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NEW CLIENT: First-Time Homeowners' Guide to Maintenance and Repairs for All Seasons

Townhouses in Northern, IL

Owning a home can be a source of great pride, but it's also a big investment that comes with big responsibilities. If you've never owned your own home before, you may be unaware of all of the maintenance that's required to keep a house in good shape. Some maintenance tasks are routine ones that should be addressed monthly, but many are seasonal needs. Following an organized checklist can help you to ensure that everything in your new home stays in good working order.

Before You Move In

Once you close on your new home, give yourself a little time before moving day to get familiar with its condition and make sure that you're starting with a clean slate.

  • Find the Electrical Panel and Water Shut-Off: You may need to turn off the power to part of your home or cut the water supply at some point while you own the home. Take the time now to find your electrical panel and check which switches go to which parts of the house. Then, locate your water shut-off valve, which is usually inside the house near the point where the water supply enters from the street or well.
  • Check for Smoke Detectors: Make sure that the house has enough smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and that all of them are functional.
  • Change the Locks: You never know who might have had copies of the key to your house before you moved in. One of the first things you should do after closing is to swap out the locks and have new keys made.
  • Replace Your Air Filter: Look near your furnace to find the air filter, then replace it with a new one.
  • Deep-Clean Everything: Now is the time to make sure that everything is clean, before you start moving in furniture. Shampoo the carpets, sweep the floors, dust all of the nooks and crannies, clean all of the appliances, and scrub the baseboards and walls.

Monthly Maintenance

Keep tabs on the major systems of your home by giving them a regular checkup every month.

  • Inspect Your Vents: Make sure that heat registers and air vents aren't blocked by anything, and vacuum them to keep dust from recirculating in your home.
  • Check the HVAC Filters: Most HVAC filters will need to be replaced every month or two.
  • Take a Look at the Water Heater and Softener: Check the temperature and pressure of your hot water tank, and inspect it for leaks. If you have a water softener, give that a look, too, to make sure that the salt is in good shape.
  • Clean the Garbage Disposal: You'd be surprised how gross your garbage disposal can get inside, and mold and bacteria can build up quickly in there. Once a month, unplug your disposal, then give it a good cleaning with baking soda and vinegar.
  • Test the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors: Replace the batteries or the entire device as necessary.

Fall Exterior Maintenance

Now is the time to make sure that the outside of your home is ready for winter's wrath.

  • Rake the Lawn: A buildup of leaves on your lawn can encourage mold growth and invite pests.
  • Clean the Gutters: Falling leaves can quickly clog your gutters, keeping water from running off of the roof and away from the home. When freezing weather comes, this can lead to ice dams that damage your roof.
  • Turn Off Outside Water Taps: Leaving your exterior water valves open can cause the pipes to freeze in the winter.
  • Close the Pool: If you have a swimming pool, now is the time to winterize it and cover it up.

Fall Interior Maintenance

Prepare your home for heating season before the first freeze.

  • Have Your Furnace Serviced: Call a professional in to make sure that your heating system is ready to keep your toasty all winter.
  • Have Your Dryer Vent Cleaned: If your dryer vent gets clogged, it can cause a fire. A clogged vent can also reduce the efficiency of your dryer.
  • Check Windows and Doors for Air Leaks: Now is the time to seal up any cracks or gaps that could let cold air into your home.
  • Get Your Chimney Checked: If you have a fireplace, call a chimney sweep to make sure that it's clean and safe to use.

Winter Exterior Maintenance

Keep snow and ice from damaging your home and potentially your own health.

  • Cover the Air Conditioner: Put a cover on the air conditioner as soon as you're done using it for the season to protect it from damage over the winter.
  • Check Your Snowblower Before it Snows: The worst time to find out that your snowblower doesn't work is when there's a foot of snow in your driveway. Start it up before the first snowfall, and take it in for maintenance if necessary.
  • Stock Up on Salt and Find Your Snow Brush: Make sure that you have all of the supplies you'll need to get around safely in snowy weather.
  • Keep Your Driveway and Walkways Clear: Once the snow arrives, use a snowblower or shovel to clean it up and put down salt on any icy spots. Don't let it build up too much; the deeper the snow is and the more it gets packed down, the harder it will be to remove. It may even freeze into ice, making the pavement more treacherous to use.
  • Rake the Roof: Whenever you get more than 6 inches of snow, use a roof rake to clear it off of your roof. This will help to prevent roof damage.
  • Look Out for Icicles or Ice Dams: Keep an eye on your roof to make sure you're not getting too much ice buildup that could damage your roof.

Winter Interior Maintenance

There's not a lot of maintenance to do indoors in the winter, but it's a good time to take care of a few necessary tasks.

  • Adjust Your Ceiling Fan: Ceiling fan blades should spin clockwise in the winter to push warmer air down from the ceiling.
  • Protect Your Pipes: If you have any exposed pipes in your basement, consider insulating them. You should also keep your home's temperature above 55 degrees at all times to keep the pipes from freezing.
  • Clean Out Your Drains: Make sure that all of your sink and shower drains are clear to promote good drainage.
  • Check the Hardware on Your Cabinets and Doors: Tighten up any screws on cabinet doors, doorknobs, or hinges, and replace any hardware that's broken.

Spring Exterior Maintenance

When the snow melts, it's time to spruce up your exterior.

  • Assess the Damage: Look over your roof and take a walk around your yard to look for anything that might need fixing.
  • Clean Up Debris: Clear out your flower beds and clean the gutters.
  • Turn On Outside Water Taps: Once the last freeze has passed, it's safe to turn the water back on.
  • Scrub the Exterior of Your Home: Use a pressure washer or a hose with a scrub brush and soap to clean your siding, deck, front porch, and windows.
  • Refinish the Deck: This should be done every three years to extend the life of your deck.
  • Plan and Prepare Your Garden: After the last frost, you can begin planting seeds.

Spring Interior Maintenance

It's spring cleaning time! Get rid of the dust and get ready to invite spring breezes into your home.

  • Have Your Air Conditioner Serviced: Take the cover off of your AC unit and make sure everything's working properly before summer comes.
  • Check for Damaged Caulking: Now is a good time to inspect your bathroom and all of your windows and make any necessary repairs.
  • Deep-Clean Your Home: Work through one room at a time and from the ceiling to the floor to make sure that everything in your house is clean, including easy-to-ignore spots like behind your appliances and along the baseboards.

Summer Exterior Maintenance

Summer is time for fun in the sun, but there are a few tasks you'll need to keep on top of.

  • Open Up the Pool: If you have a swimming pool, take off the cover, check the chemical balance, and make yourself a weekly reminder to perform regular maintenance like skimming the water and adding chemicals.
  • Keep Bugs at Bay: Inspect the outside of your home to look for places where insects could get in. Repair any gaps you find, then apply insect repellent to keep them away.
  • Fix Up the Dock: If you have a waterfront home, inspect your dock and make any necessary repairs.

Summer Interior Maintenance

When the heat chases you inside, take care of a few bits of maintenance.

  • Adjust Your Ceiling Fan: In the summer, the blades should spin counterclockwise to keep the room cooler.
  • Clean the Garage: Tidy up your tools, and inspect your garage door to make sure it's in good working order.
  • Look for Leaks in the Basement: Walk around your basement to check for any cracks that need fixing. If you have a sump pump, test it to make sure it works properly.
  • Clean Your Kitchen Exhaust Fan: The fan over your stove has a filter that needs regular cleaning. Pull it out and scrub it with hot water and soap at least once a year.

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By: Brad Sowell
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