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30 ways to be proactive with your home.
Be the homeowner who takes action before something goes awry.
Preventive TLC is vital to avoiding costly problems, and this home maintenance checklist can help you determine what to do when. Keep in mind that every home is different, and your home’s needs also depend on local conditions. So print our list and tailor it to what works for you.
Inspect your fire extinguishers. Safety should be at the top of any home maintenance checklist. There are several types of extinguishers, so be sure to check your owner’s guide. Most have gauges that show when the pressure is too high or too low. You should also make sure parts aren’t damaged, dented or rusted, and double check that your extinguisher is easy to reach in case of an emergency.
Clean your food waste disposal. Freeze vinegar in ice cube trays and run a few cubes through your disposal. The vinegar freshens and cleans while the ice sharpens the blades.
Clean your kitchen range hood. Grease and other particles can cling to the hood’s surface and filter, making it less effective. How often you need to clean it depends on how much (and what) you cook. Typically, you can remove the filter and clean it in a sink of hot water with degreaser dish soap and baking soda.
Test your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Push the test button to make sure the alarm sounds. Change the batteries at least every year. And remember to replace your smoke alarm 10 years from the manufacture date, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.
Look at your home’s exterior. Move your home maintenance checklist outside. Be on the lookout for things like chipped paint that could invite rot, or damaged siding. Inspect brickwork for large cracks and use binoculars to scan for any roof damage. (A licensed professional should inspect your roof if it’s aging or potentially has problems.)
Change the HVAC filters inside your home. Most disposable filters need to be replaced every 90 days—check the label when you put in a new one and set a calendar reminder. If your filters get dirty fast—with fur from pets, for example—or if allergies are a problem, you may need to change them more often.
Test your garage door’s auto-reverse feature. Federal law requires a garage door to automatically reverse if someone steps into its path when it is closing. To test yours, place a two-by-four on the floor in the door’s path. If the door doesn’t properly reverse when striking the two-by-four, then the garage door opener should be disengaged until it is repaired or replaced. Also, test the electric eye sensors by moving the two-by-four in front of them. If the door doesn’t immediately go back up, you have a problem.
Examine your hot water heater. Routine maintenance depends on what type you have, but flushing a quart of water from the storage tank every three months is a good idea. Check the temperature and pressure valve every six months, and inspect the anode rod every three to four years. Read your owner’s manual for specific maintenance recommendations.
Clean your dryer vent ductwork. The leading cause of home clothes dryer fires is failing to clean the ductwork. Remove lint from the exhaust duct that leads from the back of your dryer to the outside of your home. Also ensure the outdoor vent covering opens when the dryer is on, and nests of small animals and insects don’t block the vent. Clean lint filters every time you use the dryer.
Inspect electrical products. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has a room-by-room electrical home maintenance checklist. Examining electrical cords is a great place to start: Check for damage and too many cords plugged into one outlet.
Thoroughly clean your home. It’s called spring cleaning, but you shouldn’t limit deep cleans to just one season. Appliances, windows, walls, floorboards and floors all could use a good scrub a few times a year. Don’t forget to wash and disinfect garbage cans, toilet brush holders and other icky areas, too.
Open or close crawlspace vents. In summer (and spring and fall), open these vents to allow air to circulate beneath your home—helping to prevent moisture buildup. In winter, close the vents to keep freezing air from flowing under your home.
Seasonal home maintenance checklist
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Check your gutters. Remove any debris from your gutters, drains, spouts and roof to help those April showers flow smoothly off and away from your home.
Trim trees. Before spring showers turn into summer storms, trim tree limbs or branches that pose a threat to your home, driveway or nearby power lines. For big projects, call in the pros.
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Test your sump pump. At the beginning of the season, ask a plumber to verify that your sump pump is clean and draining properly in preparation for spring’s downpours.
Look for flooding hazards. Check for water spots on walls and ceilings. (If you already have small water spots, place an object like a quarter beside them and take a picture so you can compare the size in the future). Look for leaky faucets or appliances by peeking inside bathroom and kitchen cabinets.
Clean grills and outdoor areas. Before your spring and summer parties begin, ensure your outside areas are safe and any devices are in working order. If you have a gas grill, check the propane tank for leaks by brushing a 50-50 solution of water and liquid dish detergent onto the gas valve, hose and regulator. Turn the tank on slowly and look for soap bubbles.
Be on the lookout for bugs. Mosquitoes, ticks, bees, wasps and ants tend to thrive in the summer. Keep garbage bins tightly closed and away from your home, inspect your home’s exterior for deterioration, remove standing water from items in the yard and trim shrubbery around your home. It’s also a good time to get a pro to inspect your home for termites.
Maintain your air conditioner. When a unit sits idle, it can collect debris—so a bit of maintenance helps keep it running smoothly. Have a technician check the refrigerant levels to ensure they’re within the right range. Clear away leaves and grass and trim bushes near outdoor units.
Clean and inspect your deck. Stain or sealant can help extend the life of the wood on your deck. Also check for rot and fix any places where nails are sticking out.
Inspect and clean your chimney. Before fireplace season, hire an inspector to check for creosote buildup, which can create hazards and elevate the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Clean your oven and refrigerator. In addition to accumulating food scraps and dog toys, the areas behind and beneath your oven and refrigerator can collect a lot of dust, which causes them to run inefficiently and become a safety hazard. Don’t forget to vacuum the coils of your fridge, too.
Maintain your heater. Your summer home maintenance checklist focuses on your air conditioner, so late fall is a good time for a pro to maintain your heater.
Clear your gutters. Once the leaves have fallen, hire a pro to clean your gutters. This will prevent standing water from freezing in them—and causing bigger problems—once winter arrives.
Insulate exposed pipes. Do this before the temperature drops below 32 degrees. (Most hardware stores have pipe insulation.) Don’t forget to drain outdoor hoses and insulate faucets.
Check weather-stripping. If you notice cold air around closed windows and doors, consider replacing the weather-stripping. For help finding drafts, carefully hold a lit candle along your windows, baseboards and entryways. If you see the candle flame flicker, you’ve found a draft.
Stock up on winter supplies. Depending on where you live, supplies could include a snow shovel, ice pick, salt, salt spreader and fuel if you have a snowblower or generator. Make sure your flashlight batteries are working and that you have blankets and nonperishable food items.
Keep clutter away from space heaters. Space heaters cause an estimated 25,000 residential fires each year, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Always keep a generous radius around them (at least 3 feet) that’s clear of clothes, furniture, bedding and other flammable materials. Check your heater for a damaged cord or loose connections.
Pay attention after winter storms. When it’s safe, examine the outside of your home after big winter storms. Inspect the roof, gutters and downspouts for damage that could let water seep into your home or become worse during the next storm.
Run your ceiling fans in reverse. This actually helps heat your home. Your fan’s blades are angled, which helps to force air up or down—based on the direction the blades are moving. During the winter, your blades should move clockwise (or reverse), so cooler air rises and warmer air is forced down. On most fans, a switch does the work for you. And after you flip the switch, wipe your fan’s blades with a dry cloth. Then, for warmer weather, flip the switch back.