12.Maintaining Your New Home

When your home was built, it was constructed as a permanent shelter meant to last for generations.  Like all things, however, your home needs regular upkeep and maintenance to maximize its durability and appeal over time.

Home contractors work hard to ensure your new home provides long-lasting value. In turn, as a homeowner, you’ll need to perform regular maintenance throughout your home to maintain its longevity. Maintenance needs can arise from construction materials, appliances and systems reaching the end of their useful life spans, seasonal tasks throughout your home, and just through normal day-to-day wear and tear.

As with anything in life, planning, organization and being proactive will help to keep you ahead of the curve. If you consistently perform regular maintenance in your home, you’re less likely to be faced with a major, unexpected and expensive repair down the road. Keeping your home in the best condition possible helps to protect the investment you’ve made in it for years to come.

The Maintenance feature of DomiDocs will help keep your property up-to-date and can increase your TrueValueIndex (TVI) over time by providing ongoing AI-generated recommendations based on your personalized data. What types of things do you need to maintain in your new home? Everything from top to bottom, in and around your home.

Maintenance Guidelines

As a homeowner, it’s important to:

  • Complete proper appliance care
  • Complete proper utility maintenance
  • Establish an easily accessible list of emergency contact numbers
  • Follow a regular schedule of home maintenance
  • Repair any items as soon as there’s an issue
  • Report warranty items

Septic system: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends inspecting the mechanical workings of your septic system once a year and having the system pumped out every three to five years.

HVAC system: Changing filters is one of the most important things you can do to keep your HVAC system in  good working order. The Department of Energy recommends having your HVAC system serviced by a professional once a year.

Boiler/Hot Water Tank: the U.S. Boiler Company recommends having your hot water tank/boiler serviced annually. What’s the difference? A boiler generates and distributes hot water throughout your home as part of a radiant heating system. A hot water tank produces hot water for direct use in cooking, showers, etc.

Homeowner Toolbox

Basic tools are a requirement when you own a home, as you’ll need them to perform routine maintenance. You’ll need to acquire tools such as:

  • Adjustable wrench
  • Assorted nails
  • Assorted screwdrivers
  • Battery-operated flashlight for emergencies (in case you can’t charge your phone)
  • Caulk/caulking gun
  • Claw hammer
  • Handsaw
  • Nuts and bolts
  • Paint roller/brush
  • Pliers
  • Power drill/bits
  • Putty knife
  • Safety glasses
  • Sandpaper
  • Screws
  • Tape measure
  • Toilet plunger
  • Utility knife
  • Work gloves

The Importance of Keeping a Handyman List

Who You Gonna Call? There’s nothing like having an unexpected emergency within your home. It could be as simple as a broken down appliance or a catastrophic hole in your roof from hurricane-force winds. In that moment of extreme stress and panic, you’ll be happy you took the time to compile a handyman list you can rely on.

What Exactly Does A Handyman Do? While there isn’t a national standard, handymen can perform a variety of household repairs in categories such as painting, minor plumbing or roofing. Instead of hiring three individual contractors to perform each task, you can hire one handyman who will complete it all at once for an hourly rate plus the cost of materials. Pro Tip: if the proposed handyman job requires obtaining a permit, or moving electrical wiring or plumbing, consider seeking the services of a professional contractor instead of trying a DIY.

How Do You Find A Reputable Handyman? Ask your family, friends and coworkers for trusted recommendations. Ask the previous homeowners, if applicable, who their favorite handyman is. You can research a handyman online to check the quality and quantity of reviews given, or you can check them out on Angie’s List. If a handyman asks for money upfront or just shows up at your home and is willing to work, it’s a huge red flag this person may not be reputable.

What You’ll Need From Your Handyman. Ask for a written estimate and a timeline as to when the work will be completed, including specific start/end times for days to be worked. Do they offer a written guarantee for their work? Some handymen will offer a work guarantee of up to one year. Once the work is completed, make sure you inspect the process before making any type of payment.

