Yearly Homeowner Maintenance Checklist
Whether you’re a new homeowner or have multiple homes, keeping up with home maintenance can feel daunting. It’s important to take care of your home regularly to save you time and potentially a LOT of money and stress down the line. Lucky for you, we’re here to help!
We’ve created a monthly checklist as well as a free printable you can keep on your fridge to ensure you are maintaining your property properly with each new season. With this checklist, you’ll have an easy resource for the things you should be doing annually to keep your home (and wallet) in peak condition!
1) check smoke & carbon monoxide detectors
First, check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and change the batteries if needed. It’s extremely important that this is updated at least once a year, because it could very well save your life in an emergency. To test these devices, you can press the “test,” button that is on the front of the device. Smoke alarms can also be tested by lighting a candle underneath the system and allowing the smoke to enter the machine. It is not recommended that you test a smoke alarm by yourself, in case something unexpected happens. When testing any kind of detector, you’ll want to let your home security team know that you’re testing it so that there isn’t a false alarm. Since you can’t realistically test a carbon monoxide detector with actual carbon monoxide, it’s best to just use the test button to make sure everything is functioning properly.
2) have hvac system serviced
Once a year, you’ll want to have your HVAC system checked out by a professional. HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning. While there are many types of HVAC systems, every single one should be inspected at least once a year for any serious issues. The technician should clean the furnace and A/C compressor, as well as vents. Without a professional present, it’s still a good idea to check all the HVAC filters around your home and clean or replace them when possible. Keeping your HVAC system in healthy condition prevents many serious issues down the road, like having to replace an air conditioner or a heater.
3) clean your garbage disposal
Cleaning your garbage disposal is something that often goes overlooked, but taking the time to clean both the blades and the drain prevents buildup and nasty smells. To do this, simply freeze vinegar into ice cubes and then put them down the garbage disposal. Not only will the ice sharpen the blades, the vinegar will neutralize most of the smells. Checking and cleaning other drains is also worthwhile, as it will prevent plumbing issues later on. Landmark Home Warranty recommends not using chemical drain cleaners, as they can damage your pipes. They recommend not putting anything besides water down the drains, but if you absolutely must, to run hot water afterwards to help it break down. Plumbing Masters states that other alternatives include baking soda and vinegar, or using a plunger to unclog the drains. But if all else fails, sometimes just calling the plumber is the best call.
4) have chimney inspected & cleaned
Once a year, your chimney should be inspected and cleaned by a chimney sweep. This is especially important if you use your chimney regularly in the winter months. Having your chimney cleaned can prevent fires from deposit buildups, especially creosote, which is a highly flammable byproduct of burning wood. It also ensures that there are no insects or animals living in your chimney. The longer you wait to have your chimney inspected, the worse the damages will be and the more dangerous it will be for you and your family. Having the yearly inspection done will save you a lot of grief and save you the money that buildup and fires would cause.
5) check for ice dams
In the winter, it’s a good idea to go around the exterior of your house and check for ice dams. When melting snow freezes at the end of your roof, it can prevent water from properly draining which results in the water leaking into your home. Signs of ice dams include large icicles and water stains in your attic or ceiling. There are DIY ways of removing ice dams, such as using a roof rake or calcium chloride, but if the problem is bad enough it’s best to hire a contractor to get rid of the ice dam for you. Catching an ice dam early will save you (and your roof) from much bigger issues.
6) vacuum your fridge coils
Something that is often forgotten about is vacuuming your refrigerator coils once a year. Cleaning the fridge coils is super easy to do and only takes about 5 minutes, but keeping them nice and clean can save you money on utility bills every month. Refrigerator coils work by cooling and condensing the fridge, and when they’re clogged, they can’t release heat like they’re supposed to which leads to less efficiency and a shorter fridge lifespan. This is especially important if you have a furry friend, because their fur can really clog the coils. To clean them, just unplug your fridge, remove the grate at the bottom, and use a coil cleaning brush and vacuum to clean out all the dust and dirt. You can buy a coil cleaning brush here for $12. Your fridge and wallet will thank you.
7) flush & insulate your hot water heater
Before it gets too cold out, make sure to flush your hot water heater. You’d be surprised how many mineral deposits build up in it. Flushing the hot water heater will get rid of the sediment and allow the heater to run more efficiently, saving you money. There’s a handy guide to flushing out your hot water heater here. It’s also a good idea to insulate your hot water heater. Hot water heater insulators are relatively cheap, and they greatly improve the energy efficiency by reducing heating and cooling bills. You can buy one for under $30 here.
8) add salt to water softener
At least once a year, although many homeowners do it more often, it’s recommended to add salt to your water softener if you have one. The water softener is a device that works by trading the calcium and magnesium in hard water for sodium in an ion exchange, which makes the water soft water. According to HomeWater101, you can determine the salt level by peeking inside your brine tank and seeing whether the salt fills a little over half the tank. If not, add salt until it does. If you don’t have a water softener, it may be worth looking into getting one solely because soft water is much easier on pipes than hard water.
9) cover air conditioning unit in fall & winter
In the fall and winter, make sure to cover your air conditioning unit. By covering in the fall as well as the winter, it prevents things like seeds and leaves from getting in and causing issues in the unit. Covering in the winter is important as it prevents snow from getting in, and snow causes a lot of moisture related problems. That being said, make sure not to cover the entire unit. You only want to cover the top, as covering the entire unit will trap moisture and cause rust. You can buy a cover here. However, these days some air conditioning units come built to protect against harsh weather conditions, and with one of these, covering the unit is not necessary. Check to see what kind of unit you have and cover it if needed.
10) Caulk windows and holes
Lastly, make sure to caulk any windows and holes once a year. This is especially important before winter, when water can get in and really cause problems like leaks and water damage. It also prevents air leaks, which will save you money with your heating and air conditioning. According to GE, caulking your windows yearly can save you up to 14% on heating and electric bills. It’s best to apply caulk in dry conditions, to ensure that you are not trapping in moisture. In addition, caulking generally just makes windows look neater and cleaner. It’s very cheap, you can buy it here for less than $5.
So there you go, an easy checklist to ensure that your home is staying in its best condition year after year. While every home is different, these ten steps will keep most homes looking good without the need for constant repairs and handymen. And when your home looks and feels like it should, you’ll feel confident too! What home maintenance rules do you live by? Let me know in the comments below!