First-time homeowners don’t start with knowledge of how to take care of their homes. No fairy waves a magic wand at the closing to provide them with the needed information. Instead, homeowners must research their home’s needs, and we’ve created the beginner’s guide to standard maintenance for your home. In this guide, we introduce the big needs for home maintenance and who to call for help with them.
Some first-time homeowners start with the idea that they must handle all of their standard maintenance alone. Perhaps they’ve watched many episodes of “Home Improvement,” and think that they have a handle on things. That’s not a good idea though, because most home maintenance items don’t lend themselves to do-it-yourselfers. We’ll go over the professionals you’ll need to contract with for upkeep and the items they typically teach you to do yourself.
Homes need a wide-ranging number of plumbing items regularly attended to as a part of the standard maintenance. The interior plumbing maintenance ranges from roto-rooting the plumbing lines, so the toilets don’t back up to changing out the worn washers on the faucets. In rural areas, it also includes exterior maintenance, including septic cleaning. Cleaning a septic tank requires hiring septic and sewer line services because the task uses a large truck with a suction hose that sucks the waste out of the septic tank and into the truck.
Older rural homes that may have stood empty for some time may need a septic repair service to address issues with the tank or its liner. Unlike homes in large towns and cities, rural homes lack sewer systems that transport waste away from the home to a municipal treatment facility. Instead, they feature a large cistern underneath the property in which waste collects. Inside this tank, it partially composts and releases gases; cleaning it every two years removes the waste and the gaseous buildup.
Without regular plumbing maintenance, waste buildup can attract pests, such as roaches or mice. As a part of your home’s standard maintenance, clean the exterior completely, ensuring that any wood pile sits far away from the house. Also, clear away tall grass, and debris, and regularly have the refuse hauled away. Keeping the yard clean provides one way to reduce pests.
Inside your home, keep rooms clean and well organized. Mop up spills quickly, and try to stay on top of your dirty dishes. In homes with a dishwasher, wash each day’s dishes in the evening or start the cleaning cycle as you get ready for bed. Washing dishes at these two times results in a lower cost for the water used.
Despite your best efforts, sometimes pests find their way into your home. At the first sign of ants or roaches, treat for the bugs. If the over-the-counter treatment works, consider yourself lucky. If it doesn’t work, contact professional pest exterminators to rid your home of unwanted rodents and other pests, and expect to have the home re-treated every six to twelve months.
Another item of standard maintenance, the roof, needs an annual inspection. These inspections uncover hard-to-spot damage like places where the flashing between the chimney and roof has torn or worn away. They can also discover developing leaks and other issues, such as under-insulated attics. Many roofing contractors offer these inspections for free, but some charge a nominal fee for their performance.
While a once-per-year, free-of-charge inspection doesn’t sound bad, your home’s roof needs examination more often than that. Have a roofer inspect the home after any extreme weather event, such as a hurricane, derecho, tornado, or tropical storm. Some severe thunderstorms also qualify as a catalyst for a roof inspection because the accompanying hail and/or strong winds can damage the home’s roof.
When an inspection does discover damage, have the roofing inspector show it to you firsthand. Determine its effect on your home and safety, then address it with professional repairs. Roof repairs or replacement can cost a lot but check your homeowner’s insurance to find out if it covers the peril that damaged the roof. If it does, file a claim, so the insurance company pays for the repairs.
Some damage, insurance does not cover. In these cases, don’t despair. Contact various roofers in your area to find a qualified service that offers financing. Taking out a small loan through the roofing company can help you pay for much-needed repairs and avoid the complexity of a bank loan.
Because roofs fall into the category of structural integrity items in a home, many non-profits offer monetary or repair assistance. The options in rural areas include the local Community Action Agency (CAA) and churches. In cities, contact Rebuilding America, called Christmas in April in some locations, and Habitat for Humanity, which builds new homes and sometimes repairs homes, as well.
Beyond curb appeal for your home, consider driveway paving and concrete upkeep as a part of the standard maintenance of your home. If the house that you purchased features a cracked driveway or walkways, consider hiring an asphalt contractor service. You may need them to remove the existing concrete and replace it with new masonry.
Completing redoing a concrete driveway can update the exterior of the home. Consider a new driveway if you need to have more than one large crack or many small ones patched. A patch job of that size would require almost the same cost as taking out the current drive and putting in a new one. Add seashells, pebbles, colored sand, or stones to the cement to create visual interest and match the driveway to the home’s trim.
When you build a new home, you hire professionals to handle the appliance installation. You’ll need those same professionals to assist with the standard maintenance of your home. That’s because appliances wear out and need replacement. Most home appliances last about 15 years, except dishwashing machines, which wear out in about nine years.