Handyman Services You Will Need

  • A general handyman can work on the following projects for you:
  • Caulking
  • Drywall patching
  • Deck/porch repairs
  • Gutter maintenance
  • Hanging wall items and window treatments
  • Home exterior issues
  • Installing light fixtures
  • Minor plumbing work
  • Painting/touch-ups

Hiring a Handyman Checklist

  • Ask for recommendations and compile a handyman list.
  • Is the job too big for a handyman?
  • Obtain a written estimate and a timeline for work completion.
  • Do they offer a work guarantee?
  • Inspect their work before payment.

The First 60 Days

Within the first 60 days of loving your new domain, there are a number of important tasks you should complete, both inside and outside of your new home.

Interior:

Conduct a walkthrough of your home noting where the water shut-off valves are located. This includes your fridge, kitchen sink, laundry room, plus all bathroom sinks and toilets. If you have low-flow toilets, water valves are usually a push/pull type. Feel free to label any valve locations if this will help when an emergency arises.

Check to make sure all carbon monoxide, radon gas and smoke detectors are in working order. Why? Let’s look at some of the alarming fire statistics:

  • 15,000 Americans are treated annually for carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, and approximately 500 will die, according to Harvard Health Publishing, as part of Harvard Medical School.
  • According to the National Cancer Institute, scientists have estimated from 15,000 to 22,000 lung cancer deaths in America are directly related to radon gas exposure.
  • The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says that “most fire deaths are not caused by burns, but by smoke inhalation. Often smoke incapacitates so quickly that people are overcome and can’t make it to an otherwise accessible exit. The synthetic materials commonplace in today’s home produce especially dangerous substances.” The NFPA goes on to state “almost three of every five home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms (40%) or no smoke alarms that were working (17%).”
  • According to the National Cancer Institute, scientists have estimated from 15,000 to 22,000 lung cancer deaths in America are directly related to radon gas exposure.
  • The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says that “most fire deaths are not caused by burns, but by smoke inhalation. Often smoke incapacitates so quickly that people are overcome and can’t make it to an otherwise accessible exit. The synthetic materials commonplace in today’s home produce especially dangerous substances.” The NFPA goes on to state “almost three of every five home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms (40%) or no smoke alarms that were working (17%).”

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 ‘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. Arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCI) may also be required depending on local regulations. ARCI are generally installed to provide electricity to bedrooms, where if any arcing occurs, the ARCI will trip immediately to cut power to that specific circuit.

As you’ll never want to find yourself without air conditioning on an unexpectedly hot day, or without heat when a winter storm sets in, the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system of your home needs to be regularly maintained so it performs optimally. The air filters will need to be changed monthly depending on your home’s HVAC usage. You’ll also want to make sure your HVAC system has been registered with the manufacturer within 90 days of closing on your new home as some companies provide additional warranty years on parts coverage; this also means you’ll be updated if any manufacturing issues occur with your specific unit.

Drywall within your home is another component that needs to be maintained. If damage or a crack appears, it’s best to make repairs as soon as they occur.

Besides ensuring your HVAC system is registered, take the time to register each appliance within your home (if not registered previously) including your fridge, stove, washer/dryer and dishwasher. Check the air filters and replace or clean them as needed.

Know the location of, and how to shut off your hot water heater. Generally, an upright position of the handle means the water is on; adjusting to a t-position shuts the water off. You’ll also need to know where your main water line is and how to turn it off.

If you have ceramic tile flooring or countertops in your home, consider applying a grout sealer to protect the grout from spills and stains.

Add furniture protectors underneath furniture legs to help protect your floors.

Exterior:

One of the first things you should do to ensure the safety of you and your family is to change the exterior door locks and make some spare keys. Consider leaving a copy with a trusted friend or neighbor in case of emergency.

Stucco repairs are similar to drywall repairs in that they should be taken care of sooner rather than later. If you don’t, a small un-repaired crack could become a much more costly issue as time goes on.

Know the location of your water main shut-off valve. An upright position of the handle ensures water is flowing freely, while turning the handle to a t-position cuts off the flow.

Know the locations of your main electrical panel (usually found with your power meter) and sub-panel in your garage, if applicable. If the sub-panel is GFCI, test using the purple button.

Locate the exterior condensate line, which could be near your HVAC unit or sometimes on the opposite side of your house, to ensure it’s not clogged or otherwise damaged. Regular maintenance using vinegar (above) helps to keep the line clear and mildew free.

