Preventive Home Maintenance Checkup
Your home can't take care of itself. Your monthly
budget should include money for routine maintenance and repair for the house and
yard. Plan to set money aside for the large, irregular expenses that occur
normally as a house ages. Large expenses include interior and exterior painting,
repairs or replacement of heating and air conditioning units and appliances,
floor coverings, and roof surfaces.
Housing experts recommend setting aside 1 to 3 percent
of the market value of your house each year to pay for maintenance and repair
costs. While all of these funds may not be needed if your home is new, the
accumulated amounts will help you pay for large future expenses, such as
re-roofing or replacing a heating unit.
Home maintenance helps provide a healthy, safe
environment as it protects your growing financial investment. It is much easier
to prevent the development of unsafe, unhealthy conditions and structural damage
than to pay medical or repair bills or both.
Who is responsible for home maintenance?
The home owner is responsible for what is owned. (Check your owner agreement if
you live in a condominium or townhouse.)
Why should you do regular home maintenance?
- To maintain the value of the property.
- A well-maintained home usually sells more readily
and usually brings a higher price.
- A well-maintained house is more comfortable.
- Regular care minimizes unexpected repair work and
- Regular small repairs keep costs from becoming
- A lender's agreement usually requires the owner to
maintain the property to protect the lender's financial interest.
What is involved in home maintenance?
Cleaning roof and gutters, cleaning or painting outside wall surfaces, cleaning
floors and walls, vacuuming carpet, keeping sink and shower drains running
What is involved in home repair?
Replacing broken glass in windows or doors, replacing warped or worn shingles,
repairing a cracked or heaved sidewalk or driveway, replacing worn out faucets,
repairing a broken stair rail, etc.
How often should you do maintenance and repairs?
Maintenance and repairs should be done as soon as the need appears. This
sooner-the-better practice helps prevent further damage and keeps repair costs
down. At least once every 6 months, inspect your house and yard thoroughly to
identify items needing work.
Who should do the maintenance and repairs?
The home owner who does his or her own maintenance and repairs saves money. Use
the following sources to learn how to do your own maintenance and repairs:
- Manufacturer's use and care booklet and care guides
from repair and cleaning products used.
- Extension leaflets on maintenance and repairs.
- Do-it-yourself (DIY) publications often available
free in builder supply or hardware stores.
- Home maintenance/repair books and videos in the
public libraries or stores.
- An experienced neighbor or friend.
If you are not able to do the work, hire a qualified,
experienced repair person. Ask friends for personal recommendations. Check the
telephone book, neighborhood newspapers, or special advertisements to find a
reputable repair person. Ask for written estimates, and do not pay in advance
for maintenance or repair services.
Include a maintenance/repair category in your monthly
budget. If you do not need the money in a particular month, put it in a savings
account for the periodic, expensive repairs that will happen as a house ages.
Inspect your house regularly. Develop a system where
you inspect one area per month to ensure regular inspection of each area. Start
at the foundation of the house and work upward and inward. The following list of
areas to check may help. For more information, see
Inspecting a House.
FOUNDATIONS, BASEMENTS, and YARDS
- Water that strikes the house or drips down from the
roof should drain away from the foundation walls. The gutter and downspout
system should keep water from pooling around the foundation where it can
create a moisture problem. Be sure gutters and downspouts are kept open and in
- Trim shrubs and bushes away from the foundation
walls. Clearance space should be at least one foot.
- Check masonry foundation walls for cracks or
weakened, crumbling mortar.
- Examine main support beams, support columns, and
floor joists for evidence of bowing or warping.
- Check wood structural members, such as joists,
beams, and columns, with a screwdriver or pocket knife to be sure wood is
solid and free from decay.
- Check the inside and outside of all foundation walls
and piers for termite tubes and damage. You may choose to have an
insect-control company to do this each year.
- Check that the crawl space vapor barrier is in good
condition and placed correctly. A vapor barrier is usually a polyethylene
material (6-mil) that covers 70 to 100 percent of the crawl space, depending
on the severity of the moisture problem.
- Examine the inside of basement walls for dampness or
water stains indicating seepage or a leak.
- In most of North Carolina, water lines and outside
faucets need some freeze protection or winter drainage. In addition, garden
hoses should be drained and stored for the winter.
- Clean leaves and debris from around an outside
heating/air conditioning condenser and trim back shrubs that may block air
movement around the house.
- Yard care power equipment should be drained of fuel
in the late fall or early winter and serviced according to manufacturer's
- Doorways, below grade window wells, and storm drains
should be cleaned of debris or leaves.
- Driveways and walks should be checked for cracks,
breaks, or erosion that may damage them. If asphalt surfaces need repairing,
be certain you have the equipment and skill to do a lasting repair job.
Otherwise, choose a reputable contractor. Unrepaired cracks in concrete can
lead to further damage.
- Clean and repair garden equipment after the last use
of the season. Remove dirt and rust, then store in dry area. Winter is a good
time to file rough spots on hoes and shovels and to apply linseed oil to
handles of garden tools. Thoroughly rinse pesticide and herbicide sprayers to
prevent clogging, and rinse fertilizer spreaders to prevent corrosion.
- A septic tank needs periodic attention. Learn how to
check for sludge and scum accumulation in the tank, and have solids pumped out
of the tank as needed.
- Fences, gates, and retaining walls should be checked
for ease of operation, condition of structure, and materials. Make repairs as
EXTERIOR WALLS, WINDOWS, and DOORS
- Check bricks or blocks for cracked mortar or loose
- Check siding for loose or missing pieces, lifting or
warping, or any sign of mildew.
- Check painted surfaces for paint failure (peeling,
chipping, blistering, chalking), water damage, or mildew.
