; reset the breaker
Slow draining bathtub or sink There’s an obstruction such as a hair clog Remove the blockage
Toilet is running The water level in the tank may be too high; the flapper valve may not be sealing entirely Adjust the fill valve; replace the flapper valve
Toilet sounds overly loud when flushing The floater valve in the tank isn’t working properly Replace the floater valve
Toilet sounds like it’s dripping  A damaged or worn flapper valve Replace the flapper valve
Toilet is overflowing or backing up There’s an obstruction Turn off the toilet intake valve and use a plunger to dislodge the object/clog
Water flow seems reduced The faucet aerator is clogged Unscrew, rinse the screen, and replace
Water splatters out from the faucet There’s air in the water line Open all faucets and let them run for five minutes to clear out the air
Water is leaking underneath the sink Plumbing fittings are loose Hand tighten the fittings
Water dripping from the shutoff valve There’s a loose packing nut Open the valve, then retighten the nut gently

 

Plumbing Maintenance Checklist

Daily:

  • Brush your pool to remove debris

Weekly:

  • Proactively use washing soda to prevent clogs from forming in drains
  • Test your pool’s water balance
  • Vacuum your pool

Monthly:

  • Check for possible leaks under all sinks in your home
  • Check for possible hot tub leaks around the base of the unit; drain periodically as per the manufacturer
  • Check the pool pressure and change the filter if necessary
  • Check your water heater for possible leaks; ensure the temperature is set to 120°F. Do not store combustibles near the tank as they’re a fire hazard; even though it’s tempting, don’t use the top of the tank as a storage shelf
  • Clean out your faucet aerators
  • Clean the ladder and handrails of your pool
  • Empty the pool pump’s lint tray
  • Monitor appliances/systems for signs of leaks: dishwasher; HVAC unit; fridge; toilets; washer
  • Test your pool’s water balance

Twice Monthly:

  • Super chlorinate your pool

Yearly:

  • Shut off the circuit breaker to the tank and manually drain the hot water heater to remove accumulated sediment. Clean or replace the heating element as per the manufacturer.

Every Three to Five Years:

  • Have a professional pump out your septic system
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