Here are five simple home maintenance tasks that save money for homeowners who do them on a regular basis.
Regular home maintenance can be a pain. You’re busy every day. You don’t have time for extra work and, if something isn’t broke, why fix it? The answer is, the home maintenance tasks below don’t actually take much time, but they save a lot of money. Spending just a couple hours a year on the simple fixes below can save a homeowner tens of thousands of dollars in home repairs down the road. Not to mention that once a ceiling falls in or an HVAC system fails, you’ve lost the option to say, “I don’t have time to deal with this right now.”
1. Check Your Home’s Exterior Once Per Year for Outside Leaks
The biggest, easiest regular home maintenance task that can save the most money is checking your home’s exterior annually for places where water can get in. It’s a no brainer. Make sure all gaps and cracks around exterior windows, siding and doors are properly caulked, painted and sealed.
Caulking all exterior cracks on your home is extremely important. If you have any type of wood siding or hardboard siding, it has to stay painted and caulked at all times. Even if your home has brick veneer or vinyl or aluminum siding, caulking around the windows and sills is extremely important to keep the water out. Over time, caulk seals can dry and shrink, leaving openings that let rainwater in. Snow that sits on windowsills is an especially big culprit, slowly dripping water in through gaps on sills that adds up to big trouble over time.
“If you fail to caulk those gaps,” says Duane Hibbs of Southern WV Inspections, “you’ll end up having to replace your siding and there could be sheathing damage behind it. If it’s crawlspace or basement type construction, when it gets in it can go all the way down and rot out floor joists, subfloor and things of that nature.”
This is an especially important home maintenance tip for people who have “hardy plank” or T2-11 siding. Any compressed manufactured material for outside siding can be easily destroyed by just a small seam that lets in water.
“So somewhere a little caulk could have gone,” says Hibbs, “now you’re spending hundreds or thousands of dollars. You’re not going to have to do much every year, but if you check every year and do the little that needs done, it’s going to save you a fortune.”
Look especially around windows and doors, and if you have any type of hard board or wood siding, check all the joints of the siding. Check joints around wood trim also to keep water out and save money. If you have vinyl or aluminum or brick siding, you don’t need to seal the siding itself, but it’s still important to check around the windows and doors to make sure there’s nowhere water can get in.
“With brick it gets more into if you start having loose mortar joints,” says Hibbs, “repair those immediately.”
2. Check for Rodents and Wood Destroying Insects
Rodents can invade your attic, crawlspaces and unused areas and potentially the exterior walls. They destroy insulation, urinate constantly and they chew on wiring. With rodents you can take care of the problem yourself by always keeping rodent bait around the perimeter of the house. You can buy special boxes that keep pets and other larger animals away from the baits. If you have a crawlspace, you can simply keep rodent bait in the crawlspace as long as the crawlspace is locked. Obviously with an attic, it’s an unfinished area so you can keep bait in a closed off attic without fear of it affecting any pets. Keeping rodents out is an easy home maintenance job that takes very little time, but the money it saves can add up to a small fortune.
Termites and Other Wood Eaters
It’s a good idea to hire a professional pest control company to take care of any wood destroying insects. Just about any pest control company will give a free inspection for wood destroying insects and you should have that done once a year. This home maintenance task takes no more time than a phone call to set up an appointment.
“If you’re having someone check every year,” says Hibbs, “most wood destroying insects won’t get very far during that time. However, once your home becomes infested, in the span of five or ten years, wood destroying insects can do thousands of dollars worth of damage. Now you have repairs to do as opposed to simply a treatment.”
Hibbs says he’s seen termites do a lot of damage to homes where the homeowners weren’t on the lookout for them.
“One time I went to do a home inspection for a pair of prospective home buyers and there had been people living in the home just six months earlier, but they hadn’t been doing regular termite inspections. By the time I entered the house, the insects had done so much damage that I literally put my foot through the floorboards. I had to stop the inspection and ask the buyers to leave the house immediately because it wasn’t safe to be in there.”
Keep in mind that while wood destroying insects in most areas of the country won’t do much damage in one year’s time, there are some areas where that isn’t true.
“In some areas like South Florida where I’m from,” says Hibbs, “there are actually termites where if you have your home checked today and those termites showed up tomorrow, they could actually do some damage within a year’s time. So depending on what area of the country you live in, you would have to educate yourself about the wood destroying insects in the area. Maybe some areas like Louisiana and South Florida where we have the Formosan termite, you may actually have to have inspections twice a year.”
