Chapter 3

The Most Important Home Maintenance Tasks

This chapter explores some of the most important home maintenance tasks that are needed inside and around your home in order to protect its structure, mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems. It looks at the most important monthly, semi-annual and annual home maintenance tasks. Within this chapter, you will also learn about safety and the tasks that a homeowner or resident must perform in order to maintain a livable home. These tasks are also essential to maintaining a presentable property in the event that you plan to list your home for sale.

A properly maintained and well-cared for home can often be sold at a higher price and in less time than a poorly maintained house. This chapter is divided into three sections, which includes monthly maintenance tasks, semi-annual maintenance tasks and annual maintenance tasks.

In this overview, you will get a general idea of what you need to do in order to maintain and care for your house. In the next chapter, you can get more details about each of these tasks and checklist items so that you can get started on your home maintenance projects.

Monthly Maintenance Tasks

Monthly maintenance tasks are small and simple tasks that a homeowner or renter must regularly perform in order to sustain a clean, safe, livable and affordable home. Performing these tasks on a monthly schedule lowers the risk of incurring damage or high repair bills later on. You can consider these maintenance tasks to be an investment in your home.

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by stevepb, image courtesy of pixabay.com, licensed under CC0 Public Domain

Because your house is likely to be one of the most expensive purchases that you make in your lifetime, it is important to protect that investment. Practicing a monthly maintenance schedule gets you into a regular routine of home care. Doing these monthly home maintenance tasks can also help you to avoid unnecessary expenses in the future, such as needing to pay a professional to fix a problem that got worse.

Monthly Maintenance Tasks Checklist

These monthly maintenance tasks only take a few minutes each, yet doing them could save you hundreds of dollars on wasted utility costs or unnecessary repair costs. These are just basic tasks, but they are must-do because of their importance to your home's most essential systems. Some of the maintenance tasks that need to be done on a monthly basis include:

  • Inspect HVAC filters in your central air conditioner, heat pump or furnace and change them when necessary
  • Clean the kitchen sink garbage disposal
  • Inspect fire extinguishers
  • Check all appliances and gadgets in the house, including their wiring, sockets, fuses and other electrical utilities such as your circuit panel and electrical interface
  • Check the plumbing, pipes and water-flow by running all sinks, toilets, baths and showers
  • Check your sump pump and battery back-up
  • Dust the furniture and hard to reach spots, thoroughly vacuum the house, clean carpets and drapes
  • Clean the windows and inspect seals and locks
  • Clean the inside of the refrigerator, dispose of out-of-date food and beverages, restock the baking soda and clean the coils at the back of the refrigerator

DIY Multi-Purpose Cleaners

Multi-purpose cleaners are available in most supermarkets, hardware stores and mass retailers, but you can easily make your own. These make at home cleaners use ingredients that you probably already have or that you can easily find. The benefits of using these cleaners include their lower cost, reduced toxicity and the ability to customize the cleaners with essential oils for their disinfection properties and appealing scents. Some of the easiest do-it-yourself multi-purpose cleaners that you can make in the comfort of your own home include:

  • Universal a.k.a. all-purpose cleaner, to use on your floors and counter tops
  • Mildew cleaner and deodorizer to use in your bathrooms and laundry room
  • Drain cleaner and air freshener to help get rid of and prevent clogs and odors in your kitchen, bathroom and laundry room sinks

Home Maintenance Toolkit

In order to make the most of your time while you are cleaning and maintaining your home, it is a good idea to have everything on hand that it takes to do a particular job. Keeping a well-stocked home maintenance kit ensures that you do not have to stop in the middle of a maintenance task in order to go to the store and purchase supplies that have run out or tools that are worn out or damaged. There are two categories of tool kits that you will need in order to properly care for your home. These categories are basic equipment and additional useful tools.

