I walked through the door of my first home when I was four years old. The paint was fresh, there were flowers in the window boxes, and my grandpa had just laid fresh linoleum down after replacing the roof. I had a clean slate. The house was about twenty feet square in total, and the kitchen was Fisher Price brand. My playhouse was pretty neat. It had electricity and even a doorbell which I would ignore every time my cousin rang because he just wanted to play Ninja Turtles instead of practicing grocery shopping. Maintenance and repairs weren’t my problem in those days. My mom and my grandparents handled all of the heavy lifting.
A couple of years ago, I checked out the old playhouse while visiting my grandparents. I was surprised how tiny it really felt, and I noticed that the paint was worn, the flower boxes broken, and the linoleum was turning up in the corners. Deferred maintenance has turned my first home into a DIY’ers dream project, but my little playhouse is a warning, a canary in the coal mine if you will. My current home is a bit bigger, and I had to sign a mortgage agreement to pay for it. My mom and grandpa won’t be donating linoleum, time, effort, or sconces to spruce these digs up any time soon. The burden is mine to bear. Well, mine and my husband’s I should say.
Luckily, my husband and I know the importance of routine maintenance. Little things that can be handled quickly, easily, and for minimal out of pocket costs can add up when deferred and balloon into big-ticket home maintenance costs that aren’t fun. So how do homeowners avoid deferred maintenance coming back to haunt them? To keep things simple, we’ve devised a plan that is easy to follow for everyone, including brand-new homeowners without experience. Whether you complete these home maintenance tasks on your own or call a professional (some things are better left to the pros) you can keep your home in tip-top shape.
Avoiding Deferred Maintenance
Deferred maintenance can turn nightmarish in a hurry. When considering where to start as you assess your home and choose which projects to address sooner rather than later, keep in mind the cost of replacement versus repair. To repair or service a water heater or HVAC can prove to be more affordable than total replacement. Some of the mechanical components of these two items can be the most expensive in the home, so preventing replacement is in your best interest. Routine maintenance in conjunction with regular inspection of key components in the home can extend the life of those items3 for years past their expected lifespan.
Once a month, you are probably already changing your AC filters. Make a habit of adding one or two preventative home maintenance tasks to your list to complete at the same time as changing filters. Before you know it, you’ll have a routine down that will feel easy, and you’ll be saving money in the long run. You can customize your list and include items that will lengthen the lifespan of major household components, items that have cosmetic and functional value, and even items that are safety related. For example, an easy to accomplish task is cleaning out the dryer vents;2 this task can not only keep your appliance running properly but can also help you avoid a fire! We’ve separated our list into two categories: seasonal and a general list of five home maintenance tips that are simple. Pick the items you can feasibly achieve and start building your list!
5 Home Maintenance Tips
Starting small by completing minor home repairs is the best way to keep your home in tip-top shape year-round. When building out your preventative maintenance schedule, start by adding tasks that are simple and doable for your financial situation and physical abilities. Keep adding items until you’re able to accomplish everything you feel is necessary. You’ve got this!
Check for and Repair Leaks
When you change your filter each month, take a moment to look under each sink to find any new leaks5 that can be repaired. Turn the water on and leave it running for a bit; then look under the sink at the pipes and connections to see if any water is coming out. Check for water stains or signs of past leaks. If anything seems out of the ordinary and you’re able to take on the repair, go for it! If you’re unable to complete the task on your own, call a friend to help or a plumber. Do not take on a water leak repair if you’re not confident that you can complete it properly as this could cause more damage. A few dollars spent now, though, will save you from major home maintenance costs in the long run.
Service your HVAC
Every year, have a professional come by to service your HVAC and make any necessary repairs. Spending a small amount each year on HVAC preventative maintenance gives you extra time before you have to replace the HVAC altogether. Keep in mind that you will eventually have to replace the unit, but a good unit can last for a long time giving you the opportunity to save up for that expense. Shop around for a reasonably priced professional who holds all licenses required by your state. Always check out reviews and find someone to do the work who has a great track record.
Service Your Water Heater
Fun fact: Did you know that a lot of people incorrectly call a water heater a hot water heater? The water heater is making the water hot, but it’s not heating hot water. I hope that made you smile. You can keep smiling if you make sure your water heater is in shape year after year by having the unit serviced by a professional. What that service will entail may depend on the water in your area. For example, in an area with hard water, the recommendation may be slightly different than in an area where the water is soft. Lean on the pros in your area to guide you, and of course look for someone with a stellar reputation to do the preventative maintenance on a water heater!
Keep an Eye on Your Roof
When you own the roof over your head, it’s vitally important that you keep an eye on that roof to ensure it keeps you warm and dry. Periodically checking your roof for missing or damaged shingles and flashing are recommended no matter what. However, if a storm has recently swept through your area, you’ll want to check things out immediately following the weather event. Ensure that all of the shingles are secured to the roof properly and there is no major, visible damage. After a storm, checking things out in the attic can be a great idea as well because you can identify leaks before they become a bigger problem. If you do not have a safe way to view the roof from the ground, consider contacting a professional. Many roofers will provide free assessments. It’s very important to pick a roofer with excellent reviews and a stellar track record to ensure you’re getting accurate information during one of these free assessments, though. A little research about roofing is in order if you’re a first-time homeowner. You want to make sure you’re only agreeing to repairs that are necessary to keep your roof in order.
As with checking out the roof, you should only attempt to clean your gutters out if it’s safe for you to do so. A few weeks ago, my mom got a call from my grandma’s neighbor saying she was out on a ladder cleaning out her gutters. While grandma has the right idea because cleaning gutters prior to the rainy season is always advisable, doing the job safely is a must. If you’re physically able, cleaning out the gutters can be kind of fun. Make sure you also check for damaged flashing while you’re up there and check for any missing caulking. Keeping your gutters clean ensures good drainage during a storm which can prevent issues with your roof, your foundation, siding, and windows! Water is a home’s worst enemy in many ways, so ensuring things keep flowing properly is paramount to keeping your home in good shape for years to come and avoiding home maintenance costs that are out of your budget.
