Regular Home Maintenance for the New Homeowner
Buying a new home is exciting, but it can also come with its own set of challenges if you aren't careful. Home repairs that were once a landlord's or rental management company's issue are now on your shoulders. That shouldn't scare you though, as long as you do some regular maintenance to your home, expensive repairs should stay at bay.
Do Your Own House Inspection
Sure, you walked through your new home before you bought it, and you probably had it inspected for certain things like insect damage and dry rot, but now it's time to go a little further. Grab a pen and paper, or your smartphone, and begin your own home walkthrough inside and out. Keep this list handy, and use it yearly:
On the outside of the house look for:
- Siding that needs to be replaced
- Cracks in foundation or patios (take pictures to see if they change over time)
- Loose shingles
- Torn screens
- Weather stripping around doors and windows
- Check gutters for blockages
On the inside look for these things:
- Chimney cleaning (use cleaners like creosote cleaner if you don't hire someone to clean it)
- Window sills for any water damage
- Inside weather stripping on doors and windows
- Filters on A/C or furnaces to be replaced or cleaned
- Check under sinks and toilets for any leaks
- Test all smoke and carbon monoxide alarms
- Check windows and door locks to ensure they're all working properly
- Check and repair caulking in kitchen and bathrooms
- Clean any dirty ceiling fans so that motors do not burn out and make sure they're set to blow downwards if it's summer or pull upwards if it's winter
After your walk through inside and out, you can now focus on more specific things like your appliances. Included in most homes will be a refrigerator, stove, dishwasher and of course other items that often fit under home appliances, such as water heaters, air conditioning and furnaces. The appliances that you can work with best to keep them running longer are your refrigerator, water heater, and A/C and furnace units.
Before you get started, grab your smart phone or camera and as you check each appliance, take a picture of any model number or tag that you find and save it to a file for future reference.
Refrigerator: For your refrigerator, pull it out and inspect the back. If there are coils, clean them (make sure you unplug it first). Check underneath for a drip pan and clean it as well. Inspect the door seals and the rest of the fridge for any damage and repair if needed.
Water Heater: For your water heater, if it's older, consider draining and flushing it out to remove sediment. Check pipes and make sure that they are well insulated, and if they're not, wrap them with pipe insulation. If your water heater is older than 10 years (they typically last 10-15 years), consider looking into a heat pump water heater to replace it. There are tax credits and rebates that make this water heater a near zero investment cost and it will save you up to 60% on water heating costs.
A/C & Heat: Hire an HVAC person to clean your A/C and furnace units, and make sure it's done yearly. You can do some maintenance to them now, such as cleaning and replacing any filters, and make sure that there's no debris around them that would prevent them from working properly. Many filters last a long time these days, but during high usage months, they may need to be cleaned or replaced monthly, so set a reminder for yourself to check on them.
Since you're starting out fresh in your new home here's a few final things to do that will add to your new beginning:
Consider installing new LED or CFL lightbulbs in all of your fixtures, this saves money as they last longer and use less electricity. Also, if the home didn't come with a programmable thermostat, consider adding one now so you can easily regulate the temperature and also lower your electric utility bills.
This is a good time to go ahead and change your locks and make spare keys as well. You don't know who else may have a key, so this is definitely the time to do this. Remember to also check your garage door remote and reset the code inside if you feel it necessary to do so. Take note of the manufacturer and model of the garage door remote and unit in case repairs are later needed.
Lastly, look into any water usage and energy-based tax credits. If you have old appliances, now is the time to change them out and you'll save a lot of money with tax credits and rebates. Look into state, federal, and local tax credits and rebates for toilets, dishwashers, dryers, water heaters, and heating and cooling systems. Many utility companies offer rebates as well, so don't forget to look into them.