It's no secret that a maintenance routine keeps a house in working
order and can prevent expensive repair work. Follow our calendar
of chores for your house and yard - it's a handy checklist that
explains what to inspect, what to look for, and how to do the job
- Locate squeaky stairs, floors, doors and repair
- Maintain plumbing fixtures and water appliances i.e. aerators,
garbage disposer, dish washer, clothes washer, water treatment
- Clean refrigerator coils, range hood vent and clothes dryer
- Patch dings in wallboard and woodwork
- Plan your garden by studying seed catalogs
- Check for signs of moisture condensation on the windows
- Inspect underside of roof for frost in the attic
- Check sump pump and pour water into it so the float works; clean
out any debris
- Clean out the refrigerator, freezer and oven/range
- Inspect for water damage and install underlayment in wet tiled
- Start a home maintenance file
- Plan major remodeling or repair projects; assemble drawings,
check out permit requirements and call contractors for bids
- Inspect storm door and window screens and make repairs when
- Inspect basement walls for seepage
- Tune up and clean the blades of portable fans
- Start seeds indoors
- Maintain indoor air cleaner
- Inspect roof flashings for leaks and check roof for winter damage
- Clean and seal wooden decks
- Turn on outside spigot after last hard freeze
- Wash windows, and wash and change storm windows to screens
- Clean out fireplace or wood stove and stovepipe
- Tune up bicycles, barbecue grill and other outdoor gear
- Inspect, tune up and sharpen lawn and garden tools
- Order firewood for next season and stack
- Clean and service central or window air conditioners, attic
fan and install window units
- Clean out attic before hot weather arrives
- Repair damage to porches, decks, i.e. loose nails or warped
- Clean interior of house: walls and woodwork, floors
- Reset programmable thermostat for the summer
- Clean and check awnings and outdoor furniture
- Prune trees and shrubs before buds appear
- Loosen turf and reseed; till soil in garden
- Inspect crawl space for termite damage or water problems
- Touch up peeling paint on the exterior of the house
- Repair leaky faucets
- Look around the house for pests and problems i.e. wasp and hornet
nests; termite tunnels
- Check the grading for settling or erosion, standing water, drainage
problems to see that soil around house drains away from it
- Hose down and wash siding
- Flush out hot water tank
- Trim shrubs around heat pump or air conditioner
- Clean ceiling fan
- Check window and patio doors for easy operation; lubricate track
- Patch holes or dents in exterior finishes
- Inspect siding and make repairs when necessary
- Inspect heating system and maintain thermostat
- Patch cracks in asphalt and seal driveway
- Inspect and service garage door opener
- Have the house treated to remove fleas while pets get a flea
- Touch up exterior trim paint on garage, fence, shed
- Service furnace or boiler, and humidifier
- Have a professional clean chimney; clean ash dump and make sure
the damper closes tightly
- Replace screens with storm windows and door panel
- Clean out the garage and remove anything that might freeze i.e.
paint, caulks, adhesives from unheated sheds or garage.
- Install weather-stripping and caulk around doors and windows
- Take out window air conditioners and cover central air conditioner
- Winterize lawn mower and outdoor power equipment; if they need
servicing, take them in
- Remove the garden hose from outside spigot
- Clean out roof vents
- Maintain and reset the programmable thermostat
- Apply fertilizer to lawn and beds
- Divide and replant perennials
- Plant bulbs
- Clean and store garden hand tools
- Clean floor register grills
- Tune up snow blower
- Lubricate automatic garage door mechanism and inspect for wear
- Paint high traffic areas like hallway or bathroom
- Gather twigs and branches and cut for kindling
- Check electrical system making sure bathroom, kitchen, garage
and outdoor circuits are grounded and protected by GFCI
- Protect pipes from freezing by insulating exposed ones and those
susceptible to north winds
- Inspect Christmas decorations and extension cords for outdoor
display and repair as needed
- Lay in a supply of sand, ashes or ground salt for icy sidewalks
10 Must-do Projects
These are preventive maintenance tasks you can't afford not to
do, projects that save energy and safety-wise ideas for every household.
- Inspect all ceramic tile grout and repair when needed
- Add weather-stripping and caulk to gaps at doors and windows
- Replace or wash furnace filters in heating season and clean
filter in window air conditioner during summer months
- Touch up exterior and interior paint
- Upgrade heating system with a setback thermostat
- Inspect and clean gutters, downspouts, and window wells and
- Maintain/fertilize/mulch lawn and garden beds
- Rake leaves and start a compost pile
- Change batteries in smoke alarms with time changes
- Check pressure gauge of fire extinguishers and recharge
The best maintenance is preventive maintenance. The following tips
will keep problems to a minimum and increase the overall appearance
and value of a home.
Foundation - Basement and Crawl Spaces
- Check around the house, generally close to the ground, for damage
to wood or wood-boring insect infestation. In the basement and
crawl spaces, examine the inside surfaces of the foundation walls
and floor framing for wood-boring insect damage or water penetration.
- Check for cracks in foundation walls which allow water entry
into the basement or crawl space. Settling of soil around the
foundation is usually the cause. Keep grades sloped away from
the walls of the house.
- Check all interior and exterior drains. Keep them clean and
Exterior - Walls and Surfaces
- Check masonry walls for cracks or loose, crumbling mortar joints.
Since masonry is a brittle material, it is susceptible to damage
from freezing. Water which penetrates cracks or joints and then
expands when frozen ruptures the toughest materials. Allow for
- Check all siding and trim for damage (cracking and splitting),
decay and tightness of fit. Damaged materials should be repaired
or replaced and the condition which caused the problem corrected.
Loose nails (caused by normal expansion and contraction) should
be reset. Additional nails or screws may be needed.
