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Routine Maintenance - How To Care For Your New Home

So you’ve just bought the home of your dreams. Congratulations!

Now that the boxes are unpacked, the pictures are on the wall and the furniture is arranged just the way you want it, it’s time to start thinking about how you will keep your home in tip-top condition.

Just like a car, a home requires regular maintenance to ensure that everything continues functioning just as it should. Those periodic maintenance checks are key to preventing small problems from turning into big disasters.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that any problems you have with your home will be covered by the warranty from your builder if you haven’t been handling routine maintenance tasks. Most builder warranties apply to workmanship and materials, not to problems that arise because you haven’t been maintaining your home properly.

For example, if your roof begins to leak six months after you move in because it wasn’t built properly, your warranty should cover that. But if you develop a problem because water has backed up in your clogged gutters, the responsibility is yours – not the builder’s.

One way to be sure you know what is your responsibility to maintain and what the builder or manufacturer is responsible for is to read your warranty. No, it’s not exactly exciting reading material, but it could save you a lot of money and headaches in the long run.

If you own a single-family, detached home, you are responsible for maintaining both the interior and exterior of your home. However, if you own a condominium or townhome, you don’t own the exterior of your home and therefore don’t have to worry about exterior maintenance.

Most routine maintenance tasks are fairly simple. One of the most obvious is to simply keep your home clean. Dust and dirt are not only unsightly, they also can damage the finishes on cabinets, countertops, floors, sinks, tubs, toilets, tiles and other parts of the home.

Dust also can affect the functioning of your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, so be sure to regularly clean those. Also, test their batteries regularly and replace them when needed.

Many other routine maintenance tasks can be performed twice a year or with the change of seasons. It may be helpful to make a checklist of those tasks that you can attach to a page in your calendar or organizer to remind you when they should be performed.

The change of seasons is a good time to check the weather stripping and caulking around your windows and doors and make any needed repairs. It’s also a good time to check screens for tears, clean and repair them and swap them out with storm windows.

Be sure to regularly clean leaves and debris out of gutters and drain pipes so they don’t clog, and check the roof for leaks. Also, check the flashing around vents, skylights and chimneys for leaks.

Inspect your home’s siding for cracks and holes or peeling paint. Repairing cracks with caulk and repainting peeling spots will not only improve your home’s appearance, but it also will prolong the life of the siding.

Maintaining the inside of your home is just as important as the exterior. One item that you should be sure to regularly check are the filters on your heating and air conditioning system. They may need cleaned or changed as often as once a month to remain effective. Dust and lint also can quickly build up in the vent hose of your clothes dryer, causing a fire. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for information on how to remove lint, or else contact a repair professional.

Furnaces and boilers also should be checked regularly to make sure they are dust-free and rust-free. Check their air filters every one to two months and replace them as needed to help keep energy costs down.

If you aren’t sure what else you should do as part of your home’s routine maintenance plan, the checklist on the following page may be a good place to start.

Routine Home Maintenance Checklist

Perform these maintenance checks at least twice a year to keep your home functioning efficiently and looking its best:

  1. Clean leaves and debris out of gutters and drainpipes to prevent water from backing up.
  2. Change or clean filters and vents in heating and air conditioning systems, dryers and fans as often as needed.
  3. Check for leaky faucets and leaks in the roof, chimney or around skylights.
  4. Fill cracks and holes in the exterior siding with caulk, repaint peeling spots and remove any vines growing on the house.
  5. Make sure the refrigerator and freezer door seals tightly; clean coils.
  6. Clean fireplaces after winter use; check for loose or missing mortar.
  7. Seal drafty doors and windows.
  8. Check screens and storm shutters (if applicable) and vice versa depending on the season. Use the opportunity to repair any tears.
  9. Drain the hot water heater and remove sediment from the bottom of the tank in the fall.
  10. Check the foundation and basement walls and floors for dampness.
  11. Clean the humidifier in the fall and the dehumidifier in the spring. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  12. Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and replace their batteries as needed or at least twice a year. Make sure you have easily accessible fire extinguishers that are in good working order.
  13. Inspect the water hoses on the washing machine, dishwasher and refrigerator icemaker for cracks.
  14. Vacuum and dust your home regularly to prevent dirt from damaging the finishes on your countertops, cabinets, floors, sinks, tubs, toilets, tiles and other surfaces.
  15. Check your furnace or blower for rust and signs of corrosion. If your furnace has a belt, inspect it for cracks or excessive wear and tear. Also, change or clean the air filter.
  16. Hire a professional to check your gas appliances and furnace once a year. An expert may find things you wouldn’t catch that could prevent a serious problem from developing.
  17. Trim any tree branches that are hanging over the house that could cause damage during a storm. They may also be dropping leaves into the gutters or causing mildew problems by shading the house.

Information from NAHB and Fannie Mae