Annual home maintenance tips

Depending on the age of your house, expect to spend between one and three percent of its value every year on maintenance and repair. Your maintenance budget should increase as your house ages, and remember to include money to replace major systems as required.

Foundation

Check a couple of times a year for expanding cracks, dampness and movement. Minor cracks are normal, but if you notice they are widening, it may indicate a problem. If you catch it early, a minor crack in a poured concrete foundation could cost about $400 to $800 to repair. But if the damage goes unchecked, replacing the foundation wall may run you upwards of $10,000.

Gutters and downspouts

In late fall or early winter, clean your gutters and downspouts of leaves and other debris. Make sure water flows freely through them and away from the house. Otherwise, a leak could cause water to build up along the foundation, possibly weakening it, inviting mold and pests or even causing a flooded basement. Keeping water flowing in the right direction will also help prevent stains on your siding and ice from forming on your porch or deck.

Paint

Most homes with exterior paint need to be repainted every five to seven years. Signs your paint is failing include fading, blistering, cracking, scaling or peeling. Minor touch-ups every year will keep your paint job looking good and performing well against the elements. Pay particular attention to areas with the most exposure. You can estimate the cost of repainting your home by using ServiceMagic’s cost estimator.

Caulking

Expect to recaulk seals and joints around windows, doors, siding and flashing every two or three years to prevent drafts and heat loss. Your caulking may need more frequent attention if you live in an area with extreme heat or salty air.

Windows and doors

Check to make sure all doors and windows close properly and tightly to prevent drafts and heat loss or entry. Apply weather stripping to gaps. Examine the frames of windows and the bottom of exterior doors for signs of damage. If they’re badly weathered, it may be necessary to replace them.

Chimney

As wood burns, it produces a black, flammable substance known as creosote that coats your chimney. Having your chimney professionally cleaned on an annual basis dislodges this build-up and reduces the potential for a fire. Also, check your chimney for any signs of cracked mortar and examine your flashing for looseness or corrosion. Repairing problem spots will prevent leaks that could cause serious damage to the structure.

Roof

Before you become aware of a leak from drips falling on your head, check for signs yourself. Look for water stains on attic rafters and evidence of moisture in the basement. Also, check for leaks around vents, skylights and chimneys. Examine shingles regularly for lifting or looseness and reattach before they allow water into your home. In general, the thicker the shingle the longer it will last, but asphalt-shingle roofs generally last about 12 to 25 years and wood shakes between 25 and 75 years. Slate roofs have a lifespan of between 50 and 100 years.

Heating

Most furnaces should be checked and cleaned by a professional before the heating season starts. Warm-air furnaces and heat pumps last for eight to 12 years, while a hot-water boiler can work well for up to 50 years. A warm-air furnace costs between $1,500 and $4,000 to replace, an electric heat pump costs between $2,000 and $4,000 and a hot-water boiler runs from $2,500 to $3,500.

Air conditioning

Your air conditioning system should also be checked every year and the filters replaced monthly. Air conditioning compressors last between eight and 15 years and can cost up to $1,400 to replace. A new central air-conditioning system starts at around $1,500.

Safety devices

Replace the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors at least twice a year. Check the expiration date on your fire extinguisher and make sure it’s working properly.

Need to make repairs? Choose a prescreened contractor in your area.

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