Home maintenance that matters most
What to do every month
Check HVAC system filters. Some filters are reusable, while others are disposable and must be replaced. Clean or replace filters when they get dirty, which might be anywhere from every 30 days to a few months.
Look for leaks around toilets and sinks. Any sign of water where it shouldn’t be is reason to investigate further. Even a tiny leak could add hundreds of dollars each year to your water bill. Leaks can also lead to damage that’s expensive to repair.
Inspect grout and caulking. Touch up any voids or cracks in tubs and showers to help avoid seeping water damage.
Check your kitchen vent hood filter. Clean or replace it as needed. Consider looking at the vent hood filter more often if you have an avid chef in the household.
Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. In addition to a monthly test, you should change batteries every six months. Make a habit of changing the batteries when you change your clocks for daylight saving time.
Stroll around outside. Make a point to walk around the house and any outbuildings. Look carefully for potential problems with the foundation, make sure foundation vents are not obstructed in any way, and check that gutters and drainpipes are properly diverting water away from your structures.
Keep your roof free of debris. Remove leaves, pine needles and tree branches that accumulate on the roof and get blown or washed down into the gutters where they can clog the drainage system. Without proper drainage, rainwater can back up into or against your house and cause serious damage.
Tasks to add in winter
Watch for ice dams. An ice dam is a ridge of ice that builds up at the bottom of a roof, trapping snow and melting water behind it. This can allow water to infiltrate the roof. If you spot an ice dam, get in touch with a contractor to fix the problem so it never happens again.
Test your sump pump. If you have a basement sump pump, make sure the switch is on and pour a little water in the crock to ensure it starts. Many basement leaks occur during spring thaws, so check during the winter to be safe. Check the backup battery, too.
Cover outdoor air conditioning units. Snow and ice can damage outdoor air-conditioning units if they aren’t protected. Covers are available at most home improvement stores, but even a secured canvas tarp will do.
Your spring checklist
Give your HVAC a checkup. It’s a good idea to have your system tuned up before air conditioning season arrives. Always use a trained professional for this. Consider going with a company that offers maintenance plans for spring and fall tuneups.
Inspect your roof. Winter snow and ice can damage shingles, which could lead to leaks. You can inspect your roof with binoculars, but don’t go up there. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, about 500,000 people are injured in ladder-related accidents each year. Roof repairs are best left to a qualified contractor.
Check gutters. Ice buildup during the winter months can cause gutters to loosen and sag. Gutters that don’t drain properly may create drainage issues; left for a season or two, an unstable gutter can spill enough water to damage your foundation.
Inspect sidewalks and driveway. Cracks and buckles caused by freezing temperatures should be repaired before they become major issues.
Check storm window drains. Older homes often have triple-track storm windows and screens, and these usually have small drains to prevent rain puddling, which can rot wooden window sills. Make sure any rain that does get trapped can flow out.
Your summer to-do list
Trim around outdoor HVAC units. Grass and weeds growing around the units can affect their efficiency and could even cause expensive damage.
Inspect your decks. If the wood is beginning to show its age, summer can be a good time to apply a coat of stain or sealant. Take the time to tap down any protruding nails and sand any rough areas to ensure safety throughout the seasons.
Check siding. Warm weather is ideal for pressure-washing the outside of your home. If you do it yourself, pay close attention to each section as you clean it, looking for cracks, soft spots and any other signs of trouble.
Inspect the foundation and crawl space. Look for cracks that may need repair. Check the crawl space right after a heavy rain to make sure there’s no water getting in.
Fall house maintenance
Have your HVAC system inspected. Have a qualified HVAC technician inspect your system to ensure it’s ready to heat your home all winter.
Turn off and cover outside hose bibs. If you don’t have frost-free exterior faucets, disconnect hoses and protect each bib with a plastic foam cover. Most home improvement stores carry these.
Inspect the fireplace. Always have a professional inspect wood stove and wood burning fireplace chimneys before lighting the first fire of the season.
Clean the gutters and check the roof. Remove all debris that can trap snow and water during the winter.
Check the exterior grade. Fill in any depressions near the foundation that can trap water or snow. These water issues could eventually lead to damp basements, settling or foundation damage.
To do yearly
Schedule an inspection of mechanical systems. Hire a professional to give your furnace, A/C and water heater a thorough inspection and any preventive maintenance required.
Check supply lines. Look closely at all hoses that come from the wall to appliances or faucets. If they have bulges, splits or kinks, there’s no time to lose! Replace them as soon as possible with steel braided hoses.
Clean the clothes dryer exhaust. Lint buildup can affect the dryer’s efficiency and may create a fire hazard. In fact, about 15,500 house fires are caused by clothes dryers each year.
Look for signs of termites. A swarm of termites can lead to huge expenses. This termite primer from the EPA can help you spot them.
Clean the septic tank. If your home has one, it should be inspected annually and emptied as needed. The average household needs a septic tank cleaning every two or three years.
To do every two to five years
Replace supply lines to sinks, icemakers and washing machines. Supply lines can deteriorate from the inside out due to erosion or hard water. Regular replacement helps prevent water-related damage.
Clean heat ducts. Accumulated dust and dirt may eventually restrict airflow, and it may even affect your indoor air quality. Call in a professional to clean the ducts and repair or upgrade them if necessary.
Seal grout. Adding a fresh coat of sealant to your bath and kitchen tile grout will help keep tile watertight.
Get a termite inspection. You should look for evidence of termite damage to your home every year, but a professional inspection every few years can find hidden problems before they turn into major headaches. Some companies offer free inspections.
To do every 10 years
Replace your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Even if your detectors seem to be working properly, err on the side of caution and replace them at the 10-year mark. It’s a small investment that could save your property — or even your life.
Source: “Homeowner’s Maintenance Checklist: Monthly, Yearly and More,” HSN editors, hsh.com/homeowner/home-maintenance-checklist.html (Nov. 11, 2020).
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