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For both new and seasoned homeowners alike, most home maintenance checklists found online can be overwhelming. There’s just so much that goes into keeping a home in great shape. The average homeowner doesn’t have the time or budget to tackle everything, so what should they prioritize and how should they go about saving for maintenance? In this article, we’ll tackle the answers to both of those questions and review the three key areas of home maintenance that every homeowner should focus on first.
What each home needs in the way of upkeep can vary greatly—so much so that two neighboring houses built in the same year, by the same builder, using the same materials may have very different maintenance needs. One common rule of thumb is that homeowners should set aside somewhere between 1-2% of their home’s value for ongoing maintenance. For a home worth $250,000, this means saving somewhere between $2,500 and $5,000 annually to use for upkeep and upgrades.
However, consider this calculation more of a general guideline than a hard-and-fast rule: after all, there is no actual relationship between your home’s value market and its month-to-month maintenance needs. Factors such as the age of the home, its size, and how well it was cared for in the past can all influence what it needs when it comes to maintenance.
Of course, if you’re able, saving more is always better. The money you set aside for maintenance doesn’t expire, so you can always roll the leftover cash together to pay for large projects or to use in emergencies.
For obvious reasons, make sure any pipes exposed to cold winter temperatures have proper insulation to protect them and prevent them from freezing. Homeowners who live in areas with hard water may also want to consider having a whole-home water softener installed. These systems can remove the mineral content from water as it comes into the home.
Have a professional check in on your water heater at least once per-year. This service should include a water heater flush to remove sediment, as well as a pressure-relief valve test and an inspection of the anode rod. In the case of the latter, an anode rod replacement halfway through the life of the system can greatly extend its lifespan.
Protect your drains by watching what you put down them. Avoid treating your kitchen sink—even one with a disposal—as a trash can, and never put grease, oils, or coffee grounds down the drain, as they could eventually form a clog in your sewer line. Have a plumbing professional treat any drain clogs and avoid using store-bought chemical drain cleaners, which rarely clear the clogs as advertised and can wear away at the inside of your pipes.
Your roof is the shield that protects your home from the elements. Any gaps in the armor—such as broken tiles or missing shingles—expose the underlayment to sun, rain, snow, and wind. Over time, a damaged underlayment means that the roof structure itself is exposed, which can lead to damage, roof leaks, and other problems. Our recommendation is that you have a professional roofer out to your home at least once per year to inspect the roof and ensure that all the roofing material remains in good shape. When it’s time to replace your roof, don’t put the service off.
No matter how well-protected the roof is by the underlayment and roofing material, any standing water or ice on the roof structure is bad news. Make sure to keep your gutters clean so that they can successfully carry water off of your roof. If your gutters are not draining properly and water is getting trapped on the roof, consult with a professional roofer.
Your air conditioner and furnace are key to your home’s year-round comfort. To keep them running efficiently and free of any problems, schedule seasonal tune-ups. Have a local HVAC professional maintain your air conditioner in the spring ahead of the hot, humid summers. Then, have that professional back out in the fall to make sure your heating system is ready for the cold winter soon to come.
Preventative HVAC maintenance saves you money in two ways. First, it makes your home more energy efficient, lowering your monthly energy bills. Second, it reduces the risk of a system breakdown, which means you avoid the repair costs associated with getting your system running again.
As mentioned earlier, no two homes have exactly the same maintenance needs. Our recommendation is that you focus on the three basic areas listed above, and then build out your seasonal maintenance checklist with other items as you go. Eventually, you will have a detailed checklist that fits what your home needs.
For more specific tips and a guide to taking care of your roof, HVAC systems, and plumbing, be sure to check out this infographic courtesy of Wagner in Albuquerque, NM:
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