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Home Maintenance Schedules

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Home Maintenance Schedules?

I'm buying my first home. As a single woman and a first-time homeowner, are there any maintenance tips out there for what I should be prepared for in my first year in the home? For instance, how often should air filters be replaced? When should I clean the gutters (if I'm supposed to really do that)? What is good maintenance of a furnace? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Karen

I Learned to Maintain My Home

As a single female homeowner, I have faced the questions you ask. Here are some of the things I've learned:

  1. Make sure your furnace is serviced at the beginning of each heating season. You might investigate whether a service contract that includes this service free is right for you. Such contracts generally include emergency service at no cost. Make sure the company is reputable by checking with the Better Business Bureau or similar organization.
  2. How often you change the filter depends on the type you use. If it looks dirty, change it! I prefer the pleated filters for their increased filtration ability. They can usually be changed less often than the cheap ones, partially offsetting their greater cost.
  3. Clean the gutters about midway through the leaf-falling season and again when all leaves are down. Make sure you clean the downspouts as well. My teenage helper didn't understand this. We had a flood as a result.
  4. Practice preventive maintenance wherever possible. Keep leaves and other debris away from the house so rodents are less attracted to your home. Repair sidewalks and other concrete surfaces when the problems are small. Resurface the driveway periodically before the asphalt or other surface wears. Repair siding and walls before repainting. Maintain appliances like refrigerators, dishwashers, washers, and dryers. For example, replacing a worn dryer belt is not difficult and can prevent the motor from burning out, extending the life of the appliance. Make sure to clean lint filters after each and every load.
  5. I find it helpful to designate certain days of the month or quarter of the year for various maintenance tasks. For example, I check my furnace filter on the 25th of each month. Best wishes for the new home!

Barbara of Wallingford, CT

Book Helps With Home Maintenance

I found the book The Virgin Homeowner: The Essential Guide to Owning, Maintaining, and Surviving Your Home by Janice Papolos to be a helpful guide when I was buying my first house. Raechel

Home Maintenance Schedule Protects Investment

Keeping your home in good shape is important to protect your investment. Furnace/AC filters should be changed once a month for small one-inch filters and every two to three months for the thicker filters. Some specialty filters can last six months, such as the new Hepa filters. Check the filter manufacturer's recommendations. Hopefully, you got the house inspected and all is in working order. It would not be a bad idea to have your unit serviced and a new filter installed at that time. Call a service company that services your name brand, such as Carrier, Trane, etc. Not all companies work on the same name brand and many specialize in only one or two. They will be able to advise you on the best filter for your unit.

Cleaning out your gutters will be a matter of how many trees you have on your property. Do it at least once a year or more depending on how many trees you have and what kind. Pine trees shed cones and needles and can fill up a gutter quickly.

You may want to hire a handyman to help with items around the house like cleaning the gutters and such. Ask your neighbors for recommendations. Find a person you like and trust and make sure they have the proper tools for the job. Be at home or ask someone you trust to watch them complete the job. Some cities make home repair persons register as such. Check with your city hall. For specialty jobs such as electrical and plumbing, make sure to hire a licensed contractor. These kinds of jobs are too specialized for your local handyman to tackle. A handyman can change out a water heater, but if something goes wrong, you will wish you had that licensed plumber on site. Do not sign anything until the job is completed to your satisfaction. Stand tough! Ask for references and check them out. Do your homework. Always get an invoice in writing with a complete address and phone number of the company. Any licensing information should also be on the invoice. Check to see if removal of old materials (like a water heater) is included.

For smaller jobs that you may want to tackle on your own, check out your local Lowes or Home Depot. They offer classes in almost any home repair situation and they are free to the public. Also check out your local high school, community college or recreation centers. They can offer classes from small carpentry projects to gardening. Your local extension office is a wealth of information as well.

Check with your city on recycling sites. Also ask what is not acceptable in your regular garbage, such as some paint products, and when and where pickup sites are located for such toxic products. You may want to coordinate maintenance jobs that require these products to the dates of recycling times so that these products are not stored in your garage or shed for any length of time. Also your city may have a material recycling program where one homeowner that has material left over from a remodeling job will place an ad in the local paper. It is free for the site removal.

Lastly, although you didn't mention it, periodically check out your roof. You should not have any loose or damaged shingles. I periodically sweep my roof and check for any damage at that time. If that is not possible for you, have a roofer or someone knowledgeable check the roof at least once a year to spot any trouble. Do this before the rainy season. Repair any damage as soon as possible. A leaking roof is no fun and incoming water can do extensive damage to your attic area and anything stored there. Also keep all trees trimmed back from over the roof. One good storm and you may have a limb fall on the roof and create significant damage. Most insurance companies will not pay claims on roof damage done by falling tree limbs. Please call an insured and bonded tree professional for large jobs or tree removal. It will be so worth it when that large limb comes falling down on your neighbor's roof!

Give yourself one full year in the house and four full seasons to get a feel for the rhythm of your new house and surroundings. Keep a journal and make note of each maintenance job J. in Irving, Texas

Problem Areas Amend Home Maintenance Schedule

The first year of home ownership is a daunting experience since things you've never thought of come into your life. One should take a good look at their home, inside and out, at least monthly. Look for deteriorating areas, standing water, cracks, etc. and get any problems fixed as soon as possible. You can save a lot of money by catching problems early, before major damage is done. Cracks in the foundation can lead to water in the basement and settling. Look for mud tunnels running up your masonry walls, inside or out. These could be termites migrating into your home's structure. Look at how the land lays near your house. If it slopes toward your house, have it re-graded soon. Damp stone in your fireplace needs to be checked out by a licensed contractor. Water migrating to your home can cause a lot of headaches and costly repairs later. Also, trim or remove trees, shrubbery and vining plants to keep them from growing on and rubbing the house. Scrape, prime and repaint any areas that have cracking, peeling or bubbled paint as soon as possible. This can signal just plain old paint, or moisture in your walls, so keep an eye on that. Look at any exposed insulation in your basement or crawlspace to see if it is wet or moldy.

Make sure any gas appliances burn with a good blue flame. Yellow flames signal poor combustion and pose a safety risk. Have the coils cleaned on your furnace by an expert yearly. Late summer is a good time as they aren't swamped with other calls. Vacuum your refrigerator coils (underneath and on the backside) yearly too.

Look for areas on your roof that hold onto ice in winter. Have a reputable roofing contractor look at any you find. Ice damage to your roof can occur without any obvious early signs of damage. Stained ceilings and/or mold growing on the walls and ceilings signal either a humid home or moist walls. Get this checked immediately if you find any.

Buy a few smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and use them. They may save your life. Many of these things can be remedied early before damage occurs. Just keep your eyes open to things that seem out of sorts. You can do many repairs yourself for your time and a little money. Usually you'll find that most of the problems I've mentioned won't occur at the same time, but over the lifetime of your home. It's worth the investment of your time and money to take care of your home. Tasha in MO

Book Aids in Home Maintenance

You might purchase the book Home Maintenance For Dummies. It has a lot of good hints and a schedule to follow. Marcia

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