Also see: 18 Big Ways to Save Money at Amazon
3. Inspect Your Roof, Guttering and Chimney Every Year
Another small home maintenance job that saves big money is checking the roof for problems. It’s very common for flashing around a chimney to come loose. Typically it can be re-tacked and caulked. It’s very inexpensive. A tube of caulk might cost $8. That’s a small price to pay to prevent moisture intrusion into the structure which can ruin the insulation, rot the sheathing, cause rafter damage and make water pool up on the ceiling and even cause it to collapse into the home.
All chimneys should also have rain caps and you have to keep your crown in good condition. Without a rain cap or with a chimney crown that’s fallen into disrepair, you can have water intrusion through the interior of the chimney. That can rot out a whole wall.
All flashing on the roof should be inspected once a year as well. Your plumbing vent, any gas vent flashing, exhaust fan vents, and so on should be inspected once a year. If any of that flashing comes loose in a storm or cracks, it’s very easy to repair and no damage will be done. If you let them go over the course of five or ten years, now you have sheathing damage, rafter damage, insulation wet and if it goes on long enough it can bring a ceiling down.
“If you feel comfortable and your roof is not pitched really steep,” says Hibbs, “the average homeowner can absolutely get up there with a caulking gun once a year and check this stuff. Now, if you have a steep pitched roof, it becomes hazardous to perform this home maintenance task, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing. In that case you might want to bring in a professional to do the job. When I say professional, I don’t mean a handyman. A handyman might not be insured, and if he falls off your roof, it’s your problem. If you bring in a professional and he falls off your roof, he’s covered under his insurance. That’s why any time somebody works on your house, you want to make sure they’re licensed and insured.”
Clean Gutters to Save Money
Cleaning gutters is a must-do regular home maintenance task. If you have gutter guards, they still need to be cleaned. A lot of people think that because they have gutter guards, they don’t have to worry about cleaning the gutters, and that’s just not true. Gutters can still clog up and cause water to overspill and get in around the foundation where you don’t want it. Gutter guards will stop leaves, but they don’t stop things like pine needles and little berries and seeds. You still have to make sure your gutters are working properly and the downspouts are working properly, discharging away from the house and not toward the house or overflowing.
“If you fail to check your gutters every year and they clog and overflow, that can introduce moisture into the foundation of your home,” says Hibbs. “With a crawlspace that might not be as big a deal, but with basements it can start to cause water intrusion into the basement.”
4. Replace HVAC Filters Every Month
“Air conditioners aren’t meant to be air purification machines,” he says. “It’s really not good to install those pollen/HEPA type filters in your system. They say they last three months but it’s not the best of ideas. You should buy regular disposable filters and change them every month. If you don’t do that, the filter’s going to get clogged and collapse and introduce dirt through the system that’s going to prematurely age your entire system, plus fill the ducts up with gunk. You might not mind that, but down the road if you go to resell the house, you might have to spend a good amount of money getting the system cleaned, including all the duct work.”
You also want to make sure your HVAC pans are clean, especially if they’re in the attic. Make sure the drain lines from the pans are clean and free of debris. If the line gets clogged, the pan will overflow, and if your unit is in your attic it can bring down your entire ceiling.
5. If You Hire Workers for Home Maintenance Tasks, Make Sure They’re Licensed and Insured
This one isn’t exactly a home maintenance task per se, but it applies to all the others. Never bring in some so called “cheap” fix it worker to do work on your house. If you have work done, make sure the person is qualified to do the work they’re doing. Otherwise, though you may save money in the short term, it’ll cost you thousands to fix it when they don’t do it right.
A common example is where you hire someone to put in a walk-in shower and they don’t do it right and it rots out the whole floor.
“That is actually pretty common,” says Hibbs. “If you buy a prefab shower it’s not that big a deal, but if somebody’s going to make a custom tile shower, it has to be done right or it leaks and rots out the entire floor. Another thing I’ve seen is people building additions on decks. Whoever they hired told them, oh, it’s fine. But it’s not, because the deck isn’t made to carry that kind of load. You want to make sure whoever you hire is licensed, insured and willing to subject their work to outside inspections. If they don’t agree to that, then they’re probably not going to do it right.”