Chapter 1

The Basics of Home Maintenance

What Is Home Maintenance?

Home maintenance is the regular or periodic caring of all of a home's systems. The practice of home maintenance includes inspections of the home's interior and exterior, adjustments of mechanical and electrical systems, cleaning of moving and stationary surfaces and replacing worn or aging parts. These activities must be done on a regular basis in order to ensure proper functioning of all of the systems in the house. Routine home maintenance also helps to avoid costly emergencies that might not be covered under a homeowner's insurance policy.

Some of the most common maintenance tasks that homes need on a regular basis include gutter cleaning, replacement of disposable furnace air filters, snaking of drain lines, inspecting of the foundation, checking the functioning of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and sealing of concrete flooring and basement walls.

Some tasks can be performed on a monthly basis, while other tasks are done on a semi-annual or annual basis. While most maintenance is seasonal, such as removing leaf debris from rain gutters, there are some things that you should do on a frequent basis all year long, such as cleaning the drains of your kitchen sink.

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While it is great to save money by doing some home maintenance tasks yourself, there are many areas of home maintenance that are best left to professionals who have the experience and personal protective gear to do the work safely. These projects include electrical work, climbing roofs and fixing gas furnaces. A licensed contractor should be used for any type of task that you feel you do not have the technical knowledge or ability to do.

Why is Maintenance Important?

Regular maintenance is a basic part of being a homeowner. By keeping up with regular home maintenance tasks, you can avoid future headaches and wasted money. While it is easy to forget some of these tasks or put them off until later because they only need to be done once or twice per year, forgetting to do them could lead to a big problem in the future.

Keep reminders so you won't forget maintenance tasks. Set up a schedule on your smartphone or the calendar in your email so that you know when to swap out the furnace's air filter or check the smoke detector's batteries. Dealing with common and manageable issues now prevents them from becoming larger and more expensive issues later.

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These important maintenance tasks also help to keep your home's systems operating properly so that living in your house continues to be safe and comfortable. A properly cared for home retains its complete functionality and appeal to your family and visitors. A well-maintained home often increases in value and can be a source of pleasure and relaxation for years to come.

How Much Should You Budget for Home Maintenance?

One popular rule of thumb explains that you should dedicate one percent of the purchase price of your home each year for ongoing maintenance. This means that if you paid $200,000 for your home, then you should set aside $2,000 for annual maintenance needs. Another way of estimating for home maintenance needs states that you should expect to spend about $3 per square meter per year for maintenance. A 500 square meter home would average $1,500 per year in maintenance expenses.

These rules of thumb are not absolute, and your actual cost of home repairs will depend on your home's age, location, condition and the weather conditions in your area. Another factor is whether your home is a single family structure or attached, such as a condominium.

Some years you may spend all or more of your estimated budget, such as if your furnace needs to be replaced. During other years, you may not spend all of your maintenance budget. Try to estimate how much certain tasks cost by asking your neighbors or coworkers when they have maintenance performed.

Inspecting Your Home

A home inspection is a visual examination of the physical structure, mechanical equipment, electrical systems and plumbing of your home. An inspection is done inside and out, top to bottom. It gives you insight to your home at a particular point in time. A popular time to do a home inspection is when a home is bought or sold, but it is important to do this on a regular basis so that you can gain an understanding of your home's current condition. An inspection can give you an idea of repairs to make now so that you can prevent small problems from becoming major issues. It can be done by a professional or you can do it yourself. Your home's foundation, exterior walls, windows, doors, roof, gutters, chimney, fireplace, HVAC equipment, plumbing, wiring and circuit panel should all be inspected.

Creating a Maintenance Calendar and Checklist

Creating a home maintenance calendar and checklist can help you to get all the tasks done efficiently. By establishing and following a recommended maintenance schedule, you can more easily manage your household. Following a checklist also helps to keep your maintenance budget in check, protects your investment and prevents costly problems with your house. You can adjust the maintenance calendar to fit your home and your needs. For example, if your home does not have any trees nearby, then your gutters may only need annual cleaning. Organize your home maintenance calendar based on how often each task needs to be done.

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by felixullli, image courtesy of, licensed under CC0 Public Domain

Make calendar entries for each task and set a reminder so that you can block off time to do it or make a call for a professional to come to your house. A digital calendar such as Google calendar or the calendar function on your smartphone or tablet makes it easy to set recurring tasks and reminders for each of the home maintenance tasks that you need to do.

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