- Examine all trim for tightness of fit, damage, or
- Check the condition of caulking where two different
materials meet, such as where wood siding joins the foundation wall, at inside
corners, and where window and door trim meets the siding.
- Check the windows for cracked or broken glass, loose
putty around the glass panes, holes in screens, and evidence of moisture
between pane and storm windows.
- Check that windows and doors close properly. Examine
all hardware on windows and doors, and lubricate moving parts.
- Check weatherstripping on windows and doors for
damage and tightness of fit.
- Make sure that all window and door locks work
properly. Each exterior door should have a one-inch deadbolt lock for safety.
- Trim back tree branches that scrape against or
overhang the roof. Keep branches away from chimney to avoid fire hazard and
allow proper draft for safe and efficient chimney operation.
- Check for curled, damaged, loose, or missing
- Check the lower edge of roof sheathing for water
- Examine all roof flashing and the flashing around
chimneys, vent stacks, roof edges, dormers, and skylights.
- Make sure that the chimney cover (cap) is in good
condition, and that it is tall enough to prevent creosote build-up.
- Check vents and louvers for free air movement. Clean
screens and remove bird nests, spiders, insects, and dust.
- If there are wind turbines on the roof, check ball
bearings. Clear gable vents of bird's nests and other obstructions.
- Check for damaged gutters, downspouts, hangers, and
strainers. If needed, clean out gutters and downspouts. Make sure they are
free from leaks and rust.
- Check the condition of paint on gutters.
- Examine television antenna guy wires and support
- Check all ceilings and walls for cracks, loose or
failing plaster, signs of leaks or stains, dirt, and finish damage.
- Check for cracks where ceilings join walls and where
moldings attach to ceilings and walls.
- Check for odor or visible evidence of mildew or
- Check for finish damage around cabinet pulls.
- Examine all joints in ceramic tiles and laminated
plastics for adequate caulking. Have any of the tiles cracked or become
- Check caulking around sinks, bathtubs, and showers.
Some types of caulking become brittle with age, and therefore useless as a
water seal. Replace with a long-lasting resilient caulking material, such as
silicone or latex.
- Check all floors for wear and damage. Are the floors
level, bowed, or do they squeak when you walk on them? Particularly check
where one type of flooring material meets another, such as where carpet or
wood joins tile.
- Check stairs for loose treads, handrails, or
carpeting, and repair as needed.
ELECTRICAL SYSTEMS and FIXTURES
- Check the condition of lamp cords, extension cords,
and plugs. Also examine the appliance cords and plugs of vacuums, irons,
mixers, washers, and dryers.
- Check for exposed wires and signs of wear in the
"service box." If you have a fuse that blows often or a circuit breaker that
trips frequently, call an electrician to determine the cause and make the
repair. Mark each circuit so that you will know what outlets or appliances are
included on each.
- If you experience a slight tingling shock when
handling or inspecting any appliance or lamp, disconnect the appliance and
- Check places where wiring is exposed, such as in the
attic. Look for exposed wires and wires with cracked insulation. Replace those
in poor condition.
- If you have ground fault circuit interrupters
(GFCIs) in outlets near sinks, the laundry, the shop, and the garage, check
the GFCIs monthly and after an electrical storm.
- Check that all appliance cords are in good
HEATING and COOLING SYSTEMS
- Have heating and cooling systems checked by a
qualified serviceperson once a year or according to the manufacturer's
warranty and service recommendations. Failure to do manufacturer-recommended
servicing may void warranties.
- Clean or replace filters. Check your owner's manual
for recommended procedures. Some filters should be replaced as often as once a
- Clean dirt and dust from around furnaces, air
grills, and ducts.
- Regularly clean out fireplace ash pit.
- Have the chimney checked each fall before you use
it. A build up of creosote and soot can be very dangerous. If you use your
fireplace or woodstove regularly, a yearly cleaning is recommended. Seek help
from professional fire fighters or chimney inspectors if you have any doubt
about the chimney safety.
- Check the attic to be sure that insulation or other
material is not blocking free air flow through soffit vents, gable vents, or
other attic vents. If light from the outside shines through each vent into a
darkened attic, then the vents are clear.
- Check faucet and hose connections under sinks and
toilets. Look for leaks at shut-off valves at sinks, toilets, laundry
equipment, and main water shut-off valve.
- Is the water pressure adequate? Do all the drains
- In a basement or crawl space house, pull back floor
insulation to check for leaks and wood damage around water supply pipes,
drains, and water closet.
- Check sinks, tubs, and showers for proper drainage.
Remove hair from drains. When necessary, use a snake or plumber's friend to
unstop drains--or call a plumber.
- Check the pressure relief valve on the water heater.
Open it to see that it is working. Check for signs of leaking or rusting. Some
manufacturers recommend that a small amount of water be drained periodically
from the tank.
- Test smoke alarm and heat alarm systems at least
monthly. Replace old batteries.
- Keep a fire extinguisher handy for use in kitchen
and near any wood-burning stove or fireplace. Check the extinguisher gauge for
- Keep flashlight(s) handy and in operating condition.
- Keep outside security lighting in good repair.
Lighting exterior grounds helps discourage prowlers.
Regular inspection and maintenance of your home will
help you keep the house in good condition and maintain its value. Doing
maintenance and repair as the need arises also keeps small problems from
becoming bigger, more costly problems. Having and following a plan for home
maintenance and repair will make the job easier. And finally, a well-maintained
house will be more comfortable.
The checklist below can help you identify areas where
work may be needed. Make note of anything that needs work. When the work is
completed, add the cost and date. For information on how to make repairs or
handle maintenance, contact your county extension center.
INSPECTION CHECKLIST (INSIDE)
- Heating/Cooling System
- Hot Water Heater
- Stone or Brickwork
- Storm Windows/Doors