Owning your own home is an amazing point in one’s life when your hard work and sacrifice has paid out. You finally own a piece of the pie, an investment in your future and an opportunity to make something your own.
For most first time homebuyers, a home purchase will likely be the largest financial commitment they have made in their lives. At first, it can be a little intimidating. There’s a lot of responsibility.
Put Your Name on It!
Of course, you’ll want to protect your investment right from the beginning. What protections can you provide to take care of your home and keep it in great condition?
Seasonal climate changes in the Western and Pacific NorthWestern states can be very hard on your home and its systems. When taking care of your home in Oregon, Washington, Colorado or Idaho the old saying, An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure is painfully clear. It’s always easier to prevent something as soon as possible with less effort than it is to wait until you have no choice but to deal with the situation which will now likely demand a lot of money and effort to repair. Most items can be repaired for nothing more than ten dollars and a trip to the hardware store. However, if left unattended, they could end up costing thousands.
Where do we go from here?
Where do you start? Even for experts, when taking care of your home, and scheduling regular maintenance, it can be helpful to have a standardized list or guide to reduce your stress and remind you of the what, the when, and the why. In response, Our team at Sammamish Mortgage decided to take the opportunity to put together this handy DIY article to break it all down. Don’t worry, real stress comes from failing to prepare, it shouldn’t be found in the preparation.
Quarterly Home Energy Audit. Every month, homeowners spend a chunk of money on utility bills. The two biggest contributors to the overall cost are gas and electrical use. Depending on when your home was built or updated and to what extent, your home may have a range of opportunities when it comes to energy efficiency.
Systems designed to keep your home running efficiently and provide protection gradually deteriorate over time. Conducting a quarterly home energy audit can provide a snapshot of your home’s maintenance needs. Here are a few hacks that may help you identify and avoid potential problems.
From The Bottom Up, Or Top Down?
It really doesn’t matter where you start, just remember to start in one corner and work your way through one room at a time, floor by floor. Let’s take a look in the basement first.
If your home has a basement, it will likely be the location of most of your home’s mechanical equipment. Avoid the temptation to go straight to the furnace and walk the perimeter of the basement first; room by room if it’s finished. You are simply looking for any place that might let heat out or cold air, water, and critters in.
Basements and Attics tend to present a few common problems. Check for visible signs of moisture. Do you see any water staining? If so it may be time to get a professional to come and take a look. Most of all, it’s just good to keep an eye on things. Do you have windows in your basement? If so check to make sure they are sealed completely. Once you have inspected for any drafts or leaks, head to the furnace and HVAC system.
Check & Replace Filters Quarterly
Regularly changing the filters in your furnace can have a big impact on your home’s efficiency. Many homeowners keep a maintenance log attached to the furnace as a reference and reminder of service. It’s good to schedule a maintenance visit from your HVAC professional about two times per year (usually fall for furnace and spring for AC). These visits often include filter replacement. Don’t forget to do a quarterly check to change filters and check systems.
Check the Vents
Take notice of the vents. They should be clean, not caked with dust. If the vent is open, ask yourself if it is serving a portion of the home that you may not need to heat or cool? Keeping closet doors closed and checking the vents can reduce your utility bills by a significant amount each year and make it easier on your HVAC system to regulate the temperature in your home.
Water Heater Hacks and Maintenance
Next, go to your water heater and put your hand on the side of the tank. If it’s on, the tank should be warm to the touch. One great way to reduce wear and tear and utility expenses is to wrap insulation around the water heater. Perform an annual physical inspection of the water safety valve. Look for signs of rust and corrosion. Then, use the safety valve to drain off any excess sediment in the tank. Be careful! It’s hot. Removing the sediment will help reduce the strain on your heater, and provide more usable water.
Something About Sump Pumps
Check your sump pump. If you have a battery backup system make sure it’s working correctly. If you don’t have a battery backup, it may be a smart investment. In the event of a power outage, the battery will ensure the pump is continuing to function.
Washers and Dryers and Vents Oh my!
Many folks keep the washer and dryer in the basement, and one thing that can have a direct effect on your gas or electric bill is a clogged dryer vent. Clothes dryers are built with integrated systems that catch most of the lint. However, even with systems in place, a lot of dust and lint can accumulate. Eventually, the accumulation may block the vent, making it almost impossible to dry clothes. Remove the vent hose quarterly and clean thoroughly (A vacuum works really well). Ensure proper airflow by keeping the hose un pinched. Make any necessary adjustments, and re-attach.