Inspect your concrete for cracks, which generally occur due to stress created by the water content before completely hardening, especially in hotter weather. Cracks can also be caused by heaving, from landscaping roots to freeze/thaw cycles, or by settling, expansion, or overloading the concrete. Smaller cracks can be repaired using mortar mixes, latex patching material or epoxy compounds.

Check to make sure your irrigation system is working as desired including the timer and all pop-up heads.

Why Each is Important

Changing the locks to your new home ensures your family’s safety.

Water damage from an appliance or burst pipe can create a huge repair headache. If a toilet is overflowing, you need to know how to shut off the water source as quickly as possible. The same applies to the main water valve in your home.

Locating and regularly testing your GFCI outlets and breaker panels ensures your electrical system is in working order.

Regular HVAC maintenance ensures the temperature of your home will remain comfortable year-round. Registering your unit could provide extra years of warranty parts coverage. Changing system filters regularly will help to reduce your home’s energy consumption anywhere from 5 to 15%, according to the Department of Energy.

If your home has an irrigation system, regular maintenance of it will help keep your lawn and landscaping looking great. It’s better to find out that one pop-up head is damaged and easy to replace, than to discover an entire section that hasn’t been working in weeks. If your home is in a part of the country that experiences freezing weather in winter, you’ll want to have your irrigation system professionally shut down in the fall so that you have no risk of underground pipes freezing over the winter.  Professionals will turn off the water supply to your system and blow compressed air throughout it to be certain that there is no water left in the pipes over the winter.

Registering your appliances (if not already registered) will ensure warranty coverage is maintained and that you’ll be notified in the case of a recall or other considerations.

Ongoing concrete maintenance is necessary to avoid a larger expense in the future, but if you have concrete that requires substantial repair, consider calling in a professional for an estimate.

First 60 Days Checklist

  • Appliance registration
  • HVAC registration
  • Apply a grout sealer to any ceramic tiles
  • Attach furniture protectors on chairs, sofas, etc.
  • Change the exterior locks; make spare keys
  • Check for cracks in your concrete
  • Check your irrigation system including pop-up heads and the timer.
  • Drywall repair of any nicks, scratches or gouges
  • Fire extinguishers – obtain and/or test
  • First aid kit
  • HVAC maintenance: Change filters as recommended and schedule an annual inspection with an HVAC contractor
  • Learn the locations of your water and natural gas shut-off valves, both exterior and interior
  • Stucco care – repair/seal any cracks
  • Test your smoke, radon gas and carbon monoxide detectors to ensure they’re working properly.
  • Test your GFCI outlets to be sure that the outlets turn off when you press the “Test” button and restart when you press the “Reset” button.  Test your electrical panel to be certain that when you turn a circuit breaker off, the electrical power supply is disconnected to the lights, appliances and outlets associated with that breaker.
  • Test all of the circuit breakers in your panel to determine what lights, appliances and/or outlets each controls.  Accurately label your electrical panel so that you will know in the future which circuit breaker controls what and will be easily able to identify which breaker to turn off should you need to do so.

The First 90 Days

Knowledge is Power. Within the first 90 days, you should read through your home warranty manual. While this may seem like a mundane task, it’s important to know what coverage applies to your home.

Save money while reducing your carbon footprint. To reduce your home’s energy consumption, it’s a great idea to:

  • Check out the insulation in your unfinished attic if you have one. The Department of Energy offers information on insulation including types of insulation commercially available, R-values (thermal resistance where higher numbers are best), and where to add extra insulation to your home.
  • Check the temperature of your hot water tank and adjust it to 120°F.
  • Wrap an insulating blanket over your hot water tank if it’s older and/or over any exposed water pipes. The U.S. Boiler Company recommends having your boiler serviced by a professional contractor annually to help extend its overall service life.
  • For energy efficiency, swap out incandescent light bulbs for Light-Emitting Diode (LED) lights, especially in high-use areas such as the kitchen or living area. If a low use light bulb tends to get left on frequently because someone forgets to shut it off, consider replacing that one as well.  Contact your electric company to see if they have programs through which they provide discounted or free replacement bulbs if you switch from incandescent to LED lighting.