Some home appliances, like refrigerators, only need the occasional light bulb changed and some refrigerant added through the years. Water heaters though, require annual maintenance from a plumbing professional. Learning to conduct regular monthly checks on the operation of the home’s washing machine and dryer can also result in improved performance.
Some features of a home, such as the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system require standard maintenance and regular inspections. Each year, have an HVAC service check your system and clean the ducts. This duct cleaning removes debris buildup and creates improved indoor air quality. Most HVAC service professionals show the homeowner how to change the HVAC system’s air filter once per month – an easy task that helps reduce duct debris and improve indoor air quality.
Roofs and foundations also need an annual inspection. Some roofers combine their inspection services with the fall clean-up task of cleaning the roofing gutters. Others do not bundle these services, so check the websites of your local providers.
If you worry that all of these home repair or home installation service providers might try to gouge you or report that your house needs work that it does not, use home inspection services instead. When you bought the house, it underwent a home inspection. You can use the same inspector each year to check on the home’s health and catch any developing problems before they grow large. These home inspectors do not perform repairs and have no incentive to lie about damaged areas.
Window and Door Replacement
It might not seem like standard maintenance, but eventually, you need to replace the home’s exterior entry doors and windows. Check the home’s windows to ensure that they’re of an energy-efficient design called Low-E and feature either a double- or triple-pane design. If your home already has these high-quality windows, unless you feel drafts at their edges, the house does not need new windows.
Damage to entry doors can create a need for new door installations. Consider choosing a solid core door of stainless steel or stronger materials. Manufacturers make these doors look like they’re formed of wood, but instead, they provide a much heartier design. Add a few heavy-duty locks to shore up the entryways.
Another item of standard maintenance for most homes involves the attached or unattached garage. If you purchase an older home with a garage door at least 15 years old, replace the door. Garage doors wear out, although a garage door service can often fix small problems like missing ball bearings or a broken remote control.
Update your garage door for an easy, and low-cost way to renovate the home’s exterior. In most American homes, the garage features prominently in the home’s design. Replacing the garage door results in a new look for the whole home, whether you choose a new color door or change the style from a roll-up door to a barn or carriage door style.
Also, have the garage roof inspected when you have the home’s roof inspected. On homes with an attached garage, this usually happens automatically, but on houses with unattached garages, homeowners sometimes forget to include it in the inspection request. Replace the roof of an unattached garage and other utility buildings when you re-roof the main home. This process results in a uniform roof appearance on all buildings on the property, a simple way to increase curb appeal.
Yard or landscaping upkeep also forms a core part of the standard maintenance of a home. Yards take a lot of work to maintain, and most homeowners do not have the time to do everything needed. Make landscaping maintenance easier by hiring a crew to rake in fall, shovel snow in winter, and mow the yard in spring and summer. If you find it arduous to perform the yardwork, contracting with a yard service ensures that your home stays in great shape without you needing to toil in the yard for hours every week.
A landscaper can help you do far more than simply keep the yard clean. Consult a landscape architect to create a unique design for your yard that includes garden plots, grass or ground cover, trees, shrubs, and bushes. These designs should vary the heights of the plants to create depth and visual interest in the yard.
A landscape architect may also plan hardscapes for your yard, such as a patio, deck, or porch. Their designs might include sculptures or fountains. Depending on how you want to use your yard, this home improvement professional can design a set of custom features for your home’s landscape. While homeowners tend to think in terms of the backyard and front yard, a landscaper also includes the side yards to create a uniform appearance for the home.
The adage, “Good fences make good neighbors,” rings true. Dividing your properties along the property line with an attractive fence or wall can beautify both properties and enhance curb appeal. Hire a local fence company to create a stone, cement, wood, or other solid fence for your property that protects your privacy while providing beauty and security. Consider fences that feature swing-open gates that you can open with a remote control, so you don’t have to get out of your vehicle to open the gate and enter your home.
Getting Started on the Everyday Maintenance for Your Home
At this point in this guide, the new homeowner probably has a clear idea of the standard maintenance required for a house. Of course, some things do come up unexpectedly. You may want to update the garage interior or transform your attic or basement into a recreational area or home office. These projects add new maintenance to your home after the contractors complete them. A new bathroom or laundry room means new plumbing to check over regularly.
If you go on vacation or leave your vacation home empty for some time, shutting off the electricity in the process, your home will need an electrical inspection before turning the electricity back on. Some home care items you learn as you own your home. For all others, read guides like this one.