Getting a routine physical is one of the best things you can do to make sure you’re in tip top shape (so we hope you’re doing that).
Same goes for your house. It, too, needs to have checkups on a regular basis in order to make sure everything is working properly. If there’s a pain point, it needs to be taken care of. If there’s a way to perform preventative care so that the pain point never happens, all the better.
The trick is to think of your home as a living, breathing thing. You have to take care of it. Pay attention to what’s going on. Much like your body, there are a lot of interconnected parts. If one part goes bad, it might affect something else. And so on.
Like, you know that wheezing sound coming out of your furnace? It’s telling you something. “Hey you, I’m having trouble breathing over here,” it sputters. You have two options—ignore it, and let the wheezing get louder until all the air gets choked off and it just dies and you’re left without heat; OR you could just change the clogged filter, and then do it on a regular basis just like the manufacturer says.
The latter is where you want to be. But we know what you’re thinking, how do you keep track of all this stuff–what to do and when to do it? Well, we at TMS developed a handy cheat sheet to make your life as a homeowner Blissarama.
Before we get into what’s on the list, there are a couple of holistic things we want you to have a line of sight on namely water, gas, and electricity. These are literally the lifelines of your home. And pointing out a couple of quick things about them can make any maintenance issues that pop up much less stressful.
Locate Your Main Water Shutoff Valve If there were ever a time a water pipe burst or you had water pouring in from someplace it shouldn’t, it’s essential that you know where the main shutoff valve is into your house. While there are individual valves that run to individual outlets, like faucets and toilets, the easiest and fastest way to shut off the water in an emergency situation is right at the main valve. BTW, using a Sharpie marker to label where your pipes go (Water to Kitchen Sink), or attaching a labeled string tag to a pipe, is a great way to take the guesswork out of the “which pipe goes where?” plumbing problem.
The All-Important Gas Valve Gas coming into your home for use by a furnace, a stove, a dryer, etc., is a great money-saving way to go. But if a problem arises with the appliance, or the gas lines to them, it’s good to know where the shutoff valves are located. You can apply the same labeling system you created for the water lines. The only difference to note is that gas lines are usually controlled by levers–if they’re running parallel to a pipe they’re “on”, letting the gas flow; if they’re running perpendicular to a pipe they’re “off”.
Know Your Fuse Box We know you know where it is, but what does each switch inside it control? If you ever blow a fuse for some reason, no sense guessing—label them now. Get out that Sharpie again and next to each switch write down what that switch controls so you’ll never be in the dark.
NOW IT’S TIME FOR A ROUTINE CHECKUP!
With all that under your tool belt, it’s time to turn your attention to that routine maintenance we hope becomes part of your routine. To keep things manageable, we’ve categorized things by season, but suggest that you always follow your manufacturer’s recommendation on what to do and when to do it.
SPRING IS IN THE AIR: THE PERFECT TIME TO THINK ABOUT DRYER LINT
- You may be cleaning out your clothes dryer lint trap on a regular basis, but now is also a good time to make sure the vent hose from the dryer, along with the outside vent, is clean and free of obstruction. Removing the hose and shaking it out, or replacing it, keeps things flowing nicely.
- While we’re on the subject of dryers, let’s talk about washers. Make sure to change your lint trap in the laundry tub and keep your drain clear of lint buildup to avoid the chance of water sprays and overflows. Vacuum and wipe behind and under your washer and dryer (you may even find that winning lottery ticket you lost).
- Also, if you use fabric softener, keep the residue that tends to build up in the receptacle clean by wiping down the area with warm soapy water. If it has already built up, make a mixture of hot water and liquid detergent, pour it into the dispenser, and run it on the warm rinse cycle two to three times.
- Want to avoid spring rain in your basement? Make sure your flower beds are graded so they slope down, away from the house in order to push water away. Also, make sure your gutters and downspouts are clear, and your splash blocks are positioned under them to move water away.
SUMMER IS HOT, MAKE SURE YOU’RE COOL WITH HOW TO KEEP PESTS OUT
- A closed garbage can is a good thing, but it can also be a breeding ground for maggots and other pests. Rinse out regularly, along with your recycling bin to keep things fresh.
