(12 Minute Read) – Whether you’re new to homeownership or a seasoned pro, home maintenance is essential to keeping your house in order. In fact, preventative home maintenance can help you fix an issue long before it becomes a much bigger, time-consuming, and costly problem.
Think of it this way…regular home maintenance will help keep your home looking great for years to come, while increasing its value over time. Who doesn’t love building equity in their home? You can even use that equity to help with the costs of some of the bigger home maintenance items we’ll be discussing later on.
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2020 introduced many of us to new ways to keep our homes better maintained, as we worked on home improvement and upkeep. In this article, you’ll find a number of home maintenance tasks and repairs that are simple to accomplish and aimed to help save you money down the road for 2021 and beyond.
Here is a comprehensive maintenance checklist that will help guide you in the never-ending quest that is homeownership.
Home Maintenance Questions
Before we jump into our 5-day guide to home maintenance, let’s answer a few questions you might be pondering:
1. Why is Home Maintenance Important?
There are many benefits to conducting regular maintenance to keep your home in tip-top shape. Here are just a few:
Increase your home’s value.
Your home is likely your most valuable investment, so you want to keep it both functional and looking great. Proper upkeep allows you and your family to enjoy your home without worry, and when it’s time to sell will likely add to its curb appeal and increase your chances of fetching an above-market value.
Reduce your energy bills.
Who doesn’t love saving money? One of the biggest money sucks in homes is energy consumption. To combat high energy bills, look to:
- Add energy-efficient appliances like refrigerators, dish washers, ovens, washers and dryers. If you have an old refrigerator in the garage, consider retiring that bad boy.
- Replace that old HVAC system with one rated 96%+ efficient or better. This will reduce your energy costs significantly over time.
- Check the weather stripping around your doors and windows (we’ll talk more about that later on.)
Reduce your stress.
This is kind of a no brainer, but when you keep your home in good condition and perform regular maintenance, you worry less about comfort and safety issues.
2. Is Home Maintenance Tax Deductible?
Yes and no. As with most tax questions, the answer can be complicated and depends on your specific situation.*
- If you’re a sole proprietor, business, or rental property owner you can deduct expenses for home maintenance and repairs.
- The average homeowner, on the other hand, can’t deduct home maintenance costs. If available, homeowners can get energy tax credits, but those fall more into the category of home improvements when installing energy-efficient items like solar panels and appliances.
Discover some other home improvements that could positively affect your taxes.
No matter your tax situation: Be sure to hold onto all invoices and receipts from your home improvements and repairs. Always a good practice, this will help you ensure you get the tax deductions you deserve.
*This information is offered only for educational purposes and should not be used to make tax decisions. Please consult a certified tax professional for advice before making decisions.
3. What is the Average Cost of Home Maintenance?
This varies depending on the climate region you live in.
- Here in the Pacific Northwest we tend to have wet and cold months throughout the year, so we have to deal with things like moss, mold, and mildew. Therefore, maintenance costs for roofs and the exteriors of our homes are likely to be higher than those in warm/dry climates.
- According to home insurance provider American Family Insurance, the average monthly cost for home maintenance is approximately $170 or $10,200 over a 5-year period. That adds up pretty quickly. One of the best ways to help save up and budget for these maintenance costs is to set aside a little money each month. Use this savings calculator to figure out how much you’ll need to put aside each month to establish a healthy home maintenance fund.
Home Maintenance Guide
Without further ado, let’s take a look at a few simple items you can add to your daily checklist to help you keep your home’s maintenance on track. These can all be done in about a week.
Day 1 – Roof and Gutters
With this one, you’re probably thinking, “There’s no way I’m climbing up on my roof.” While this may be the case for many, inspecting your roof is very important.
Did you know just a half inch of rain falling on a 1,000-square-foot roof will yield 300 gallons of water? With the average residential roof size being roughly 1,700 square feet, that’s a lot of water.
Whether you’ve got shake, tile, or asphalt/composite shingles, it’s important to do a visual inspection of the roofing material itself along with any skylights, vents, and flashing. Be sure to look for any missing or damaged shingles and check your gutters for gritty, rock-like residue as this is a sign that your composite shingles are nearing the end of their useful life.
