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A New Homeowner’s Guide to Maintenance

Congratulations! You made it through the challenges of the buying process, and now you’re a homeowner — now the real work begins.

Your house might be pretty to look at right now, but it can’t and won’t maintain itself. And you can’t get away with just keeping the interior clean and mowing the lawn regularly — you’ll need to implement a consistent maintenance schedule for all the major components of your home.

Keep reading for some guidance on how to maintain your home throughout the year.

Preparing for home maintenance

The costs of homeownership go beyond your mortgage payments, homeowners association fees and monthly utility bills. Maintenance should also be factored into your housing budget.

To prepare for home maintenance, Freddie Mac offers the following tips:

  • Set aside time and money to maintain your property.
  • Plan ahead for important purchases and home improvement projects.
  • Periodically take inventory of warranty end dates and replacement schedules for items in your home, such as your roof, deck or appliances.
  • Keep your homeowners insurance active and current, and ensure that the coverage it provides is adequate.

Also keep in mind that different seasons may call for different home maintenance tasks. Below we break down some common ways to maintain your home during each season.

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Home maintenance by season

Fall and Winter

Inside

As the weather gets colder, it’s time to repair and replace caulk or weather stripping around your windows to reduce unnecessary airflow from the outside, said Karen Hoskins, acting vice president of national homeownership programs and lending at Washington, D.C.-based NeighborWorks America, a community development nonprofit.

“It can have a tremendous impact on your heating bill if you’re losing air or there’s cold air coming in from the outside,” she said.

Be sure to change the filter in your furnace as well. This is something that homeowners commonly neglect, according to Joanne Theunissen, the 2018 chair of the National Association of Home Builders Remodelers Council.

“We’ve been in houses where we see that nothing’s been done for about five years,” said Theunissen, who is based in Michigan, adding that filters left unchanged can cut the lifespan of a furnace almost in half.

It’s also a good time to change the batteries in your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, Theunissen also noted. Additionally, if you’re in an older house, keep in mind that the sensors on a smoke detector may stop functioning after 10 years or so, even though you may have been replacing the batteries regularly.

“If you have any question at all in your mind as to the age of that smoke detector, I would suggest you replace it,” Theunissen said. “There’s every possibility that while it looks like it’s functioning and the light is on, it just might not be as sensitive anymore.”

Outside

It’s not a fun chore, but it’s necessary to clean out any debris from your gutters and downspouts. This will keep water from falling in huge sheets against your foundation, Theunissen explained.

You’ll also want to turn off your outside faucets (especially in regions where the winters are brutal) so the pipes don’t freeze and burst — leading to a hefty plumbing bill.

In addition, consider oiling the moving parts of your garage door, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

Spring and Summer

Inside

The spring and summer seasons are both good times to again replace your furnace filters.

Theunissen recommends adhering to the tradition of spring cleaning. “We forget about how much dust is formed in the house, even if you live really clean,” she said.

Vacuum your mattresses and use a steamer to clean the corners of your shower, rather than heavy chemicals, she said. Theunissen also suggests clearing out the back corners of your closets to check for mildew and mold, cleaning any spots you see with soapy water and letting those areas dry before moving items back into your closets.

Additionally, take a look under all your sinks periodically to check for leaks or water damage, as well as your attic, basement and other similar regions of your home.

Outside

Your gutters and downspouts need attention in the warmer months as well, particularly after major weather events, Hoskins noted.

If you have any surfaced-painted wood on the exterior of your house, check it for peeling or chipping paint —

“You should always be scraping and repainting and recaulking,” Theunissen noted.

Keep trees trimmed and make sure there are no large limbs hanging over your roof. Properly trim any shrubbery, ensuring there’s a least a foot of space between the shrubs and your house.

“There should always be a little breathing space,” Theunissen said, to prevent moisture infiltration into the house that can lead to mold and mildew. “Your house’s worst enemy really is moisture. That’s what causes the major damage to the building components that comprise your house.”

And moisture includes humidity — not just rain.

Monthly home maintenance

Some heating and air-conditioning units call for their filters to be replaced monthly rather than quarterly. Check your system’s paperwork for the proper maintenance schedule.

The NAHB recommends running cold water through your garbage disposal while it’s in use to properly maintain it.

To make sure you stay on top of the maintenance tasks that come up throughout the year, Theunissen recommends keeping a running list of minor issues that may need your attention.

“When you see something small, go ahead and make a note of it — it’s on your list — and then in a few months check it and see, ‘Is it time now? Do I actually have to address it?’” she said.

Homeowners can get overwhelmed when they overlook the small jobs and find that, as time passes, they turn into major projects that a professional has to handle, Theunissen added.

“If you’re kind of always looking at the little things and hitting them when you first see them, then owning a home can be really manageable.”

Annual home maintenance

Establish a habit of checking your roof annually. Look for damaged or broken shingles, moss and other items.

Invest in preventative maintenance as well, including a regular pest inspection. Don’t solely rely on the inspection that was conducted before your closing day.

“Even though there may not be an infestation at the time of purchase, insects can come back,” Hoskins said.

It’s important to note that a standard homeowners insurance policy won’t cover damage from an infestation of termites or other pests. Having an infestation indicates a lack of maintenance, and your insurance carrier likely isn’t interested in covering issues that could’ve been prevented by properly maintaining your home.

Lastly, have your heating and air-conditioning unit professionally serviced once a year, to help prevent a costly replacement — a new system can set you back thousands of dollars.

Special considerations for non-single-family homes

If you own a condominium, co-op or townhouse, don’t automatically assume that it’s your homeowners association’s responsibility to maintain your home’s exterior. Be sure you understand what your HOA covers and what’s under your purview.

In terms of maintaining the interior of your home, you’ll likely need to address many of the same issues that owners of single-family homes would, Hoskins said.

Even if your exterior is maintained by the association, it’s in your best interest to pay attention to what’s going on and reach out with concerns, because your association or property manager may not be keeping close tabs on every individual unit, Theunissen said.

 

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