Be Prepared.

  • Establish an emergency contact list of trusted contractors and service providers.  Maintain it electronically so that you can easily access it when you most need it.
  • Establish a checklist of scheduled household maintenance to be performed and stick to it.  Maintain it electronically so that you can easily add reminders to it to be sure that you don’t miss or forget to perform a recommended maintenance action.
  • Get ready for the seasons to come: purchase a lawnmower and general gardening tools, or shovels and a snowblower in anticipation of winter. If gardening and shoveling are not for you, look into hiring a contractor to perform these tasks for you.  Ask neighbors who they use and if they recommend them. Check local resources for reputable lawn service, landscaping and snow clearance companies.

Connect with your new community. Take some time for yourself and your family and explore your new neighborhood – visit the local parks, join a yoga studio, attend an art class, volunteer with a community organization, or get involved with a sports team or recreation league. Building community connections helps everyone in your family make that transition from buying a house to having a home.

Why Each is Important

If something goes wrong with your home, you need to have your home warranty manual to know what coverage may apply to you.

By taking on some relatively simple energy-saving tasks now, you’ll be able to reduce your consumption and increase savings on your home.

If an emergency situation arises or there’s something that’s definitely beyond your repair capabilities, or, like plumbing or electrical work which requires the skills of a licensed contractor, one of the best feelings is to know you’ve got a list of reliable and trustworthy people to help you out. Ask your friends and family for recommendations of contractors and service providers.

It’s also an accomplishment if you can keep track of any home maintenance that is upcoming. The easiest way to do so is by utilizing the Maintenance feature of DomiDocs so you’ll be notified of what you need to do and when, which keeps your property up-to-date and increases your TrueValueIndex (TVI) over time.

First 90 Days Checklist

  • Create an emergency contact list of trusted service providers and contractors within the customizable DomiDocs Service Provider Directory.
  • Get ready for the upcoming seasons: think lawnmower, leaf blower, snowblower or all of them.
  • Reduce energy consumption by checking your hot water tank and home insulation.
  • Read through your home warranty manual.

The First 120 Days

Family Safety. While changing your locks within the first 30 days of owning your new home is the first thing you should do, there are additional steps you can take to provide security for you and your family.  Now is a good time to consider installing a home security system and/or a video doorbell with remote app access via your smartphone.

Keep On Top Of Your General Expenses. It’s exciting to be a new homeowner, but Karen Hoskins of NeighborWorks America cautions new homeowners to “be careful and wait several months before taking on any additional debt, until you become comfortable with that new mortgage payment. It’s important to get used to new expenses before adding any additional  ones.” Pace yourself and try not to get too caught up in furnishing your new home completely in the first few months, nor to make major changes without really taking the time to think about what you want, and what’s best for you and your family.

Planning is Key. In the event of an unforeseen natural disaster, you need to have a plan. Anything from a strong thunderstorm to a blizzard, tornado, hurricane house fire or wildfire can have a huge impact on your home and your family.  With thoughtful planning, you can make sure that your family is prepared to meet the challenge that any disaster can bring.  Planning includes everything from how to exit your home in an emergency, making certain everyone in your family knows the location of your gas, electric and water shutoffs to having a physical place outside your home to meet after escaping it and creating a phone tree for your family to use in order to both alert everyone to the emergency and confirm that each family member is safe.  You can find more information about planning for emergencies in the Disaster Preparedness section of this Guide.

Reassess Your Homeowners Insurance Policy.  If you financed the purchase of your new home, you had to have it to obtain your mortgage.  But is the homeowners insurance policy you obtained the best fit for your needs?   You are free to change your homeowner’s insurance coverage at any time, so it’s always a good idea to review your coverage on a regular basis and compare the cost and coverage that you have with what else is available from both your insurer and other companies.

