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When you first think about buying a home, you hear over and over again how home maintenance can sneak up on you — and now that you are finally a homeowner yourself, you’re not sure where to begin with making a home maintenance plan. The trick is to figure out which type of plan (or combination of programs) is going to work best for you and your lifestyle.
Here’s what you need to know about home maintenance plans and how to make one.
Maintaining a home: The basics
Keeping water out of your home is one of the best preventative-maintenance things you can do. Water can erode a foundation, rot wood, and erode your home’s structure, and it can also lead to mold.
Once a year, haul a ladder out of the garage and clean your gutters and downspouts. Grab a bucket and work gloves and hop up on a ladder. Scoop up any leaves and twigs in your gutters, putting them in the bucket. Flush out your downspout with a hose, running the water from top to bottom.
Peter Chiarkas, an experienced agent in Pennsylvania, says that “If your downspouts are clogged, all that water is going to hit your foundation and start cracking it, causing considerable damage to it.” Both your gutters and downspouts need to be clear of debris so that they can continue to carry water away from the house.
It’s also a good idea to check appliances for leaks. Once a month, check under all your major appliances and sinks for water. Yearly, check the hoses, supply lines, and drain lines for all appliances that connect to a water supply, such as your washer. Pay special attention to seals, which deteriorate over time. And see if the drip pans under your fridge and dishwasher have cracked or are leaking.
If your basement has a sump pump, you’ll need to test it yearly. Make sure that the exterior pipe isn’t clogged, and that water can drain out of the house. To check if your sump pump drains properly, pour five gallons of water into the sump crock and watch to see if the sump pump switch turns “on” and drains.
Lastly, check for and seal cracks in concrete or asphalt in the driveway. Water can get in through them, freeze and expand, and further damage the surface.
Once every five years, or when it starts to discolor and crack, you need to recaulk your bathroom fixtures. Caulk forms a seal between a fixture and the wall, faucet, or showerhead. It keeps water from seeping into the wall and damaging your home’s structure. Scrape the old caulk away, clean the area, and then recaulk.
Maintaining the building itself
Your home rests upon its foundation, and if it’s damaged or deteriorating, the problems will carry up through the walls and floors. When spring arrives, take a walk around the outside of your house, looking for cracks and holes in the foundation. Inside, look for cracks along the walls or ceilings, particularly where walls and ceilings join. Open and close all doors and windows — if the foundation is settling, they’ll start to stick.
During warmer weather, have your roof inspected. Winter storms can loosen or blow off shingles, and taking care of small repairs can prolong your roof’s life. Don’t forget to think about curb appeal; Touch-up paint and pressure-wash your house.
Clean out your garbage disposal monthly. Fill your sink and the disposal with water as hot as you can stand and add a small amount of dish soap. Run the disposal and flush the water through. Then, making sure the disposal is off, take out the screen or drain and use a scrub brush to get rid of dirt and grime.
Change HVAC filters every three to six months. How often you change filters depends upon their size, but Chiarkas advises staying on top of it because “If (a homeowners’) HVAC system is clean and neat, and not struggling, they’re going to save tons on energy.”
Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors yearly to keep your home safe. Dust and cobwebs can interfere with motors and compressors, so vacuum under and behind your major appliances to keep them running smoothly.
Head into the basement to drain your water heater to flush out the sediment that settles at the bottom of the tank. Check on your pipes and fixtures, particularly after a rough winter, when you’re down there. And don’t forget to check for signs of pests like termites, ants, or mice.
If keeping track of all these maintenance items seems overwhelming, you’ll need to come up with a plan.
Your plan options
Once you’ve figured out what you need in your home maintenance plan, how do you keep track of it? It’s not enough to know what you need to do; You have to follow through.
Chiarkas says that since “First-time homeowners aren’t seasoned, or have a knowledge of maintenance,” keeping track with “Checklists that have certain dates and times makes life a lot easier.”
Luckily, there are several options for monitoring home maintenance, so you can find one that works for you.
DIY home maintenance plan
There are plenty of online checklists you can print off, or you can buy a planner and only use it to keep track of home maintenance. It’s low-tech, easy to implement, and you’ll have a paper record of your maintenance.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to lose a piece of paper or shove a planner in a drawer and forget about it. If you’re not diligent about checking it every month, maintenance can quickly start to slide. And if you do lose the checklist, you won’t have any idea what has and hasn’t been done yet that year.
Use a digital tool to handle maintenance
There’s an app for everything, and that includes home maintenance. With an app, you can set alerts to remind you when it’s time to change your furnace filter. As a bonus, some apps let you add photos of appliances, home repairs, and more, which could help if you ever need to file a homeowners insurance claim.
The digital record can’t be lost — unless the company goes out of business. Apps come and go, and developers don’t always stay in business or keep the app updated. If that happens, it might be hard to download or extract the maintenance record. With a digital tool, you’re putting your home maintenance plan in the hands of someone else.
Use a calendar like ours with alerts turned on
HomeLight has a free maintenance calendar that homeowners can use to set alerts, share with other household members, and export to create a physical record. It’s a simple tool that you can log into anywhere, and you can customize it by adding or deleting items once you’ve set it up under your own account.
One downside of using a shared calendar is that you’ll need to coordinate who’s doing what if there’s more than one person in your household. An easy way to do this could be to assign all plumbing-related tasks to one adult, and all appliance-related tasks to another.
Outsource your home maintenance plan
It’s easy to outsource your home maintenance plan, though you should be sure you select someone you trust. Not only could they be in your home when you’re not there, but you’ll also want to verify the quality of their work. If you decide to outsource, check references and online reviews.
Hire a handyperson to handle it for you and have them use some kind of calendar, checklist, or documentation system. You can also sign up for a home warranty, many of which will arrange for service professionals to come to your house twice a year to check and repair covered items. Your local electric company might offer a maintenance plan for appliances, too.
Most plans charge a monthly fee, which includes a few hours of service. Any parts or supplies the handyman needs to complete the job will cost extra.
Home maintenance plans and selling
While providing a schedule of maintenance to buyers won’t be a deciding factor when it comes time to sell your house, it can help. Chiarkas points out that selling a house is almost like selling a car. “If you sell an expensive car and you have logged data and keep the receipt, the next buyer is going to feel more warm and cozy to the car — or to the home.”
Over the course of five, ten, or fifteen years, it’s easy to forget when you had something done, but if you’ve kept detailed records, you can easily answer questions. While maintaining your home saves you money, it also protects and increases your investment’s value. And that makes it worth your time to set up a plan that’s easy to follow and works with your schedule!
Header Image Source: (Craig Adderley / Pexels)