Basic Equipment and Tools

You may already have these tools and supplies in your home. Now is the time to gather them and put them all into one convenient and easy to access place that you can find when you engage in your home maintenance tasks. Some of the basic equipment and tools that you will need for your routine home maintenance tasks include:

  • Bucket
  • Broom
  • Mop
  • Flashlight
  • Handsaw
  • Philips head screwdriver
  • Flat head screwdriver
  • Hammer
  • Pliers
  • Laser level
  • Work gloves
  • Scrub brush
  • Chisel
  • Putty knife

Additional Useful Tools

These smaller tools also come in handy. You can purchase a small divided plastic organizer to keep different types of hardware sorted so that you can find what you need as each project comes up. Some of these useful small items include:

  • Toothbrush
  • Screws
  • Nuts
  • Metal washers
  • Bolts
  • Nails of various sizes
  • Duct tape
  • Electrical tape
  • Plumber's putty
  • Wood glue

Semi-Annual Maintenance Tasks

Semi-annual maintenance tasks are those activities that need to be done every three to six months. Most of these are more important and complex than monthly tasks, although many take less time than the monthly tasks. You do not have to do every one of the semi-annual maintenance tasks on the same day or even in the same month.

You can spread them out and do a few of them each month on a rotating basis. These tasks are about cleaning and safety measures for your home. They are usually concerned with the parts of your home that you do not spend as much time in, such as your basement, crawl space, garage and attic.

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by stevepb, image courtesy of pixabay.com, licensed under CC0 Public Domain

These tasks also include cleaning hard to reach areas, checking installations, performing yard work and cleaning the gardens, shrubs and flower beds. Dust removal is an important part of these semi-annual seasonal tasks because it prevents allergies and helps to lessen your home's risk of a pest infestation. Dust removal should be done on your home's furniture, drapes, shades, blinds, carpets, bedding and linens.

All of these items should be laundered, dry cleaned, dusted, vacuumed or aired out every couple of months. If you have severe dust mite allergies, you may need to do this every three months instead of every six months. Some of the other important semi-annual maintenance tasks that you need to do include:

  • A wardrobe check-up after each season, because seasonal clothes that are not in use need to be properly stored in order to avoid fading or moth infestations.
  • A linens update. Put quilts away when winter is over, and cotton sheets away when summer is over.
  • Updating your rugs and curtains, such as putting away air draft blockers and heavy floor mats when winter is over.

Creating a Checklist for Every Month of the Year

You can create a checklist for various tasks to do each month of the year. Begin by dividing the year into quarters or seasons. You might choose to separate the year into winter, spring, summer and autumn. Next, consider what seasonal and semi-annual maintenance tasks need to be done during each of these seasons.

Divide the tasks into two sub-categories: Indoor Tasks and Outdoor Tasks. Put in your universal quarterly tasks for each season. These are tasks that need to be done every season of the year. An example of your winter maintenance checklist might look like this:

Winter Indoor Tasks:

  • Replace furnace filter
  • Clean garbage disposal
  • Sanitize kitchen and bathroom sinks
  • Clean range hood filters
  • Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
  • Check garage door auto reverse feature
  • Check water softener and filtration systems
  • Vacuum refrigerator and freezer coils
  • Run water in seldom-used fixtures

Winter Outdoor Tasks:

  • Pick up downed branches
  • Winterize outdoor faucets and outlets
  • Check gutters for ice dams

You can divide some of these tasks into each month, such as replacing the furnace filter and vacuuming the refrigerator and freezer coils in January, Checking the garage door and water softener in February and inspecting the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and cleaning the range hood filters in March.

Annual Maintenance Tasks

Annual maintenance tasks are those that are important to the livability of your home. When these tasks are performed regularly, they help to ensure that the house is valuable in the event of a sale. These tasks also promote a home's safety and structural stability. Consider these items and areas of your home that need to be checked once each year for safety and functionality:

  • Walls: Check for dry rot, mold, bubbling paint or water stains
  • Floors: Look for loose or cracked tiles, warped wood or stained grout
  • Fixtures: Test for arcing, warmth and sparks
  • Windows and balconies: Inspect for cracked glass, seal failure, loose handles, broken locks, loose railings or chipped paint
  • Roofs: Look for loose or missing tiles or shingles, missing or loose flashing, broken vents or damaged chimneys
  • Gutters and downspouts: Check for loose connections, obstructions, rust and pulled out nails
  • Yard and garden: Look for loose nails, downed tree limbs, animal feces, nesting areas of pests, broken fencing and poison ivy
  • Doors, fences and gates: Look for broken latches, warped frames, broken locks, damaged peep holes and loose posts
  • Air conditioning systems and ventilation equipment: Check for debris around the outdoor condenser unit, bent fan blades, icicles, water puddles, loose hoses or dents in the metal housing

If you live in an apartment, condominium or a semi-detached home, you will also need to check on shared areas such as walls and entryways. If you live on the second floor, then your floor is the ceiling of the person who lives below you. Shared basements and ceilings also need to be inspected and maintained, as a water leak can quickly spread from one unit into another.

