9 home maintenance tips to avoid huge repairs later

Your home to-do list

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Alani Asis

Alani Asis is a personal finance writer with nearly three years of experience in the space. She has worked with leading publications and brands cover…

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Ross Martin

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  • Licensed Insurance Agent (former) — Property and Casualty

Ross joined The Zebra as a writer and researcher in 2019. As a licensed insurance agent, he specializes in writing insurance content to help shoppers…

If you own a home, you know it’s an exercise in constantly battling entropy. From the garage door to the shingles, something is always breaking or requiring maintenance. And regular maintenance of your home is important so small problems don’t build up into bigger ones.

It’s also important because most home insurance companies won't cover the cost of damages caused by a lack of maintenance or neglect, which may spell costly out-of-pocket home repairs.

You can save big bucks and avoid expensive home repair projects by performing regular maintenance tasks around your home and spending a bit of money on professional inspection checkups and cleaning.


1. Service your heating and cooling systems.

Replacing your cooling and heating system can cost you upwards of $12,500[1]

Additionally, if your heating and air conditioning systems aren't working correctly, they have to work harder to heat or cool your home, increasing energy consumption. However, properly functioning HVAC systems will reduce your energy consumption and save money on gas and electricity.

 

HVAC to do:

  • Changing your HVAC system’s filters every 30 days and keeping your indoor and outdoor units clutter-free will ensure it remains in tip-top shape.
  • Consider scheduling a professional in the fall and spring to perform an HVAC tune-up and inspection to ensure your system is operating efficiently. 

2. Test your sump pumps.

A sump pump pushes water away from your home's foundation to prevent flooding and damage. This is highly important if you live in a flood prone area. Just one inch of flood water can cost a homeowner up to $25,000 in losses, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)[3]. And if you don't have flood insurance, you may have to shoulder repair costs. 

Sump pump to do:

  • Test and clean your sump pump regularly. 
  • Invest in a backup battery will prevent failure during extreme storms, decreasing the likelihood of costly flood and water damage repairs. 

3. Clean out your dryer vent and lint filter.

A clogged dryer vent can be a fire hazard. In fact, dryers account for 90% of appliance fires in the home. Fortunately, homeowners insurance will cover most fire-related damages, but it may significantly increase your premiums. 

Dryer vent to do

  • The USFA recommends cleaning the lint filter and the back of the dryer where lint can accumulate[4].
  • They also advise homeowners ensure the vent system behind your dryer isn't damaged, crushed or restricted. 

4. Change the batteries in your fire security devices

31% of fire fatalities occurred in homes with no smoke alarms, and 16% occurred in homes with smoke alarms that failed to operate, according to the National Fire Protection Association[5]. While most homeowners insurance policies will cover fire damages, a single event could increase premiums and even end your coverage.

Your smoke alarm is one of the most crucial security devices to prevent a home fire, so you must ensure it always works.

Fire security to do

  • Experts recommend using daylight savings time as a reminder to replace the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
  • Additionally, fire extinguishers need to be replaced every 10 - 12 years, so it’s important to make a note of.

5. Maintain your roof.

A roof keeps you and your family safe from the elements. However, a weak roof can result in water leakage and damage to your home's foundation, not to mention your ceilings and furnishings.

Roof replacements can set you back $5,727 to $12,410, a step price tag for many homeowners[6]. However, you can increase its lifespan by conducting regular inspections and cleaning the debris from your gutters and roof. 

Roof to do

  • Consider storm-proofing your roof, especially if you live in an area that experiences frequent extreme weather.
  • Many homeowners insurance companies offer wind-resistant and impact-mitigation discounts for fortifying your roof. 
  • Additionally, if you live in a cold weather snow-prone climate, you will want to remove snow from your roof and monitor warm air leaking into your attic to avoid ice dams.

6. Clean gutters and downspouts

Gutters and downspouts divert water from your home during a storm, preventing erosion, mildew damage and foundation problems.

A clean gutter and downspouts will ensure proper drainage. Inspect your systems for debris in the fall and spring. If you live in an area with many trees, you may have to examine and clean your gutters and downspouts more often.

Gutter to do

  • You can also have a professional manage your gutter cleaning.
  • Or, you can opt for the DIY route by using a leaf blower, garden hose or pressure washer to flush your drainage systems or sediment, grime and debris.

7. Keep up with landscaping

Dead and diseased trees can be hazardous to you and your home. Pruning your trees can promote healthy tree growth and prevent trees from falling in your yard.

The out-of-pocket cost of a tree removal can be $2000 or more[7]. While homeowners insurance will cover tree removals if a tree lands on your house or yard due to a storm, it will not cover removal if it falls due to a lack of upkeep.

Landscaping to do

  • Prune trees and shrubs regularly to maintain healthy growth.
  • Immediately remove dead branches or dead trees.
  • Water trees with drip line around the area with the branches extend. 

8. Inspect your home for termites

Most homeowners insurance companies consider infestations preventable. So, insurers scarcely cover termite damages

A termite infestation can spell costly repairs for your home, upwards of $3,000, depending on the damage's extent[9]. Long-term neglect may even cause your home to collapse. 

Taking the proper precautions can ensure your home remains termite-free. You can prevent an infestation by limiting your home’s exposure to feeding sources like wood and moisture.

Termite to do

  • Keep an 18-inch gap between the soil and your home and keep your eyes peeled for termite activity. 
  • Consider hiring a professional to inspect your home for termite activity annually and pre-treat your home to keep termites out.

9. Catch plumbing issues early.

Most plumbing fixtures will last a long time with proper use and maintenance, but if unmaintained you can be in hot water and an expensive visit from the plumber.

You should regularly check for leaks which can waste water and cause damage if not fixed. Your home insurance company may reject a claim if the damage is caused by a long-term leak you reasonably should have noticed.

Plumbing to do

  • You should also clear slow moving drains and clogs quickly. A mixture of baking soda and vinegar can be enough to remedy slow moving drains.
  • Regularly inspect exposed pipes and faucets for corrosion.
  • Also it’s good to check your water pressure which should be between 40 and 50 psi. Higher water pressure can put stress on plumbing fixtures.

Homeownership isn’t always easy, but with a little home improvement and preventative maintenance know-how, you can avoid some expensive repair bills later.