An Ounce of Prevention: Basic Maintenance Tips for your Home

Don’t skip maintenance in these 3 areas

Your home isn’t just your most significant financial investment… it’s also where you live! To make sure it stays damage-free and continues to be a place that gives you comfort and shelter for decades to come, it’s a good idea to regularly carry out some routine and simple maintenance tasks. Some of these should be monthly, others a couple of times a year, and a few only as needed, but they’re all tasks within the abilities of most homeowners.

Good water, bad water

It’s central to our lives, and central to the place where we live. Our homes are designed to deliver clean water to us, to take dirty water away, and to keep water from the outdoors out. More homes are damaged by water than by fire, so following these basic steps can prevent costly insurance claims.

  • Clean your faucet and showerhead aerators. Most fixtures come with an aerator, a small screen that filters the water and makes it “bubbly.” But it can get clogged, mildewed and grungy. Just screw it off, soak it in vinegar for 15 minutes, scrub it with an old toothbrush, and replace.
  • Recaulk as needed around windows, doors, and mechanicals to prevent water intrusion and rotted wood due to leakage. A purpose-made caulking scraper takes the old caulk off easily, and a simple caulking gun and a few tubes of new caulk can not only keep water from draining into parts of your home it should never be, but it makes for a fresh new look in bathrooms and kitchens. Pay close attention to bathtubs in older homes that don’t have a flange that keeps water away from the walls. Keep up with caulking regularly to prevent water intrusion and possible mold issues that can turn costly.
  • Turn off and/or insulate outdoor water during winter. If you live in the south, a hard freeze is fairly uncommon, but that doesn’t mean it never happens. And when it sneaks up on us, it’s best to be prepared ahead of time (instead of going to the store the night before a hard freeze to find all the local stores have been picked clean of supplies!). If your outdoor spigots, water hoses, or irrigation systems have shut-off valves, make sure to turn them off and drain the lines to prevent burst pipes. If your spigots do not have a cutoff valve, cheap and easy-to-install insulator boxes are available at every hardware store. 
  • Clean gutters and downspouts. If your gutters work great you never think about them, but thinking ahead can prevent expensive damage to your roof and internal structure. If gutters and downspouts get clogged, it means water can find its way inside your walls or slowly erode the ground near your foundation. Both those are bad and can lead to hard-to-repair damage that can cost you big. It’s far cheaper to get your hands dirty and scrape out those old leaves once a year or install gutter guards to prevent leaf buildup.
Autumn Leaves in the Gutter and on a shingled roof of a house.

Machines need love, too

An advantage of modern homes are the mechanical systems that bring us comfort our ancestors could only dream of: heating and air conditioning, hot water, and waste disposal systems to name just a few. But that convenience means that we need to pay close attention to those machines to keep them doing their jobs.

  • Change HVAC filters regularly and frequently.  This is an easy one, but one that we often forget… but don’t let it slip your mind. Putting a recurring reminder on your calendar can help. Changing the filters not only prevents dust from accumulating in your HVAC system and ducts, leading over time to damage, but it makes the air you breathe healthier.  There is no one perfect schedule, as it really depends on the time of year and the region in which you live, but every two to three months is always a good idea. Or if you have pets,or use an air filter with a higher MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) or MPR (Microparticle Performance Rating) that catches more particulates, changing monthly is recommended. Get on a schedule and stick to it. Tip: Write the date you change the filter on the cardboard casing so you’ll know just how long it’s been since the last change.
  • Vacuum the dust away. Dust, hair, and all sorts of “particulates” can form on refrigerator coils, on the grills of exhaust fans, inside dryer vents, and on the intake vents for the HVAC system. A quick monthly once-over with a vacuum can make things cleaner, keep your machines running smoother, and help you breathe easier!
  • Clean that sink garbage disposal. This handy device can often get overloaded unless you’re careful, and frequent maintenance can prevent clogs that can damage it. There are several cleaners you can purchase to clean it, but you can also do it by pouring in ice, running it to clean the tines, and then running hot water through it. Twice a month should do the trick.
  • Oil hinges and tighten doorknobs. Though simple, these components get more use than any other system in the house. Wiping them down to maintain cleanliness is of course a good idea, but sometimes the doorknobs will begin to loosen with use, which is something easily fixed with a few seconds and a screwdriver.  And those hinges only need a drop of oil every few months, and are happy to remind you with persistent squeaks if you forget!
  • Test smoke detectors. These things can save not just your home and belongings, but your life. Test them monthly and replace the batteries at least once a year.

Take care of those surfaces

At its simplest a home is made up of flat spaces: floors, counters, roofs, and walls. And all those flat spaces get a lot of use and wear, from weather or from people. Cleaning them and protecting them will help them do their jobs, ensure they look great, and enable them to last longer.

  • Pressure wash anywhere you can! Not only is it kinda fun, but pressure washing windows, siding, decks, and sidewalks is the quickest and easiest way to bring outdoor surfaces from filthy to sparkling. There are different methods and different chemicals to use on each type of surface, but it will not only keep your house looking great but prevent buildup of unhealthy (and sometimes unsafe) mildew, mold, and moss. Even a quick splash using only water and no additives is helpful.
  • Reseal those interior surfaces. Countertops and floors get a lot of wear from our day-to-day living, and they need some protection based on what type of material they’re made of. Generally, natural stone products require sealing like marble, slate, limestone, granite, travertine, and terrazzo as well as man made concrete tiles or terracotta. These countertops or backsplashes, due to their porous nature, need regular resealing to prevent dirt and oils from soaking into them. Hard floors, whether tile or wood, will last much longer and look far better when sealed or refinished as needed. (The majority of ceramic and porcelain tiles do not need to be sealed.) A quick way to check if sealing is needed is to put a small amount of water on the surface and see if it is absorbed or beads up. If the water is absorbed into the surface, sealing should take place. Many box/hardware stores have countertop or tile sealer on hand.
  • Reseal those exterior surfaces, too. Wooden decking, fencing, and outdoor furniture are handsome and durable, but need seasonal maintenance to look better and last longer. Some close handwork may be necessary for nooks and crannies, but if you don’t take the time to get in them you can rest assured that the elements will.
  • Check roof for damaged or loose tiles. Your roof is your primary line of defense against wind, rain, hail, snow, and ice. It’s up there for decades, and if it’s going to protect you, your home, and your belongings from the seasons you need to take care of it. While roof repair is beyond the average homeowner’s skillset, it’s still up to you to regularly inspect your roof, especially after heavy storms, for anything amiss. If so, you’ll probably need to call in professionals and perhaps even consult your insurance company.

This may seem like a daunting list of responsibilities, but remember that you have all year to get most of this done. If you spread it out and create a good checklist (even recurring calendar reminders!), it won’t take any time at all and will make your house cleaner, safer, and more welcoming to be in. 

But if in the middle of your inspections and efforts, you begin to notice larger issues with your home’s systems, or start to feel like some bigger projects are on the way, then Tracy Tesmer Design/Remodeling can help! Whether it’s replacing old windows and doors or a total rework of your kitchen, our award-winning expertise can make your home worth the effort to keep up! Email us for more information!