A wise man named Bob Villa once said:
“Binoculars are a wonderful aid to getting a closer look at the skin of the house, especially the roof. You’ll be able to see curled or discolored shingles and shingles that are losing their granular surface.”
At the end of the day, if heights aren’t your thing, call a qualified roof inspector or contractor.
As for your home’s gutters: grab a ladder, gloves, and a small hand brush, and get to sweeping. Make sure the gutters are clear of debris including leaves, stray roofing material, etc.
Clearing your gutters will ensure your drain pipes don’t get clogged or fill up and freeze in the winter, causing rain water to spill over the gutter’s edge. If possible, run a hose up on the roof and shoot water down the drain pipes.
If you notice any rust, standing water, loose connections, or gutter spikes slipping out of place, get a qualified roof/gutter cleaner out to take a look and make any repairs necessary.
Day 2 – HVAC System
With your HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) being the most expensive system in your house, you need to make sure it’s clean and functioning properly.
- For today, just replace your filters. Replacing them every month is ideal, but every 3 months is more common. You can pick these up at any big box home improvement store or local hardware store. This helps with air intake, as a clean filter puts less stress on your system and can help improve the quality of air you and your family breathe every day.
- Looking ahead: a good rule of thumb is to get your HVAC system serviced every fall by a licensed HVAC professional.
- As for your A/C unit (most of which are located on the side of your home or in the back yard), check for any damage to the coils and brush off any debris.
If you have an older unit that has seen better days, consider a new coat of rust-proof spray paint.
When summer comes to an end and you no longer need to use your A/C, cover the unit up and secure with a tarp or fitted cover to protect against the elements.
Pro tip: Remove the unit’s fuse from the fuse box. This will ensure you don’t accidently turn on your A/C with the cover on; doing so could cause damage to the unit.
If you have a heat pump unit, there is no need to cover it in the winter as those units are designed to pull heat from the cold air and heat your home. While these units are more expensive, it could be a good solution for your home’s heating and cooling needs.
Day 3 – Attic and Crawlspace
Home maintenance isn’t confined to just the exterior of your home. And after all, who doesn’t love crawling up into the attic or under your house? Just be prepared for what you might find!
Most homes have an attic entrance either on the ceiling, in an upstairs bedroom closet, or in an extra room.
When you enter your attic, it’s best to wear eye and breathing protection. The insulation that helps keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer is most likely made of fiberglass. You definitely don’t want any of those fibers entering your eyes or lungs.
Be sure to inspect the condition of the insulation and make sure you have the appropriate depth or “R-value” needed to insulate your home. The R-value, as noted by the Insulation Institute, simply refers to the resistance to heat flow. The higher the R-value, the greater the insulating power.
Your home’s R-value will depend on the regional climate where you live. Here in the Pacific Northwest a recommended depth or “R-value” is anywhere from R-38 to R-60, or 13”-18” deep.
Additionally, you’ll want to look at the interior of your siding and roof paneling to ensure no water seepage is present.
Crawlspace Similar to the attic, your crawlspace can be a tricky place to inspect (not to mention creepy). It’s recommended to inspect your crawlspace every 6-12 months.
To prevent any health or structural issues, consider the following maintenance:
- Clean up any debris or unwanted materials left over from construction. This will help ensure you won’t need any future trips to the ER to get a tetanus shot after stepping on rusty nails the builder might have dropped!
- Cover up dirt floors. If your crawlspace floors are exposed dirt, this can cause health issues as the ground is full of moisture and can produce mold and other airborne pathogens.
- Keep moisture out. If you find any stagnant water, consider hiring a licensed crawlspace professional to clean up and install ventilation and moisture barriers. Moisture under the home can wreak havoc on your family’s health and the sub-structure of your home.
- Got rodents? It’s true, mice and rats love cold and dark spaces, e.g., your crawlspace. After you’ve cleaned out the crawlspace, look for any potential pest entry points and block them – this includes ventilation screens, holes and cracks in the homes siding or sub-structure. You got this!
Day 4 – Windows, Doors, and Siding
When it comes to insulating your home, your windows, doors, and siding all play a crucial role together.
