Just about everything we buy comes with a manual. Car? Check. Televison? Yup. Camera? No doubt. But the one thing we buy that doesn't come with a manual of any kind is precisely the purchase that needs one the most — a new house. There's a ton of content to cover here for one post, so today I'll do my best to sum up all the regular maintenance your house needs that no one cared to tell you about before.
I got my first home about two years ago (almost to the day actually). To say it has been a learning experience would be an understatement. Just when I think I have things figured out, BAM! something else breaks or needs attention — in fact, I'm betting something new happens precisely when this post goes live.
There's quite a bit of not-so-obvious maintenance needs for your home, and you likely won't realize they were being neglected until things break — boy, do things break. I compiled a list of home maintenance items you likely didn't know you had to do, and also a scheduled maintenance chart next to each item. Put them in your Google Calendar, iCal or whatever you prefer so you won't forget them — and remember don't feed the magui's after midnight.
• Clean A/C Drainage Pipes - Make a calendar entry once a year
If you have an outdoor A/C unit and indoor furnace there are two pipes you want to clean, one indoors and one out. The outdoor one can be cleaned using a wet-dry shop-vac. Simply attach the vac to the end of the hose and turn on to suck and dislodge any grime and buildup. The one indoors can be cleaned with some hot water. Simply find the tube, and flush with hot water to remove any sludge.
• Flush Hot Water Heater - Make a calendar entry once a year
Hot water heaters are subject to buildup from minerals in the water. You can extend the life of these units and prevent future problems by draining them and flushing out any deposits. This how-to video from This Old House will get you on your way.
• Lubricate Garage Door Springs - Make a calendar entry once a year
Yup, those large metal springs hanging directly above the garage door need annual lubrication. There is a lot of tension and stress from pulling the weight of the door and extreme weather conditions can weaken the metal, causing the springs to eventually break. Oil these springs, along with the hinges and metal rollers (not nylon) with a non-silicone based lubricant to keep problems at bay.
• Aerate Lawn - Make a calendar entry once a year
If you want a healthy lawn, yearly aeration is something you'll want to look into. What this maintenance basically does is let your lawn breathe by pulling out inch-long plugs from the soil. Fertilizers and nutrients are more quickly absorbed in the soil and the root structure of grasses will improve. Aeration also can reduce how much water your lawn needs, as it improves the overall efficiency of the soil.
• Sharpen Lawnmower Blade(s) - Make a calendar entry once a year
A freshly sharpened blade can lead to better lawn health by making clean cuts to the grass blades. A clean cut leaves your grass less prone to sun damage and parasites. Simply detach your lawnmower blade and take it to a local lawn mower shop. They'll happily sharpen the blade for around $10.
• Seal your Tile Grout - Make a calendar entry every 6 months
I thought this was just an old-home problem (like mine) but turns out this is an issue for new homes and hotels too. In fact, if you're moving into a new home (even a brand new one) the first thing you may want to do is seal your tile grout. This will prevent moisture from seeping in and making a environment for mold to grow. Be sure to let your bathroom fan or humidifier run after each shower to dry out the area. Mold is the worst, and once it sets in, it becomes even more of a maintenance hassle to inhibit. Don't leave this one out.
• Clear A/C unit Grills + Coils of Debris - Make a calendar entry every 6 months
An outdoor A/C unit is subject to a lot of elements. Make sure to check it twice a year, clearing the grills and coils of any debris, dirt, or brush. The more clean you keep things here, the less work your A/C has to do, and the longer it will last. Trust me, replacing an A/C is no fun.
• Change Air Filters - Make a calender entry every other month
This one's still tough for me to abide by, but it's important for the same reason as keeping the AC grills clean. A fresh filter will ease the workload of your AC and will improve the air quality in your house — this is especially important if you're sensitive to any allergens in your region. Buy a year's supply of filters and keep them in a closet next to the A/C. Then next time it needs a change, you're just a 3-minute swap away from freshness.
• Air Dry Front-loading Washer Doors and Detergent Bins - Regularly
OK, you might not want a calendar entry for this, but instead make a mental note to do this after every use of the washer. Front-loading washers, though more efficient, are more prone to mold and mildew. This is due to the tight seal the machines make to keep water from seeping out the front during a wash. Turns out that seal does such a good job of keeping water in that mold and mildew problems are introduced. To prevent this, allow things to air dry by leaving the doors and detergent bins open.
• Clean Dishwasher Drain Bin - Make a calendar entry monthly
There is a drain at the bottom of your dishwasher that'll collect all the little bits of food that get power-washed off your plates and glasses. Eventually all those can accumulate and clog the drain. Make sure to lift up and clean out any buildup that accumulates to keep your dishwasher and drain from backing up.
Whew, quite a list, but those are about all of the home maintenance issues I've encountered in my personal adventures in home ownership.
Did I miss any important ones?