A little attention at regular intervals can help keep your home and its systems and appliances in tip-top shape. Our guide can help you schedule a number of projects so you can stay organized and keep ahead of home maintenance.
Some basic housekeeping and maintenance tasks should be completed on a monthly basis to keep appliances and safety devices ready and functioning their best.
Range Hood and Downdraft Vent
Clean filters and give the surface a good cleaning to remove greasy buildup that catches dirt and interferes with ventilation.
Check sprayer arms, filters, screens, and choppers for damage and debris. Clean door gasket and inner edge of the tub and door. Run an empty cycle with a commercial cleaner, white vinegar, or baking soda to clean and freshen the tub, sump, and drain.
Run the disposal with a batch of ice cubes followed by baking soda or citrus peels and hot water to clean and freshen the inside. Check the body and drain pipe for leaks and loose connections.
Add softener salt as required by your system and check settings to ensure the softener is regenerating properly.
Replace or clean the air filter in central heating and cooling units to ensure proper function and improve air quality.
Test smoke detectors to be sure they are functional. Inspect fire extinguishers and make sure they are accessible. Check egress routes for obstacles that may prevent a quick exit.
Though not necessary every month, the following checks can help keep water, safety, and other systems in order.
Check and change or clean whole-house or point-of-use water filters as needed or recommended by the manufacturer.
Garage Door Opener
Clean, align, and tighten sensors, inspect and lubricate track and moving parts, check rollers for deformity, and test function of openers and replace batteries if needed. Test safety sensor system and manual release from the opener.
Quick Plumbing Check
Remove and clean faucet aerators and check faucets, showerheads, and toilets for leaks. Run water into the drains of seldom-used fixtures to prevent them drying out and allowing sewer gases to escape inside the house.
Replenish first aid and emergency kits with candles, drinking water, medications, batteries, or other supplies as needed to make sure the essentials are available in case of an emergency.
Several maintenance projects need to be completed a couple of times each year, and many are customarily seasonal tasks that take place in spring and fall. Regardless of the climate where you live, the following areas should be addressed every six months or so.
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Replace the batteries in all units, including hardwired alarms with backup batteries. Use a vacuum cleaner or a can of compressed air to clean the units of dust according to the manufacturer’s specifications.
The controls and memory of digital thermostats are powered by standard batteries. Replace them at the same time you put fresh batteries in your smoke detectors to prevent problems with the controls. Check the controls for each function of the thermostat to be sure it properly calls for heat, cooling, and the fan. Use a separate thermometer to verify the unit is reading the room temperature correctly.
Ironic as it seems, your washing machine needs cleaning periodically to ensure it does its best work on your dirty clothes. Use chlorine bleach or a washer cleaning product in an empty washer on a hot cycle to clean the interior of the machine. Clean and inspect door gaskets, water and drain hoses, inlet filters, and lint screens as appropriate for your model.
Use a vacuum cleaner to clean the door and beneath the lint trap. Wipe and inspect door gaskets and move the unit away from the wall to vacuum under and behind it. Clean the exhaust duct and inspect the exterior vent for damage or missing screens that might allow animals and birds to set up housekeeping inside the duct.
Check the function of each burner, oven, and broiler and use an oven thermometer to verify the oven heats correctly. Give the oven a thorough cleaning with the self-cleaning function or manually, wash all surfaces of the hood, and clean or replace filters as needed.
Check the function of the exhaust fan and inspect the duct and exterior vent; clean as required. Move slide-in or freestanding ranges to sweep and wash the floor under the appliance and level the unit if necessary.
Replace water and air filters as appropriate, making sure to follow manufacturer’s installation instructions.
HVAC Outlets and Fixtures
Remove vent covers and grates and wash with soap and water. Use a vacuum cleaner or duster to clean ducts, registers, or radiators. Don’t forget bathroom exhaust fans and ceiling fans, and make sure cold air returns are not blocked by furniture or other items.
Check the function of attic fans and inspect mechanicals, ducts, pipes, and wires for signs of damage or leaks. Look for signs of pest activity and potential entry points that need to be repair or sealed, as well as for signs of roof leaks, blocked vents, or problems with insulation.
Seasonally in Spring and Fall
Roof and Gutters
Check the roof for signs of damaged or worn shingles or other roof coverings, flashing, and vents. Inspect the fascia along the roof and the soffit under the eaves for signs of rot or other damage. Clean and inspect gutters and downspouts, checking for proper slope, loose or damaged sections, and correct drainage.
Storm Windows and Screens
Inspect, clean, and repair storms and screens before installation or storage in the spring or fall. Straighten bent frames, replace torn screen fabric or cracked glass, and repair bent and damaged hardware or latches as needed.
Windows and Doors
Check windows and doors from the inside and out for correct operation, leaking, and damage. Inspect and replace caulk or weather stripping as needed, and adjust locksets, hinges, and thresholds for correct operation of doors.