We love them, but they sure are hard to keep clean. Keep them looking great by grabbing a bucket of soapy water and get to scrubbing, both inside and out.
While you’re at it, check the locks and seals to ensure they open and close properly. If you have dual or triple pane windows and notice “fog” between the glass, you’ve got a broken seal. Not to worry, this can be repaired by a licensed window professional.
If your windows need any additional caulking, just head over to your favorite hardware store and pick up a tube or two of painter’s caulk. Fill in any areas around the window that need attention. Proper caulking keeps water and bugs out.
The biggest home maintenance need with exterior doors is to make sure the weather stripping around the door is in good condition – no tears or missing pieces. A faulty seal will not only let heat and cold air escape, it will let bugs in. Yuck! And, just like your windows, check to see if your door frame needs any caulking.
Finally, give the door hinges a good look over. This goes for interior doors as well. If they are squeaky or have difficulty opening, lubricate them with a few sprays of WD-40 or similar lubricant.
Your home’s siding can be made from a variety of materials like wood, HardiePlank (fiber cement board), vinyl, brick, aluminum, or even stucco, just to name a few. Whatever the material, give your siding a thorough look and be mindful of missing or cracked pieces, dry rot, and pest damage.
Be sure to caulk any joints that need repair, and it’s a good idea to give your home a fresh coat of paint every couple of years. Every surface will be slightly different. For example:
- Wood – every 3-7 years
- Fiber cement board (or other newer materials) – every 10-15 years
- Brick – every 15-20 years (if painted), otherwise you can pressure wash when needed
- Aluminum – every 5 years
- Stucco – every 5-6 years
Keeping your siding in good condition will protect your biggest investment for years to come.
Day 5 – Decks, Patios, and Porches
Especially during the summer months, here in the Pacific Northwest we enjoy both shade and sunshine on our decks and patios. These are areas you don’t want to neglect.
Most decks are made of wood, typically cedar or redwood. Others are built from man-made materials like recycled plastic, commonly referred to as “composite lumber.” Both get the job done and look great, but each requires different maintenance and care.
If you go the natural wood route, you’ll need to paint/stain and waterproof your deck every couple of years to keep the wood looking its best.
If composite lumber is in your budget (typically more expensive per square foot than wood), the only maintenance you’ll need to do is gently pressure wash any dirt or mildew that accumulates on the boards. That’s it!
For either types of deck, in addition to regular cleaning be sure to check for any loose or damaged boards as well as nails and screws that might need replacing. Wood boards will eventually rot; composite won’t.
If you have a patio, they typically don’t require a ton of maintenance. Just keep an eye out for any cracks in the cement as they can allow water to enter and cause more damage or even erosion under the concrete.
If your patio consists of pavers, brick, or flagstone just make sure to give it a good sweep every now and then and tend to any weeds that might be popping up with an environment-friendly herbicide. There are also many home-remedy herbicides available, so you’ll have peace of mind knowing your family and pets will be safe.
Sitting out on the porch enjoying a nice lemonade or locally-brewed IPA…doesn’t that sound nice? If you have a porch, just give it a good sweeping every few days to ensure dirt, sand, and grit don’t start eating away at the surface as you walk on it, especially if your porch is painted or stained wood. Here are a few more tips on keeping your porch looking like new.
Day 6 and 7 – The Weekend
Congratulations! The weekend is here and you’re done with your home maintenance. Now, crack open your favorite beverage, head out to your deck or patio and relax – you’ve earned it!
Hopefully after reading this guide you feel inspired to take on some easy-to-do preventative home maintenance. In all honestly this guide could go on forever. But focusing on these items should keep your home looking and performing its best for years to come.
About the author: Ryan Jones
Ryan has been with Unitus Community Credit Union since 2007. He started his credit union career in California before making his way to Oregon. He manages Unitus’ creative and digital presence including: content development, art direction, website design, SEO, digital advertising, photography, video production, and more.
When he’s not directing and producing creative content for Unitus, you can find him working on his next big home project, playing dad while supporting his kid’s football and dance activities, or relaxing on the backyard deck with his wife and enjoying a nice bottle of local Pinot Noir.