Set Up A Contingency Fund. As a new homeowner, you may find it somewhat financially challenging but it’s extremely important to establish an emergency fund for any unexpected household expenses that may arise, and chances are, there will be something. It may be a good idea to have your homeowner’s insurance and taxes included with your mortgage payments.  When you do this, you pay with each mortgage payment 1/12 of the cost of your annual taxes and insurance bills. Your mortgage servicer will perform an escrow analysis each year.   If the escrow comes up with a shortfall, you’ll receive a bill for the difference and will be given the choice of either increasing your monthly payment or the next year and making up the shortfall 1/12 at a time or paying it to your lender in a lump sum.  If you’re not taking advantage of escrow, you’ll have to budget on your own for both your homeowner’s insurance and annual property taxes, which could be a huge lump sum when the time comes to pay your property taxes or your homeowner’s insurance bill.

Why Each is Important

Your new home is your sanctuary. If you’re able to add some extra security precautions to keep you and your family safe, it’ll help provide peace of mind for years to come. Consider installing a video doorbell or a complete home security system.

By making a regular financial contribution to your household emergency fund, you’ll be confident in knowing you’ll be able to tackle whatever unforeseen incident that comes your way. According to the HomeServe Biannual State of the Home survey, “one-third of homeowners have less than $500 or nothing set aside for an emergency home repair,” while 50% of homeowners within this category have an annual income of $50,000 or less. The survey also identifies a blocked/overflowing toilet and HVAC issues are the most frequently required household repairs.

By reassessing your household insurance needs, you’ll ensure your home has the coverage it needs. Shop around for insurance quotes before your annual policy renewal date.

In case of an emergency scenario, you need to have a plan in place that can be easily followed even under times of pressure. You’ll be less stressed if you’re organized and know what to do during a disaster, rather than panicking and passing that emotion along to the rest of your family. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides free access to maps of flood zones, a Disaster Supplies Checklist and Are You Ready? An In-Depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness.

First 120 Days Checklist

  • Consider purchasing a home security monitoring system.
  • Develop a disaster preparedness plan.
  • Establish and regularly contribute to a household emergency fund.
  • Reassess your household insurance needs.

Quick Home Maintenance

Items That Need to be Regularly Maintained

While it may seem daunting, you’ll need to maintain everything in and around your home from top to bottom. Creating a seasonal home maintenance checklist will help you understand what you’ll need to maintain monthly, quarterly or on a yearly basis. Year after year you’ll get used to what needs to be done and when, but it never hurts to revisit the checklist from time to time as a reminder or in case you may have missed something along the way.

Ultimately maintaining your home means you’re protecting your investment. The Maintenance feature of DomiDocs will help keep your property up-to-date and can increase your TrueValueIndex (TVI) over time.

List of Home Maintenance Contacts and Info

Taking the time to establish an emergency contact list of trusted contractors and service providers is an important task in your new homeownership. Having a list of reputable professionals on hand is worth its weight in gold when it comes to conducting maintenance and repairs throughout your home.

DomiDocs makes it easy to keep track of these valuable assets within your customized Service Provider Directory where you can easily create personalized notes, edit information, and even rate the work provided by your vendor for future reference.

Items that Require Regular Maintenance Checklist

The needs of your home will generally change from season to season including landscaping in the spring and fall, pool and air conditioning systems in the summer, followed by winter storm prep during the cold months. The following items will require consistent service and maintenance:

  • Air Conditioning (including servicing and/or changing out air filters)
  • Alarm Systems
  • Appliances (including cleaning fridge coils and dryer vents)
  • Attic Space
  • Bathroom and Kitchen Exhaust Fans
  • Bathroom Regrout
  • Cabinets
  • Ceiling Fans (change to a clockwise rotation in winter; counter-clockwise in summer)
  • Countertops
  • Doors and Locks (including the doorbell)
  • Driveway
  • Drywall
  • Electrical Systems
  • Fire Extinguishers
  • Fireplace
  • Flooring
  • Foundation
  • Garage
  • Garbage Disposal
  • Gas Shut-Offs
  • Gutters, Drains and Downspouts
  • Heating System
  • Heat Pump
  • Home Security Systems
  • Landscaping
  • Mirrors
  • Paint and Stain
  • Plumbing
  • Roofing
  • Septic System
  • Sump Pump
  • Siding and Exterior Surfaces
  • Smoke Detectors
  • Ventilation
  • Water Heater
  • Wells
  • Windows, Screens, and Patio Doors
  • Wood Trim
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