Seasonal Home Maintenance
Some items should be on your preventative home maintenance list year-round meaning every season you should repeat the task. These items include basics like checking your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors, inspecting for major issues that are easy to spot, making sure your yard is maintained, etc. Some items should be checked and remediated seasonally to prevent damage to major home components when the weather changes.
- Clean up the yard6 and remove any debris from around the house.
- Take a look around. Walk all around your house and just look for anything that looks off. This is a great time to find missing or worn-out caulking, issues with windows, holes that need to be filled to keep critters out, or visible damage that happened during the harsh winter months.
- Clean those gutters!
- Bring out the pressure washer6 and clean the outside of your home, driveways, and porches.
- Prep your HVAC for the warmer months. This is the perfect time to handle servicing of your HVAC system by a professional. HVAC preventative maintenance is truly important year after year!
- Spring clean with a purpose. Make sure that everything is in tip-top shape while you clean and organize.
- Summer is a great time to tackle any larger projects you might have on your list. Stain the fence, paint the house, repair the deck, or just keep the yard and grounds looking like a landscaper's dream. Any of this work can pay off big time by preventing wear and tear on your home that will eventually call for renovation instead of repair.
- Keep bugs at bay.6 Hire a pro to handle any pest control and keep them away from your home. A great way to prevent termites is by removing wood piles or keeping them away from your home. Summer is a great time to reassess your wood pile situation and call in professionals if needed.
- Prep for winter by insulating and wrapping exposed plumbing1 and pipes as needed.
- Hire a pro to assess and repair your fireplace1 as needed. Fire safety is extremely important and keeping your fireplace in good working order will prevent safety hazards during the winter months.
- Check caulking and weather stripping.
- Rid your carpets of all the summertime running around and tracking in dirt and debris with a carpet cleaning by a pro1 or DIY!
- Bring in or buy wood for winter fireplace use.6
- Cover the AC unit to prevent damage during winter storms.
- Purchase any replacement tools needed to prepare for shoveling snow and handling icy sidewalks or driveways.
- Periodically check for leaks or damages
Paying for Home Maintenance
Paying for home repairs can be stressful enough to require popping a few tums before opening your wallet. The costs associated with replacing a major mechanical component can be thousands of dollars, and even seemingly small repairs can be costly. Ideally, creating a savings account to pay for repairs will help you handle any expenses that you incur over the years. Savings can be hard, though, and preparing for a large bill is extra difficult when you’re left with very little money each month to divvy up to meet various savings goals. A home warranty4 is one way to prepare for major home maintenance costs that is less expensive than saving up for the repairs yourself. You pay a few hundred dollars a year for the warranty plan, and then you pay a service fee if you have a repair done. There are pros and cons, but it’s an option if saving thousands of dollars per year for repairs isn’t feasible for your financial situation. If you run into a major home repair that requires immediate attention, it can feel overwhelming and a little scary when there aren’t funds to cover the bill. CheckSmart is here to help when an emergency arises, and an Installment Loan may be the right choice for your situation when facing a large repair bill. Installment Loans from CheckSmart are paid back in payments over a set period and can provide the flexibility needed to handle an emergency without disrupting your day-to-day life and budget significantly. After paying back your installment loan quickly and according to your payment schedule, you can start putting a little money back monthly to handle the next home repair emergency. Installment loans are not available in all states, so make sure you double check availability in your area prior to application if you determine an installment loan is right for you. Completing regular preventive home maintenance isn’t the most exciting activity, but it can save you in the long run. Create a plan and start implementing it as soon as possible—you'll have peace of mind knowing your home is in the best shape possible!
1Bennett, Jessica (2023, Mar 9). The Ultimate Home Maintenance Checklist for Every Season Retrieved from: https://www.bhg.com/home-improvement/advice/home-maintenance-checklist/
2Family Handyman (2023, Apr 27). 10 Vital Home Maintenance Tasks You’ll Regret If You Forget Retrieved from: https://www.familyhandyman.com/list/vital-home-maintenance-tasks-youll-regret-if-you-forget/
3Somers, Jeff (2022, Aug 1). The True Costs of Deferred Home Maintenance Retrieved from: https://lifehacker.com/the-true-costs-of-deferred-home-maintenance-1849355574
4Weston, Liz CFP (2022, Jul 28). How to Budget Realistically for Home Repairs Retrieved from: https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/finance/how-to-budget-realistically-for-home-repairs
5Kat Hodgins, Caitlin Castelaz, and Jennifer Noonan 50 Things Every Homeowner Should Know How to Do Retrieved from: https://www.bobvila.com/slideshow/50-things-every-homeowner-should-know-how-to-do-46782
6Kaysen, Ronda The Annual Home Maintenance Checklist Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/guides/realestate/home-maintenance-checklist
Jessica PriceRead More from Jessica Price
Jessica is hyper-focused on making information about the Personal Loans offered by CheckSmart including Payday Loans, Installment Loans, Line of Credit, and Title Loans accessible and easy to understand. Learning the basics about finances shouldn’t be complicated after all! The key to responsible borrowing is understanding the loans you’re considering, and it’s Jessica’s mission to help anyone considering a loan make an informed decision. Jessica is passionate about sharing easy-to-follow Budgeting Tips and helping readers increase their financial literacy in the Financial Corner of the blog. You’ll find great budgeting tips, Simplified Savings tips, and information that will help you improve your financial wellness sprinkled throughout each of her blogs.