Maintaining key features that make a home livable will save money down the road and may even fall under critical safety issues. These home maintenance checkups aren’t sexy or fun, but they are necessary to keep a house in top shape.
While almost everything in a house eventually needs to be replaced, home experts say there are three major infrastructure areas to maintain.
The home’s structure
A home’s roof, foundation and frame are critical to a livable home. Pat Knight, training, licensing and inspection support manager of WIN Home Inspection, a national home inspection franchise, advised keeping an eye on the roof as the seasons change, making sure the surface is free of debris and there is no damage. Get gutters cleaned, and make sure they’re draining properly, away from the home. Fall is a good time to get your gutters cleaned.
Checking the roof can be as simple as using a pair of binoculars from the yard, or it could mean hiring a company to inspect for potential damage up close.
“Deferred maintenance can drastically reduce the life expectancy of the roof, and replacement is expensive,” he said.
Keep an eye on the home’s bottom, too. Angie Hicks, founder of Angie’s List, a home services directory, says the fall season is a great time to check the home’s foundation.
“If there’s too much water — or too little — it will become the No. 1 cause for giving your foundation a shake-up,” she said.
It can be difficult to get the moisture content right consistently, so Hicks gave a few tips. Ensure proper drainage away from the structure’s surface; very wet soil next to the foundation cannot only cause a wet basement, it can compromise the foundation’s integrity. Subsurface, or “French,” drains can help in regions where too little moisture is an issue, as can a strategic sprinkler system that prevents extreme drying/shrinking of the surrounding soil.
While looking at the foundation, look out for insects such as carpenter ants and termites, especially in homes with wooden frames, said Beverley Kruskol, owner of M.Y. Pacific Building, a general contractor who has worked with high-end renovations, including for Mario Batali’s restaurants in Los Angeles.
Heating and cooling system
Having the home’s HVAC system maintained yearly by a qualified company will prevent major breakdowns happening at just the wrong time, said Knight and Hicks.
“Waiting until you need a repair will cost you dearly, especially if there is a cold snap or a heat wave,” Knight said.
In between professional maintenance, Hicks said, homeowners should change the filters regularly, do their own visual inspections and keep an eye on the thermostat.
“These are three quick and easy things you can do yourself to ensure the longest life for your HVAC system,” she said.
Leaky faucets and overflowing toilets are obvious signs of problems, but stealth leaks can cause a lot of damage, Kruskol said, such as mold.
“It’s really not a bad idea to have a plumber come out periodically and check the system. Roots can grow into pipes. Sprinklers end up splashing against the house, which can deteriorate outdoor brick, stucco and foundations,” she said.
Keep an eye on water bills, and don’t let leaky faucets drip, which wastes money and water. A single faucet dripping four times per minute will waste 138 gallons of water a year, according to the US. Geological Survey’s “drip calculator.’’
The depletion of the underground water supply is “a problem for all of us,” Kruskol said. Eventually, she said, “we’re all going to be affected by the lack of water.”