Last Stop Down Here
before you head upstairs; check the water softener and filtration system. Depending on where you live, you may have an inline filtration and or water softener system. Be sure to check this monthly. Though you may not need to add salt or change a filter every month, it’s good to do a quick scan.
“Chim Chimney Chim Chimney”
Work your way to the chimney next. The Fall is generally the best time to schedule an appointment with a chimney service professional to clean and inspect. Another great way to save on energy is with a fireplace blocker. Keep drafts at bay over those cold Washington and Oregon winters.
Doors and Windows
Open and close each window and door. Check sliding doors and skylight making sure there is no visible damage and that they seal properly.
Quarterly Deep Clean…
Every room, every corner, every vent, every window inside and out. While providing a regular opportunity to keep your home in pristine condition it also allows inspecting and getting to know the “small stuff.”
Caulk is Cheap
It comes in a variety of colors, and when applied properly, will protect you from water and mold damage. Check around shower bases and doors. Constantly assaulted by a deluge of water, these are some of the real potential danger zones. Water damage is most commonly found in the bathroom. Put down a good bead of caulk around the shower, toilet bases, and sinks. Use latex gloves to slick, and masking tape for clean lines.
Go With The Flow
Shower and faucet heads may get plugged up from time to time. Clean and inspect each one with a little baking soda soak. Use warm water and an old toothbrush to rinse clean.
Check fire extinguishers, smoke, and Co2 detectors next. I find it’s easiest to simply replace all batteries once per year. Though It may seem excessive at first, batteries don’t last much more than a year, and no one likes to hear the irritating beep of a low battery indicator in the middle of the night.
Deep cleans are a wonderful opportunity to clean the cooling coils on the back of your fridge. You could literally save a hundred dollars or more by simply by maintaining dust-free coils.
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What are you waiting for? Let’s take it outside.
It’s time to head outside for a few key observation points. The first places I like to check outside are the gutters and downspouts. Be vigilant here, as a relatively small amount of neglect can cause much larger problems over time. Especially important in areas that see a lot of snow and ice, like Colorado or Idaho. Most gutters are fairly accessible, but if it’s too far off the ground for your comfort, contact a professional for cleaning and maintenance.
Water, Water, Everywhere.
While you clean the gutters, take some time to observe the water as it moves out of the downspout. The water should be moving away from the foundation. If water is pooling anywhere near the base of the home, make simple adjustments to remedy. Consider the possibility of adding more length to the spout. Next, take a look at the ground level or “grade” of the rocks and soil against the home. Does the grade slope towards or away from the structure? Ideally, the grade should slope away from the structure, taking any moisture and drainage with it. If you see spots that could use a little more grading material (a mixture of topsoil and gravel works well)for proper drainage, go ahead and add some.
Check the Deck
Another important place on your home exterior that needs regular maintenance is the deck. When regularly maintained, a well-built deck should provide many years of peace and relaxation, no matter where you live in the country.
However, a lot of homeowners tend to let it slide, allowing and rot and mold to set in. By simply taking a good look at your deck to identify any “pulling” deck boards or loose posts, and handrails, you can quickly find and address any issues that might arise.
The most effective way to add life to your deck is to keep it clean. Add a fresh coat of stain each year to prevent damage caused by water and sun for years of enjoyment.
Another item to check while outside, are your door and window screens. Screens don’t cost that much to have repaired. In addition, they are a relatively easy DIY project. Keep household pests and insects at bay, check for torn or missing screens.
Check The Roof
While we’re on the topic of home exteriors, don’t forget one of the most important parts, roof inspection. It’s good to have a friend in the roofing business, but don’t worry, it’s not necessary to climb a ladder and walk the roof yourself. Just grab your binoculars and do a quick check from your yard. Follow the roofline and look for any roofing material that might show abnormal signs of wear. If you observe any peeling, or curling, it may be a good sign that it’s time to schedule a professional roofer for an opinion, and estimate for repairs. When well maintained, a good roof can last 20 years or more. When inspecting the roof, look for signs of obvious hail damage as well. Many folks are unaware, but most homeowners insurance policies include coverage from hail damage.
Whether you live in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, or Idaho, a simple commitment to a regular home maintenance schedule is the key to stress-free homeownership. We offer many mortgage programs to buyers all over the Pacific Northwest and have been doing so since 1992. Contact us today with any questions you have about mortgages.