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by Unsplash, image courtesy of pixabay.com, licensed under CC0 Public Domain

Some checkups should be left to licensed and insured professionals, such as electricians and plumbers. In the case of a condominium or an apartment, your landlord or homeowner's association may be responsible for some of these semi-annual tasks. Be sure to find out which issues are taken care of by the management and which areas you are held responsible for.

Additional Annual Maintenance Tasks

Tasks that need to be performed once a year help to make your home a safer place. These tasks also help to prepare you just in case there were to be an emergency or a natural disaster in your area. Some of these annual tasks include:

  • Flushing your hot water heater to remove mineral buildup and deposits
  • Sort through and update your emergency kit
  • Check your insurance policies and ownership (or renter's) documents, especially if any work has been done on the property. Add any new valuables that you have purchased and edit those documents accordingly.
  • Take new photographs of your home if you have made changes to its interior or its exterior
  • Hire professionals to do necessary repair work, and save receipts and copies of the work permits
  • Late Winter: Check window screens for tears, as bugs could come inside once spring begins
  • Early Spring: Aerate your lawn for optimal growth.
  • Middle spring: Hire an air conditioning inspector. Your air conditioning will be used as temperatures and humidity levels increase.
  • Summer: Hire a chimney sweep to clean and inspect the chimney so that you can be prepared for autumn and winter use of your fireplace.
  • Early Autumn: Hire a heating system inspector to test and maintain the system before cold weather arrives.

Home Emergency Kit

A home emergency kit is also sometimes referred to as a basic disaster supply kit, home survival kit or shelter in place kit. A home emergency kit is a necessity, and no home or apartment should be without one. The kit is to be used in case of natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes or tornadoes. You may even need the kit if you get snowed in and the electricity goes out. A survival kit may also come in handy in the event of an epidemic or war. Such a kit consists of first aid equipment and supplies, rations of food that will keep for a long period of time, a supply of water, basic tools and medicine. Your kit should also contain blankets, batteries, a flashlight or battery-powered lantern, some cash and contact information for out of town family members. Depending on your family's situation, you may need to add items such as infant formula, diapers, baby wipes, pet food and plastic bags to hold waste. Be sure to include:

  • Water: Include one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food: At least a three-day supply of non-perishable food such as trail mix, energy bars, peanut butter, crackers, beef jerky, granola or meals-ready-to-eat (MREs)
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
  • Flashlight or lantern
  • Extra batteries for flashlights and radios
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist wipes, sanitary napkins, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal hygiene
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Printed local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers, an electrical inverter or solar charger
  • Seven day supply of all prescription medications
  • Extra eyeglasses
  • Infant formula and diapers
  • Pet food, plastic waste bags and extra water for your pet
  • Cash or traveler's checks and change
  • Copies of important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person, appropriately rated for your climate
  • Complete change of clothing including a long sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes.
  • Consider additional outerwear such as hats, gloves, boots and thick socks if you live in a cold-weather climate.
  • Ordinary chlorine bleach and medicine dropper; use nine parts water to one part bleach to make a disinfectant. In an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water.
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Feminine hygiene supplies and other personal hygiene items like allergy medicine and soap
  • Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels and plastic utensils
  • Paper and pencil
  • Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children
  • Two pairs of latex or other sterile gloves per person
  • Sterile dressings to stop bleeding
  • Cleansing agent or soap and antibiotic towelettes
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Burn ointment
  • Adhesive bandages or gauze and fabric bandage tape in a variety of sizes
  • Eye wash solution to flush the eyes
  • Digital thermometer
  • Aspirin or non-aspirin pain reliever, including children's formulations if you have a child
  • Anti-diarrhea medication
  • Antacid
  • Laxative
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Tube of petroleum jelly or other lubricant such as aloe vera oil or baby oil

Use a checklist or a planner (printed or an app) to ensure you do not forget any of these important items. Implement your list regularly. Following your checklist ensures your home is safe, your family and pets are healthy, that your home is clean and that it maintains its fair market value.