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How to Maintain Your Home


Owning a home is a wonderful thing. The maintenance? Not so much. Keeping your home in top shape is important for a variety of reasons; health, safety, and financial. It’s never too late to learn some basic repair skills—and to also know when to leave the work to a professional!

Maintaining Your Kitchen

Keep Your Kitchen Sink Clean

DIY: Clean your garbage disposal. To keep those blades sharp and running smoothly, once a month toss a handful of ice cubes in. Want to freshen up a stinky drain? Freeze vinegar in an ice cube tray and throw those in. Vinegar is an excellent and non-toxic deodorizer!

Call a Pro: If water refuses to drain, or you find leaks under your sink, call a pro. You may have a damaged pipe, or a clog that is too far down to be dislodged easily.

Make Sure Fire Extinguishers Are Intact

DIY: Make sure your fire extinguisher is in an easy-to-locate spot, the locking pin is intact and the tamper seal hasn’t been broken. Check for corrosion, leakage, or other damage.

Call a Pro: If you find corrosion or the pressure is low, it’s time for a new one. You don’t need a pro—but you do need a replacement!

Check Refrigerator Seals

DIY: Check the door seals to make sure yours close tightly. Twice a year, pull the machine away from the wall to reveal the condenser coils (usually located in the back). Unplug your fridge, and vacuum with a brush attachment to keep your unit running efficiently.

Call a Pro: If you doors aren’t closing tightly, you might need to have your seals replaced. Leaks, your ice maker refusing to make ice, and a fridge that isn’t cold are all problems that warrant a call to a pro.

Stop Stove/Oven Buildup

DIY: Clean the interior of your oven three or four times a year. You have a filter in your range hood; soaking this in a degreaser mixed with hot water should do the trick. Clean racks by soaking in the sink and then scrubbing thoroughly. Broiler pans can be cleaned with a non-abrasive cleaning solution. Try to catch drips or spills early so they don’t turn into burned, stinky messes!

Call a Pro: No heat, running hot, or a door that won’t open may call for a pro. Same if you have a gas oven and the igniter will not light; a sensor or electronic control may be faulty.

Remove Dishwasher Water Blockage

DIY: Mold is your enemy. Wipe down the door of the dishwasher regularly, especially around the top and bottom. Clean the filter (located at the bottom of the unit). Check spray holes for blockages due to food or mineral buildup; these can usually be unblocked with a pipe cleaner or sewing needle.

Call a Pro: It’s time to call for help if your filter is damaged, the spray arms aren’t functioning, you find a leak, or if it isn’t dispensing the detergent. 

Home Maintenance in the Basement

HVAC Systems

DIY:  Change filters monthly, especially if you have allergy-sufferers in the family. This process typically only a takes a few minutes, and can make a difference in efficiency.

Call a Pro: If it’s making noises or you detect a strange odor, call a pro! You won’t want to deal with a leak, and if your unit goes out entirely, chances are it won’t be something you can fix on your own.

Keep Your Clothes Washer and Dryer In Working Shape

DIY: Open the door on top-loaders to facilitate air circulation and prevent mold. Front-loaders might need to be cleaned periodically; there are products made specifically for this purpose (check manufacturer’s instructions first). Clean the lint out of the dryer filter after every load.  Make sure your washing machine is level. At least once a year, remove and clean out the entire exhaust duct line from the dryer to the exterior of your house; clogged ducts are a huge fire hazard!

Call a Pro: Call a pro if your washer springs a leak, or if your dryer fails to produce heat. Both of these are typically signs of more serious damage. Leaking washers can spill gallons of water, and a malfunctioning dryer can present a fire hazard. Better safe than sorry!

Maintaining the Outside of Your Home

Clean the Gutters

DIY: Clean these out regularly, at least twice a year—spring and fall are prime time for debris to end up on your roof. Blocked gutters can lead to water damage in and around your home. Look for leaks and make sure downspouts are leading water well away from your foundation.

Call a Pro: Loose or leaky gutters make require replacing. A pro will have the equipment the average homeowner may not to access high, steep roofs.

Look Inside the Chimney

DIY: Fireplaces can be wonderfully cozy, but they need to be maintained regularly to ensure safety and energy efficiency. Check the outside for obstructions or leakage. Ensure your chimney cap, which keeps animals, rainwater, and debris out of your chimney, is firmly in place. Make sure that tree branches don’t hang over the structure, where they could cause damage in the event of a storm. Burn only seasoned wood.

Call a Pro: Have your chimney cleaned at least once a year. A pro has the equipment to do this safely and cleanly. A pro can keep creosote buildup under control, and they are the best option for handling blockages and ensuring your chimney doesn’t become a fire hazard!

Check for Cracks in Concrete Driveways and Sidewalks

DIY: Inspect regularly (especially in the spring) for signs of cracks or heaving. All exterior slabs should drain away from your home’s foundation. Fill cracks with a concrete crack filler or silicone caulk. Regularly power-wash and seal concrete.

Call a Pro: Concrete that is badly pitted or cracked should be replaced to prevent trips and falls. You’ll want a pro to do this to ensure the resulting job is level and keeps water draining away from your home.

Trim the Trees and Shrubs

DIY: Regularly trim these back from your house. Remove dead shrubbery promptly to cut down on potential water damage and unwanted critters. Check to ensure that all trees and shrubs appear healthy, without excessive dead branches. Use clean trimmers and cutters to prevent the spread of plant diseases. Keep tools sharp to prevent them from damaging bark.

Call a Pro: A professional can confirm if a tree is dead or dying; if it is, it should be removed promptly. A pro can trim large branches that overhang your home; such jobs usually require specialized safety equipment, like harnesses. Leave the climbing to them! A professional will also know what time of year is optimal for trimming particular varieties, and is also best equipped to know what can stay, and what is better off as firewood!

Clean Debris Around Your Foundation

DIY: Inspect regularly for cracks. Make sure soil slopes away from your foundation. Make sure the screens on foundation vents are in good repair and free of debris.

Call a Pro: Cracks or buckling are something you definitely want to call a pro on! They can determine the extent of the damage, and what needs to be done.  A pro can brace a foundation, and a replacement? Definitely too big a job for even the most ambitious DIY-er.

Check Garage Door Sensors

DIY: Put it in manual mode and lift it; it should open smoothly and stay open on its own at least three feet from the ground. Test sensors by putting a small object (like a cardboard box) underneath the open door, then close it. Does it pop up as soon as it gets close to the obstacle?

Call a Pro: Does your garage fail either of these tests? Then you’re going to have to call a pro. If the garage door doesn’t lift smoothly in manual mode, it probably needs counter-balanced. And if the door closes on a pet or child-sized object, you need a pro to replace it as soon as possible.

Replace Sump Pump Cords and Hoses

DIY: Check at least once a year to ensure that your sump pump is plugged in, the power cord is in good shape (no fraying or crimps), and the drain hose is connected properly. You can test your sump pump by pouring water into the sump pump pit. Does it start up automatically and drain the water? Installing a battery backup is something most home owners can do on their own, and it can be a huge help if your power goes out during a storm.

Call a Pro: If your sump pump isn’t draining, call a pro. Whether it’s a blockage or an electrical issue, you don’t want to leave anything to chance. 

Small repairs and maintenance checks can save you big in the long run. By keeping up with these regular maintenance items, you can keep your home in top shape for years to come! And to ensure that your home—and the things that matter most to you—are protected, contact your agent.