No doubt there are plenty of benefits of owning your own home: freedom from rent and landlord rules, contributing to an investment, building a home on property that you own, and so on. But let’s face it – being a homeowner also means dealing with costly repairs yourself from time to time.
Every time something breaks or stops working, it feels like it came out of nowhere, and when you head to the hardware store or call a specialist to get a repair quote, your wallet winces at the expense.
But, hark! A spot of good news! Many of the expensive fixes homes often require can actually be prevented if you simply remember to do the proper maintenance. A fix here and a test there can save you some real cash over time.
Make these 15 preventative maintenance tips part of your spring cleaning ritual this year, and set calendar alerts so you remember to stay on top of them in the months and years to come.
1. Change your air filters
For most people, you should change the filters in your heater and A/C once every three months. If you have bad allergies, then make it once a month instead. This is a simple step you can do yourself that helps extend the life of your A/C and heating system and will save you money in potential repairs.
2. Do regular HVAC maintenance
Spending a little bit of money twice a year to have an HVAC specialist come out and perform routine maintenance on your A/C and heater can go a long way towards helping you avoid expensive HVAC repairs.
3. Clear out your gutters
Clearing out your gutters is a nuisance, but when gutters get (and stay) clogged, it can lead to leaks, wood rot, cracked foundations and bug problems – all of which are expensive (and often pretty gross) to deal with.
4. Check the whole house for leaks
Leaks can quickly become destructive if you don’t catch them in time. About once a week, go through the whole house and check all the sinks and cabinets under them to look for leaks. If you find a leak while it’s small, you can get it fixed before it causes water damage (which can be crazy-expensive)!
5. Give the attic a run-through
When was the last time you went in your attic? For many of us, attics are forgotten storage spaces or homes to old keepsakes we convince ourselves we want to hold on to. No judgment – if you have the space to store, go for it!
But remember that your attic is a part of your home, too, and if you neglect it simply because you rarely find yourself up there, the part of your house you do use could pay the price. Give your attic a run-through every few months to monitor for leaks, pest infestations, and insulation damage, and catch them before they get out of control. This way, they’ll be easier and cheaper to fix.
6. Trim your trees
The trees that add beauty and character to your yard can end up costing you big-time if branches or the tree itself falls on top of your house during a storm. Trimming your trees (or hiring someone to do so) once a year reduces your risk.
“You are liable if a tree in your yard falls and damages a neighbor’s home or automobile. It’s a good idea to inspect trees for damage after a large storm or high winds. This will help to keep your insurance premiums low and avoid the hassle of filing a claim.”
7. Test your smoke and CO2 alarms
In addition to saving you the costs of fire damages and health care costs, making sure you have working smoke and CO2 detectors can literally save your life. Most smoke and CO2 detectors have a “test” button. Give it a try once a month and make sure you replace the batteries as often as directed.
8. Test your water heater pressure relief valve
The pressure relief valve on your hot water heater is a safety feature that keeps the unit working properly and reduces the risk of leaks or at worst, an explosion. Once a year, check that it’s doing its job.
9. Drain your water heater
Once a year, you should also flush your water heater (or hire someone to do so) to let out all the sediment that builds up over time. This will both make your water heater work more effectively and lengthen the unit’s life.
10. Have your chimney cleaned
If you don’t have a fireplace, this is one you get to skip.
If you do and you use it with any frequency, then get someone out to clean your chimney flue once a year to avoid chimney fires.
11. Test your sump pump
If your home doesn’t have a basement, this is one you get to skip.
If it does, your sump pump has an important role to play to help you avoid damage from potential flooding. You don’t want to figure out your sump pump doesn’t work at the moment you need it, so test it out once a year to make sure you can depend on it in any circumstance.
12. Check the soil around your foundation
Foundation issues are among the most expensive a home can have, and they can cause you major pain if or when you wish to sell your home. One step you can take to prevent foundation damage is to make sure the soil around your house gradually slopes away from your house six inches down for about 10 feet. That way when it rains a lot, the water will move away from the foundation toward the rest of your yard.
“It’s also important to check for any cracking in the foundation or sagging of your home,” Neil notes. “If you notice either of these things you should contact a foundation repair company quickly to keep the problem from getting worse. Your homeowners policy may not cover expansion or contraction of soil leading to foundation damage so catching the problem early can help you avoid a huge repair bill.”
13. Caulk where needed
This is a general tip, but an important one. Caulk is cheap and can help you keep moisture out of crevices you don’t want it in to avoid water damage and mold. It can help you weatherize your house to keep cold air out in the winter and keep it in during the summer. Go through your house and look for any spots where the caulk could use an update, or a crevice could use some new caulking.
14. Check your washer and dryer
The washer and dryer often sit out of sight in a laundry room, making it easy to overlook issues. Make a point to check around the washer for possible leaks. And check your dryer for lint buildup, which can cause fires.
According to Neil, while your homeowners insurance policy will likely cover water damage from a malfunctioning washer, the damage must be sudden and accidental. But if your home suffers water damage due to a continuous leak, you may be on the hook for the repair bill without the help of your insurance company.
15. Clean refrigerator coils
Family Handyman predicts that 70% of refrigerator service calls can be avoided with this simple step. Cleaning your fridge coils twice a year will save you money on both repairs and energy costs.
Home repairs cost you in stress, inconvenience, and of course, money. A little bit of time and money in proactive home maintenance can save you a lot of that trouble.