When it comes to home maintenance, mole hills can quickly become mountains if proper upkeep is ignored. The good news is that most home maintenance chores can be done by yourself. The real challenge is remembering and keeping up with the tasks. This home maintenance checklist lays out the best time to do critical home updates and inspections so you can stay on track and prevent future problems.
Home Maintenance Basics
First, you’ll need to take a thorough survey of your home, says Kathleen Kuhn, the president and CEO of HouseMaster, a home inspection company. Begin by looking for obvious problems, such as horizontal cracks, which indicate water or structural damage; any leaks or evidence of moisture; and signs of wood-destroying insects—such as termites and carpenter ants—which include discolored or drooping drywall, peeling paint, pinpoint holes in the drywall, piles of wings, mud tubes, and piles of drywood termite pellets that look like large grains of sand. From there, inspect all appliances, filters, downspouts, and drains. And don’t forget about cleaning.
“Cleaning is so, so, so underrated,” says Brentwood, California-based contractor and radio host James Carey, who co-authored Home Maintenance for Dummies with his brother, Morris Carey. “The single most cost-effective maintenance task that anyone can undertake is cleaning, both inside and outside.”
Following a regular cleaning schedule means chores like scrubbing grout and degreasing appliances won’t be nearly as daunting if grime hasn’t been left to build-up. But cleaning doesn’t simply mean scouring the floors and showers, frequent deep cleaning is essential for proper home upkeep.
When to Hire a Professional
It’s possible to keep up with home maintenance on your own, but if you’re not sure where to start, you may consider hiring a licensed home inspector to search for problem areas. “I’m the defense against the dark arts of home issues,” says Berkeley, California-based inspector Bruce MacDermott. “My responsibility is not only to tell homeowners what should be done, but how to do it and how urgent it is. That’s standard practice.” Home inspectors such as MacDermott know how to spot problems so you can fix them before they become monumental issues.
As for which tasks to chew off yourself, and which to leave to professionals, “It will vary by individual [depending on] their age, ability, and knowledge,” says Scott Swickard, a spokesperson for the California Real Estate Inspection Association. “Some simple tasks, such as changing furnace filters or adjusting sprinklers, can often be done by a homeowner but may require getting on a ladder or opening furnace panels.” He advises that professionals should always be consulted for “electrical repairs, most plumbing changes or repairs, roofing, termite or wood damage, and HVAC systems.”