Siding and Walls
Look for damaged, warped, buckled, or missing siding, trim, and flashing. Caulk around windows and doors as required, wash siding if needed to remove grime and algae or mildew, and check crawlspace vents for missing or damaged grates and screens that might allow animals to get inside.
Plants and Grading
Trim or prune plantings as needed to minimize contact with the foundation and siding. Make sure soil and mulch do not come in contact with siding and that the ground slopes away from the house rather than toward it.
If you live in a cold-winter climate, take appropriate steps to winterize your home and yard, such as sealing cracks, covering or removing air conditioners, reversing ceiling fans, insulating pipes, installing ice melting cables, and adding insulation.
Be sure to protect outdoor faucets from freezing, winterize pools and spas as appropriate, and remove summer play equipment as needed, such as taking the swings and canopies off playsets and stowing portable basketball hoops.
Mark your driveway with reflectors if needed before plowing season, and make sure you have heating fuel topped off, ice-melting products on hand, and that snow shovels are accessible.
Many checkups around the house only need to be done once each year. You can tackle many on your own, but should call in a pro for more specialized services.
Give your fridge the attention it deserves by emptying and defrosting it, then giving it a thorough cleaning inside and out. Don’t forget to pull it away from the wall to vacuum under and behind it, clean the coils and fan, and use a freezer thermometer to make sure it’s maintaining correct temperatures in each compartment.
Flush your water heater to remove sediment and mineral solids from the tank that can shorten its lifespan. Also test the temperature and pressure relief valve to be sure it will function properly when needed.
Full Plumbing Checkup
Take a close look at all visible valves, pipes, and drains, to check for leaks–and for damage and corrosion that can lead to leaks. Check pumps, tanks, and toilets for leaks and proper operation, and measure and adjust the water pressure if needed.
The basement or crawlspace of your home is often overlooked when it comes to maintenance. Be sure to keep an eye out from problems, but it’s important to shift around stored items periodically so you can take a close look for evidence of insects and other pests, moisture or mold, and cracks or shifting that could indicate structural problems. Check floor drains and sump pumps to make sure they are clear and operational.
Have a professional HVAC or boiler technician inspect, clean, and service your heating and air conditioning equipment each year. Spring and early fall are great times to have this done, before peak demand for heating and cooling.
Annual maintenance can prevent problems that may not come up until you are running the system regularly, and it can take longer and cost more to get repair service in the height of the season. This is a good time to check the ducts for damage or loose seams that could lead to inefficiency and to add duct or pipe insulation where appropriate.
Keeping your chimney(s) clean is essential for safe operation of fireplaces and furnaces. This can be a dangerous job since it takes place on the roof, so this is a good one to leave to a pro and to plan for warm weather when the house is not being heated. While cleaning, a pro will inspect the condition of the chimneys and flues and recommend repairs as needed.
Inspect the interior, exterior, and perimeter of the home for evidence of insects or other pests. Treat as needed for the conditions and make repairs to prevent the entry of unwanted guests.
Intervals of Two or More Years
Some fixtures and mechanicals only need attention every few years or so, but it’s important not to neglect these essential area.
Have a septic service pro empty and inspect your septic tank at appropriate intervals, usually between three and five years.
Water Heater Anode Rod
Replace the sacrificial anode about every five years to prevent corrosion of the tank and to avoid odors and discoloration in your hot water.
Both battery-operated and hardwired smoke detectors have a limited lifespan and should be replaced every ten years.
Carbon Monoxide Alarms
Like smoke detectors, CO alarms must be replaced periodically, though as frequently as every five years.
Cracks and damage should be repaired as needed, but hard driveways should be sealed to minimize staining, cracking, and water infiltration. Asphalt driveways should be seal coated every two to four years, while concrete driveways need sealing every three to five years.
With all there is to do to keep your home in good shape, it can be tough to keep track of what to do when. It may help to associate some tasks with regular events or memorable dates, such as servicing smoke detectors when you change the clocks, or having your chimney cleaned for your birthday.
Maintenance tasks that are required less frequently are the hardest to keep track of, so try posting a log sheet in a logical and visible place on which you can record dates of service and notes about various features or systems. A clipboard hung in the basement or utility room is a great place to keep track of HVAC or septic tank service and plumbing or wiring repairs, while one in the pantry can help you manage appliance maintenance, and one placed in the garage makes it easy to record dates you service the garage door or have the driveway sealed.
Many of the tasks on our Home Maintenance Checklist can be completed by handy homeowners, but it’s important to follow manufacturer’s guidelines when performing maintenance or repairs on any of the systems, fixtures, and appliances in your home.
If you don’t already have a physical file of owner’s manuals and support documents, collect the various guides and store them in one place for easy reference when it’s time to get to work. If you don’t have your original copies, or if you prefer to streamline your record keeping, download the documents from manufacturer websites and store the info in a Home Maintenance folder on your computer.
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