There is truth to the old adage that “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” – especially when it comes to taking care of your home. A regular schedule of preventative home maintenance can thwart a host of expensive problems down the road and keep your house in tip-top condition. Preventative maintenance is also far easier than waiting until something breaks and then having to scramble to get it fixed.
Keep moisture away from foundations.
One of the most important things in preventative home maintenance is to keep moisture away from your house:
- Install rain gutters if you don’t already have them. This will direct water away from the foundation and can help prevent a cracked slab.
- Clear leaves from your rain gutters at least twice a year to avoid water backup that can rot wood gutters and rust those made of sheet metal.
- If gutter drainpipes are clogged, try to flush debris down them with a hose. If that doesn’t work, use a plumber’s snake to free the debris from the gutter drainpipe.
- Adjust your lawn sprinklers to ensure that you don’t water your house along with your grass and garden. Wet wood can rot and attract dampwood termites.
- Inspect the washers on your hose and outdoor faucet periodically and replace them if needed to prevent dripping water from soaking the foundation of your home.
- Go up in the attic to check for roof leaks every several months to prevent water damage to ceilings and walls from rain.
- Use the bathroom fan or open a window when you take a shower to prevent condensation that encourages mold and mildew growth.
Know where shutoff valves are located.
In case of an emergency, all the adults in your household should know where the following controls are located and how to turn them off:
- Heating fuel main shutoff
- Main electrical fuse/breaker box
- Main water shutoff
- Water shutoff valve for toilets, sink faucets, and your washing machine.
Keep a wrench nearby each of the vital shutoff valves. Every home should also have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen and in the garage.
Clean vents and registers.
- Clean leaves and debris out of basement window wells.
- Rake debris away from around the foundation of your house and other structures on your property.
- Vacuum your carpet with a powerful upright vacuum cleaner at least once a week.
Repair damaged screens on doors and windows.
- Clean faucet aerators and shower heads with vinegar to get rid of mineral deposits.
- Clean the drain pan on your frost-free refrigerator.
- Inspect your dishwasher for leaks.
- Clean your kitchen exhaust fan filter and fan blades.
- During the fall and winter months, check your heating system air filter and replace it if needed.
- Maintain drains by pouring boiling water down them. If a drain becomes clogged, pour a cup of baking soda into the drain – flush with three cups of hot water. If that doesn’t work, use one-half cup of baking soda and then pour one-half cup of plain vinegar down the drain.
- Pour water down any unused drains.
- Vacuum heat registers, vents and refrigerator coils.
- Test ground fault circuit (GFI) interrupters in your home.
Spring Maintenance Checklist
Change batteries in home fire alarms.
- Inspect weather-stripping around windows and doors. If needed, replace it to save energy and cut down on air conditioning costs.
- Clean dirt and dust from around the air conditioner compressor.
- Change your air conditioner filter
- Inspect screens and repair any holes to keep flying insects out of the house.
- Hose off the exterior of your home.
- Scrub any mildew off of the exterior of the house and treat decks for mildew and fungus.
- Trim any trees or shrubs away from the house.
- Contact a licensed coolant contractor to inspect and service your air conditioner.
- Use silicone spray on patio door and window tracks for smooth operation.
- Change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detector
Fall Maintenance Checklist
- Inspect storm window, clean them if needed and seal holes.
- Have your wood-burning fireplace inspected, cleaned and repaired to prevent chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Contact a licensed heating contractor to inspect and service your gas heater or furnace to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Your local utility company will often provide this service for free.
- If you use a hot-water system for heating, drain the expansion tank, check the water pressure, and bleed your radiators.
- Change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detector.
Inspect fire extinguishers once a year to ensure they're in proper working order.
- Seal exterior cracks in stucco.
- Touch up exterior paint.
- Drain water heater and check pressure valve.
- Re-caulk showers, tubs and sinks to prevent water damage to walls.
- Wax marble counter tops with turtle wax.
- Maintain a contract with a pest control company to prevent or eliminate insect infestations such as termites or carpenter ants.
- Inspect hot water heat system radiators and convectors.
- Septic tanks should be checked and cleaned once a year.
- Check the pressure and expiration date on all of your fire extinguishers.
- Check your clothes dryer vent and hose for lint buildup. Clean if necessary to prevent a fire.
- Contact a roofing professional to check for leaks, loose shingles, or broken tiles.
- Schedule a chimney cleaning (if you don't use your fireplace very much this can be done every two years.)
- Give your carpeting a professional cleaning.
Home Safety Tips
Home safety is an important part of preventative home maintenance. You can avoid personal injury by following a few safety tips.
- Avoid overloading extension cords and electrical outlets.
- Turn off appliances when you are not using them.
- Do not store flammable liquids such as paint supplies near heating units.
- Keep flammable objects such as dish towels, curtains, and aprons away from stoves, and don’t wear loose fitting clothing while cooking.
- If a pan catches fire, cover it with a lid and turn off the heat.
- If a fire gets out of control, immediately leave the house and call the fire department using a neighbor’s phone or a cell phone.
- Develop an escape route out of your house and practice it once a month with your family.
- Create a family disaster preparedness plan.
- Establish a meeting place outside your home and the neighborhood in case of a community disaster such as flooding, mudslides, earthquakes, or radiological and hazardous materials accidents. Make sure everyone in the family knows how to contact each other if you get separated.
- Establish an out-of-state contact (relative or friend) that you can call after the disaster to pass the word around that you and your family are okay.
- Assemble a disaster survival kit and stock emergency supplies. You will need:
- A three-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day.)
- A three-day supply of ready to eat canned meats, vegetables, and fruit for each person.
- A change of clothing and footwear for each person.
- A first-aid kit that includes prescription medicines.
- One sleeping bag or blanket per person.
- A battery-powered radio and flashlight and extra batteries.
- Special need items such as diapers, formula, baby bottles, denture and contact lenses supplies.
- A credit card, cash, or traveler's checks.
- Tools and supplies such as paper plates, cups, and plastic utensils; a battery powered radio, flashlight, extrabatteries, non-electric can opener, tube tent, plastic storage containers, compass, matches and plastic sheeting.
- Sanitation needs will include toilet paper; soap and liquid detergent; personal hygiene items; plastic garbage bags, plastic bucket with a tight lid; and household chlorine bleach.
Written by Cassie Brill