Becoming a homeowner is an incredibly proud experience and for many people buying their first home, it’s a sign of maturity, success, and a major life change. Of course, it also comes with a lot of responsibilities. When you were a renter, all major maintenance and upkeep issues were dealt with by the landlord or property manager. It’s all too easy to get the impression that homes practically take care of yourself but when you actually own the property, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Keeping a home comfortable and secure requires far more technology and maintenance than most first time homeowners realize and there are many maintenance issues that tend to slip through the cracks simply because you’re not used to worrying about them and making sure they are taken care of. When was the last time you thought about the lifespan of a water heater or how often roofs need to be inspected? If this is all new to you, it can help to have a complete checklist to make sure everything is checked and a calendar is set for maintenance tasks that need to occur regularly.
So without further ado, the checklist from the bottom of your foundation to the top of your roof.
As promised our first order of business is to talk about the foundation. Your foundation is the concrete slab on which the rest of the house is built. If you have a basement, this becomes part of the foundation system. The problem with foundations is that they are built into the ground which is a lot less stable than we think it is. Expansive soil, often rich with clay, can expand or contract with moisture and soft soil might shift beneath your house. Even homes that have stood for decades without foundation problems can develop a foundation problem if the weather is unusually dry or wet. Foundations can also take damage simply from being soaked, as might happen with broken plumbing.
- Get a history on the foundation from the previous homeowner is this is possible.
- Inspect the grade of your yard. The yard should always slope down and away from your house or you’ll wind up in a puddle which is bad for the foundation
- Keep flower beds around the foundation low
- If dry soil pulls away from your foundation, water the foundation lightly once a day until soil relaxes
- If your yard is soggy, consider french drains to carry water away
- Watch out for leaking plumbing which can run into the foundation
Moving up from the foundation, let’s take a look at your landscaping. Depending on the rules of your HOA (if your home is a part of one), you can do almost anything you want to your front and back yards as long as it doesn’t encroach on other nearby properties. However, there are a few rules to follow to make sure your home and yard stay in good condition.
- Prevent tree roots from growing into the foundation.
- Don’t plant long-root plants near your home
- Cut tree branches to keep them from growing over the roof
- But shady trees are better for energy efficiency
Siding or Brick Facade
The maintenance required for your home’s exterior will depend on how it is shod. Brick homes and facades are attractive and sturdy but will eventually require professional maintenance to re-mortar and repair any cracks that form. Bricks are generally rated for about 25 years with only a small amount of maintenance over that time unless something serious occurs.
There are a lot of different kinds of siding and, chance are, you have little to no idea what brand and specific material your home is clad in. However, all siding needs maintenance eventually and should be inspected at least once every five years. Check the documents on the house to get the details on the siding before deciding on a maintenance plan.
- Wood Siding
- Needs the most maintenance and you’ll need to watch out for both rot and insects
- Annual inspections and maintenance
- Vinyl Siding
- Can fade and warp and fade over time
- 3 year inspection and maintenance
- Metal Siding
- Can dent, rust, or corrode.
- 5 year inspection and maintenance
- Fiberglass Siding
- The latest technology but can still discolor
- 7 year inspection and maintenance
Walls, Floors, and Ceilings
You are probably already familiar with how to watch for signs of damage inside a home. Certain kinds of home damage can affect the inside of the home and others are the result of conditions indoors.
- Cracks with the foundation
- Spills, Damp, and Humidity can call mildew in the carpet or carpet pad
- Area rugs or plastic mats over high traffic areas
- Steam clean once a year
- felt pads on all furniture feet
- Wax and marker kits for scratches
- Maintain once every 5-10 years
- Have a pack of backup tiles to repair cracks
- Caulk to patch missing chunks
- Inspect for cracks or mildew
- Repaint every 5 years
- Cracks reveal foundation problems
- Discolored splotches may be leaks behind the walls
- Damp can cause mildew, especially under wallpaper
- Watch for puddles behind the paint that reveals leaks
Homes are not considered completely constructed until the major appliances have been installed. The HVAC (heating, ventillation, and Air Conditioning) system, the water heater, and bathroom fans are all integral parts of a modern home. But they do wear out and they last a lot longer with regular maintenance. Take good care of your appliances and be prepared to replace them with more efficient models in the next two to ten years.
- Replace filters every 6 to 12 months
- Inspection every two years (or with misbehavior)
- Clean ducts every five years
- Replace every 5 to 10 years
- Water Heater
- Flush sediment annually
- Inspection every two years
- Stove and Oven
- Clean oven every two months
- Repair at first sign of misbehavior
- Replace every 5 to 20 years
- Replace water filter annually
- Clean interior annually
- Clean compressor every two years
- Run empty on hot with vinegar every 6 months
- Clean dryer catch every load
- Clear outflow vent of lint annually
Plumbing and Wiring
Our next concern is with what’s inside your walls. The pipes, wiring, and where these connect to fixtures are all important parts of the home and disastrous when they go wrong. These aspects of your infrastructure, depending on construction and conditions, can last for decades or need nearly immediate replacement or repairs. Your biggest risk is very old systems or badly DIY’d previous ‘improvements’. If nothing goes wrong, be sure to get an inspection on both systems every five to ten years.
- Watch for flickering, sparks, and constantly blowing fuses
- Call an electrician right away if you see signs of unstable wiring.
- Heat tape, foam lining, and open cabinets can prevent freezing
- Leaks can result in damp spots in strange places
- Know how to plunge a toilet and clean an S-trap
- Use drain screens
- Don’t pour grease down the sink
Surfaces and Fixtures
As our checklist gets up to waist-level, take a close look at your counter-tops, plumbing fixtures, light switches, and other little details that happen up in our operational space. In this area, your biggest concern is cleanliness. It’s all too easy to forget about how much dirt, oil, and grime gets spread around with things we touch every day. Once a month, arm yourself with your favorite cleaning products and go after surfaces and corners.
Take a sponge to the crevices around your sink fixtures and behind where the sink attaches to the counter. Try wiping down a light switch plate with a paper towel just to see how much off-white grime comes up. Look for cracks, narrow spaces, and ignored surfaces and wipe it all down with multi-surface cleaner or dish soap depending on the surface. For interior cleaning, start from top to bottom, knocking any dust and grime down to a lower level that will be cleaned in the near future. Start at the top of the cabinets and clean surfaces down to the baseboards at least once a year.
Features to Clean
- Light Fixtures
- Light switchches and covers
- Outlet covers
- Plumbing fixtures
- All handles
- Crevices and narrow spaces
The energy efficiency, moisture resistance, and temperature consistency of your home relies strongly on your effective weatherproofing. However, almost every aspect of home weatherproofing eventually wears out.
- Replace door and window weatherstripping about every five years
- Pet doors should be sealed or replaced with sealing models.
- Window panes that have come loose should be replaced with sealed double-pane windows.
- Keep your flue and bathroom fan closed when not actively in use
Finally, we’ll wrap up our vertical checklist with roof maintenance. Roofs need a lot more care than most non-homeowners realize. This is especially true if you settle down somewhere with yearly storms, which is almost everywhere. Winter storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, or any occurrence with high winds or hail can seriously rip up your roof. Get your roof inspected annually and after any big storms. You can perform amateur inspections of your own roof to check for hail pock-marks, missing or damaged shingles, or piling debris, but leave most repairs to the professionals to stay safe.
There is no single comprehensive handbook on how to be a good homeowner, but everyone learns with time and experience. The key is to learn from other people’s experiences and dodge easily avoidable mistakes. Take good care of your home and it will take good care of you. For more homeowner tips or opportunities to settle in the bustling Denver metro area, contact us today!