- All painted surfaces should be inspected for peeling, deterioration
or normal wear. Sometimes peeling paint can be caused by northerly
exposure or condensation. Paint life will vary with the method
of application (brush, spray, etc.) and the exposure of the surface
to the elements. To avoid paint scraping and removal, repaint
before the paint peels, cracks, or blisters.
- Caulking should be checked at all joints. Loose caulk will permit
water to enter. Decay or ice damage may result. Also, air leaks
through these joints will lead to heat and energy losses.
- Check the roof surface for loose, damaged or missing shingles.
Check between the tabs on asphalt shingles, as granules wear off
here first and cause leaks. Older slate and tile roofs should
be inspected and maintained regularly by a professional roofer.
In most cases, the nails which hold the slates fail before the
Note: Life expectancies of cedar roofs vary from 15 to 40
years, depending on the quality of cedar used, workmanship, exposure
to the sun, slope of the roof, and maintenance.
- Trim trees and shrubs away from the house or roof.
Interior - Walls and Surfaces
- Inspect ceilings for signs of leakage - especially under a bath
or powder rooms. Also check for bulges which could be caused by
a leak or age.
- Check painted, stained or natural finish surfaces for coating
failure and damage. Repairing and recoating (paint, varnish, etc.)
when necessary can eliminate major preparation and painting at
a later date.
- Check flooring materials for signs of excessive wear, particularly
where one material meets another (i.e., wood-carpet, carpet-tile,
etc.). All such areas should be protected. Floors should also
be checked for squeaking, poor finish and settling. Minor problems
should be addressed before they lead to serious ones.
- Attic ventilation is necessary if moderate to above average
quantity of insulation is present. Ventilation and insulation
is more of a concern in colder climates. The best ventilation
is high-low because of the natural thermal currents which are
- Check the condition of the insulation. Trapped moisture will
cause it to lose effectiveness. Insulation should envelope the
living space. It should not be installed between the rafters of
an attic which is not being used as a living space. When rafters
are part of the living space, ventilation must be provided between
the insulation and the roof sheathing.
- Check the underside of the roof sheathing for water stains or
dampness. These problems indicate one or more of the following:
a. Leaks from the roof, flashings or valleys.
b. Condensation caused by inadequate ventilation and/or
excessive moisture inside.
Feel free to e-mail us
or call our office (800-523-5381) if you have any preventive maintenance
questions. Look for more practical maintenance tips in future columns.
As I said in the last column that featured spring check-up recommendations,
the best home maintenance is preventive maintenance. Here are more
tips that will keep problems around your home to a minimum and increase
overall appearance and value.
- Dirty or clogged filters reduce the amount of air passing across
the cooling coil. This reduces efficiency as well as effectiveness.
Depending on the type of filter you have, it should be cleaned
or replaced every six to eight (6-8) weeks during the heating
and cooling seasons.
- Humidifiers should be turned off, drained, and cleaned in the
spring. Humidifiers with reservoirs of water easily develop fungus
spores in stagnant water. Fungus growth is highest when the relative
humidity is consistently around 60%. Mold/fungus spores are easily
distributed throughout the house when the cooling system is operating.
- The condensing unit or outside unit must be free of debris and/or
shrubs to allow air to flow freely across the coil. The outside
coil should be cleaned as needed. Shrubs, etc. should be cleared
at least two (2) feet away and five (5) feet above the unit.
- Check the air handler or the inside coil for leaks or stains.
Moisture vapors turn to liquid when they contact the cold coil.
This water is collected by a condensation pan and drained by gravity
to a drain, pump, or other receptacle. Leaking typically causes
significant rust and damage to the heater cabinet and possibly
the heat exchanger below. Correct immediately if a leak exists.
- Check faucets, drains, hose bibbs, and valves for signs of leakage.
Check the water closet flushing assembly for leaks and smooth
operation. Also check the water level. It should not be too high
- The average life expectancy of gas- or oil-fired water heaters
is eight (8) to 14 years. Check the bonnet or draft control for
evidence of back drafting. Check around the bottom of the unit
for evidence of leaking or excessive rust.
- The most common type of modern-day, on-site sanitary waste system
is a septic system which includes a tank, distribution box, and
disposal or leaching field. Variations are dictated by individual
conditions. The frequency of cleaning required by the septic tank
depends on the size of the tank, the flow of sewage to it, and
the method and conditions of disposal. As long as the active working
space between the sludge and scum is adequate to decompose sewage,
the tank does not have to be cleaned. When the space between the
sludge and scum becomes less than one-half the total depth of
the tank, or if inspection shows raw sewage at the outlet, the
tank should be cleaned. The disposal field may become blocked
if the tank fills to the point where sludge is discharged into
the field. Pumping or cleaning out the tank is typically needed
every two to five years.
- Water wells should be checked for proper operating pressure.
Check if the system cycles on and off quickly (e.g., 10 to 40
seconds would generally be considered quick or short cycling).
A proper cycle could be one and one-half to three minutes (1 1/2
- 3), depending on the system and usage.
- Check operation of the exterior door locks. Consider installing
dead bolts on these doors. Dead bolts should have the key assembly
on the exterior and a thumb latch on the inside to allow occupants
to escape in case of an emergency. Check window locks at ground
level and areas which may provide easy access to the house.
- Smoke detectors should be installed on each level of the house,
including the basement if one exists. Consider installing heat
sensors in kitchens and heater rooms. Heat sensors are not affected
by smoke. They operate with the rate of heat rise in a specific
amount of time, such as 20 seconds.
- Post emergency phone numbers at all telephones. Check fire extinguisher
charge twice a year. Review fire prevention and escape plans with
all members of the household.
- Store flammable materials in a cool, ventilated place out of
reach of children. Never store fuels such as gasoline or kerosene
inside the house.
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