- Make sure your air conditioner is kept clear of debris and shrubbery so that airflow is optimal. Check periodically throughout the season to make sure it stays clear.
- Change all the rubber washers in your hose and nozzle connections so they don’t leak and waste water.
- Summer is a great time to trim back trees that hang over your house so you won’t have leaves in the fall to clean out of your gutters.
- Before fall falls upon you, get your fireplace cleaned and your flue checked by a professional. Creosotes can build up and cause chimney fires. Also making sure the damper closes properly is also a good thing to check to make sure air isn’t escaping as it’s a way to save on heating and cooling bills. And one last thing on fireplaces–it’s probably a good idea to put a chimney cap on to prevent small animals from making your home their home.
FALL IS THE TIME WHEN COLORS CHANGE AND SO SHOULD FURNACE FILTERS
- Changing a furnace filter is one of the easiest things to do to make your whole house healthy— get rid of that trapped dirt and dust and keep your furnace breathing in the most efficient, cost-effective way. Some call for doing this once a year, others more often, so check your manufacturer’s recommendation.
- Have your furnace inspected by a professional to make sure it’s running optimally. Don’t crowd it with cardboard boxes, paint cans, and other basement stuff that collects dust and dirt around it and makes it hard to get to.
- If you have a humidifier, make sure you change the filter in there, too. With all that water flowing through it, mold, hard water build-up, and other sediment can collect and damage it. Clean out attached hoses and other pipes where water can collect.
- Once all the leaves have fallen, make sure they’re out of the gutters to prevent clogging, building up with water, and turning into ice, creating a weighty issue. Ice damming can also occur from clogged gutters, causing damage to your roof and shingles, and even the inside of your home.
- Shut off your outside faucets to prevent freezing and cracking, or buy an insulated faucet cover.
- Got drafty windows and doors? You may as well just be throwing money out of them. Simple caulking, insulation, film, or draft snakes keep the outside air out and the inside air in.
WHEN OLD MAN WINTER SETS IN, SET OUT TO VACUUM YOUR FRIDGE COILS
- Unplug and pull out your fridge to vacuum away all the dust that has collected on the condenser coils (and everywhere else, while you’re at it). These coils push out the heat to keep things cold, and work best when clear.
- Should you cover or not cover your air conditioner? While you see a lot of them covered, most experts will tell you not to. Why? Because AC units are meant to be outside and withstand the elements. That’s why they’re so expensive. Putting a cover on can create a shelter for small animals, as well as be a magnate for mold and mildew.
- Now is a good time to vacuum out all the heat registers of debris that collects, or even call a duct cleaning professional. It’s also a great time to dust bathroom fans that collect dust and hamper airflow.
- Keep your garage door running smoothly by oiling the track, springs, rollers, and hinges. This not only keeps things quiet and running smooth, but also adds to the life of the door. Follow your manufacturer’s instructions on which lubricant to use.
WHAT ELSE DOES A GOOD HOME PHYSICAL INCLUDE?
- Draining the water from your water heater helps keep sediment from collecting, thus reducing heating efficiency. Most professionals recommend this is done once or twice a year.
- Testing your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors (changing batteries about once a year), fire extinguishers, and all ground-fault circuit interrupters.
- A leaky faucet can cost a homeowner $60-$200 per year, and it’s one of the simplest things to fix. Whether it’s a one or two handle faucet, it’s usually just a washer that needs replacing, and online “How To” videos will walk you through the quick and easy steps.
- Runny toilets are also a big waste of money—up to 25 times that of a leaky faucet. Again, it’s a simple fix as it’s probably just a faulty flapper or floater, which can be found at any hardware store.
- Are you heating or cooling areas of your home that don’t need to be—a bedroom that isn’t used? A spot in the basement that just has a bunch of boxes in it? Closing these areas off at the registers, or diverting air to another occupied part of the home as it exits the furnace is a smart thing to do.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR
Just like you would any doctor appointment, mark these home checkups on your calendar. Make notes and keep track of changes you see through the years. Whether it’s a new home or one that has been around the block a few times, knowing it inside and out, and knowing how to keep it healthy is one of the best ways to avoid the aches and pains of homeownership down the road.