We get it. Home maintenance projects aren’t the way you want to spend your weekends or your money. Besides the time involved, some people are simply more blessed with DIY skills — or handy spouses — than others. But just like regular dental visits and car tune-ups, preventive maintenance for your home can save you big bucks and even bigger hassles.
Here’s a short checklist of minor home maintenance jobs that will help you prevent costly and major repairs. File these under the category to pay now, so you don’t have to pay a whole lot more later. Whether you can do some of these chores yourself or need to hire a handyman service or professionals, when you consider that your home is your #1 investment, it just makes sense to take good care of it.
1. Clean the gutters
There’s a reason why cleaning gutters is often at the top of most home maintenance lists. Ignoring this basic chore can lead to a cascade of issues that could cost hundreds or even thousands in other repairs. Clogged gutters can keep water from draining off your roof, leading to roof damage and leaks, which in turn can cause ceiling and wall damage, and even mold and foundation problems. Get the picture? Sure, it’s a big pain in the you-know-what to get up on a ladder to blow the leaves and dig debris out of the gutters, but this is one chore you don’t want to ignore.
Gutters should be cleaned at least twice a year, in spring and fall. It’s also a good idea to check them after a heavy rain to make sure they’re free of clogs and the downspouts are working. If you lack the time or inclination to climb up ladders and get messy, it’s super easy to schedule a gutter cleaning service. According to HomeAdvisor, gutter cleaning will range about $120 to $225, depending on your home size and whether it’s one or two stories. If you’re going to do it yourself, these tips from Bob Vila tell you how to make it easier to clean your gutters with different types of tools, like a leaf blower with a nozzle attachment, water hose, pressure washer, or by hand. Prefer a visual? Follow the steps in this handy video from Lowe’s:
2. Avoid costly roof repairs and extend its life
If you’re cleaning the gutters regularly, you’ve already taken the first step to preventing roof damage. Since replacing a roof costs from $5,400 to $11,000 on average, you want to do everything you can to add years to its life. Not to mention the fact that your roof is a critical line of defense from high winds, rain, and heavy snow for your home, and your family. As a result, taking care of your roof is an important part of disaster preparedness.
|Pro tip: Whenever possible, schedule home repairs and maintenance during the slow season. For example, if you wait until the rainy season to get your roof repaired, you risk delays, more damage, and higher rates. Preventive maintenance is always cheaper than emergency repairs.|
Here’s a quick checklist to help maintain your roof:
- Keep your gutters clean.
- Inspect your roof visually — check for debris, missing or damaged shingles, and signs of moss, fungus or algae.
- Keep nearby trees trimmed — nothing should be touching your roof.
- Use a leaf blower to remove leaves and debris from the roof.
- Replace missing or damaged shingles immediately.
- Get your roof professionally inspected periodically.
- Seal cracked mortar or caulking around joints, chimneys, and skylights.
3. Stay on top of tree-trimming needs
Don’t wait for a dangerous storm forecast to call a tree-trimming service. Trees with dead or diseased branches can cause significant risks of property damage or personal injury. Regular pruning and tree trimming will also help keep your beautiful trees healthy and extend longevity. If you can prune and trim the trees yourself safely, you can use this tree trimming guide from the Department of Agriculture.
If you have large trees on your property, it’s best to call a professional tree trimming service for a free inspection by a certified arborist. They’ll let you know if any trees need trimming and will provide a detailed, written estimate if they do. If they recommend trimming, get at least one other arborist to inspect. That way you can confirm the work is really necessary. It may surprise you, but an honest tree service will tell you if your trees don’t need trimming. By earning your trust, they know you’ll have them out every year to inspect and will be more likely to use them when it’s needed. That said, if you need major tree work, be sure to get multiple estimates as tree service rates vary widely.
|Pro Tip: You can often save time and money by combining home services. For example, when you get the trees trimmed or house pressure washed, ask if you can pay extra to have them blow off your roof.|
4. Get an HVAC tune-up
Wondering if those regular HVAC tune-ups are worth it? You betcha, if you want to avoid costly breakdowns in the middle of a simmering heat wave or freezing cold spell. Besides keeping you comfortable, avoiding delays, and paying top dollar for emergency repairs, annual or twice-a-year HVAC system maintenance can help reduce energy costs and extend equipment life. Most important, you can protect your family’s health and safety, especially by testing for hazardous carbon monoxide gas that may be escaping in the furnace’s heat exchanger. Clogged HVAC lines can also lead to leaks, causing ceiling damage. Yikes!
These are some of the areas a good HVAC tune-up will cover:
- Checking and clearing a clogged vent system
- Cleaning dirty evaporator or condenser coils
- Checking and correcting gas pressure
- Checking and flushing out drain lines
- Cleaning or replacing filters
If your budget won’t cover the $100 to $200 for an HVAC tune-up service, two things you can do yourself include changing the filters regularly and flushing out the drain lines. This DIY video makes easy work of clearing out your HVAC drain line:
5. Keep Your Sump Pump Running
With rising sea levels and the increase in extreme rain events, more homes are at risk of flooding, according to scientific research. That means it’s more important than ever to make sure your sump pump is up to performing its job to protect your home from flooding and water damage.
Experts recommend getting an annual sump pump inspection by a professional, which costs from $75 to $200, depending on whether extra repairs are needed. If you’re thinking about taking care of your sump pump yourself, see these basics from Angie’s List on DIY sump pump maintenance.
6. Prevent home fires: Clean out the dryer vent
According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), there are 2,900 home clothes dryer fires reported every year, causing an estimated five deaths, 100 injuries and $35 million in property loss. Cleaning out the lint filter after every laundry load isn’t enough. The dryer vent leading to the outside should be cleaned annually to ensure it’s not clogged. While the USFA recommends hiring a professional for about $130 to do the job, this is a fairly simple DIY project as long as the vent is on the ground floor. Check out this how-to video to clean your dryer vent from Ace Hardware:
7. Declutter and organize your garage
Cleaning out your garage will help you protect what is probably your second biggest investment after your home: Your car. If your garage is too full of stuff to fit your car inside, that means it will be exposed to the elements and greater risks of theft outside. Sun, snow, and debris can wreck your car’s appearance, which will cost you in resale value.
A well-organized garage will also help you keep up with your other home maintenance chores on this list. It’s hard to get things done when you can’t find the right tools! If your garage is so packed that you don’t know where to begin, consider renting a portable storage container from PODS, which can be delivered and kept in your driveway while you clear things out.
Whether you’re a new homeowner, or just feeling overwhelmed, we hope this checklist helps motivate you to take on these home maintenance tasks. Like any kind of prevention, it may not be a ton of fun, but it’s so much better than dealing with the consequences of letting things go. Plus, the better you take care of your home, the more you’ll be able to enjoy it.
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Liz Taylor is a freelance writer who keeps up with moving and storage trends while managing the PODS Containing the Chaos blog.