16 Things All Smart Homeowners Do Once a Year

Think of these small steps as vitamins for a healthy home. Do them just once a year and you’ll save a bundle in emergency service calls

Drain your hot water heater

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“Sediment builds up over time at the bottom of the tank, causing corrosion,” says John Bodrozic, co-founder of HomeZada. “Partially draining it removes the sediment and keeps the heater running more efficiently—and keeps it running longer.” These tricks can keep your house warm without hiking your heating bill.

Check your ductwork connections

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Ducts in either the attic or crawl space can sag over time, and then the connections become loose. “If this happens, you end up spending more on utility costs because the air you’re paying to heat or cool is escaping from the loose ductwork into the attic or crawl space, not into your living space,” Bodrozic says. (Related: Are you maximizing your storage space? These tricks help you squeeze more in.)

Clean out the dryer vent duct

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The back of your dryer is connected to a vent that leads outside. This duct gets lint buildup over time, which not only causes the dryer to work harder, increases energy costs, but it’s also a huge fire risk, as backed up lint is extremely flammable. Check out the other things that could be making your home a fire hazard.

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Update your home inventory

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Knowing what you own is crucial. “We accumulate things over time, and you want to make sure you are properly covered in your insurance policy for not only the contents of your home, but the structure itself,” Bodrozic says, “especially if you invested in it with home remodel projects.” (Related: Here’s what interior designers notice about your house as soon they walk in.)

Review your homeowner’s insurance policy

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When doing yearly checks, many homeowners don’t think of their insurance. “Make sure that your policy continues to cover weather hazards like hail and wind,” advises Renee Tarnutzer of Understory. “Be sure to review your deductibles. A homeowner will want to determine the cost of replacing your roof, for example, if it was damaged in a storm and an estimate of their out-of-pocket costs for that repair or replacement.”

Inspect your roof

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“A roof inspection is critical because roofs are the most commonly damaged part of a home during severe weather,” Tarnutzer says. “Roof longevity can erode quickly and cause leaks, stains on walls, and even flood damage.” Kyle Gesuelli, home improvement expert at Handy adds, “Take a good look at your attic for signs of water damage, because if there are water stains on the ceilings or walls, it’s a sure sign that your roof needs some attention.” From the ground you can check for missing shingles or misplaced tiles. Dimples on the surface of the roof can indicate damage from hailstones. Any missing or damaged tiles should be replaced immediately to avoid leaks reaching the inside your home. It’s also helpful to find out when your roof was last replaced. (Related: Don’t miss the secrets home inspectors won't tell you.)

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Clean your gutters

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Buildup from fallen leaves and pine needles can rot and eventually clog the downspouts and even damage parts of the gutter. “As gutters help the home to cope with heavy rain flow, they’re bound to accumulate debris throughout the year that can obstruct the flow of water and lead to overflowing,” Gesuelli says. Hire a professional if your gutters are high enough to require a special ladder.

Check your foundation

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“A failing foundation can be the biggest and most costly problem,” says Steve Wadlington, president of WIN Home Inspection. Look indoors for the warning signs, including gaps and cracks in hardwood floors, or cracks at the corners of door jambs and window frames. See the very personal details your home reveals about you.

Look for water damage

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“Existing water damage can lead to big problems if left untreated,” Wadlington says. “Look for evidence around sinks, plumbing fixtures, and under windows for mold, broken caulking and leaking around sinks, or bubbling paint on drywall.” Erase the wear and tear on your home with these home improvement hacks.

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Clean out your garage

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Garages are often home to much more than cars. Not just extra sports equipment and a backup fridge, but possibly rodents and bugs too. Sacha Ferrandi, founder of Source Capital Funding of San Diego, California, recommends cleaning your garage once a year by taking out everything and deep-cleaning the space, “which will not only maintain the longevity of your garage, but will keep you organized and active as you use your newly cleaned space,” he says. Don’t miss these ingenious uses for the junk in your garage!

Check your pipes and sewage outflow

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Even if your home doesn’t have a septic tank, this task should still be on your list. “We cannot stress how important this is. Sometimes when sewage pipes become too full, they burst and ruin yards,” Ferrandi warns. “A lot of the times this is a city or town pipe, but the city or town will not pay for the damage.” If you find a blockage before it becomes an explosion, however, often the city or town will send resources to help you deal with the issue. Contact your local town or city hall sewage department with questions. Also check for toilet and faucet leaks that a plumber would need to assess. Here’s a little known trick for unclogging toilets without a plunger.

Monitor trees and landscaping

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Harsh winters can weaken trees and cause them to break. “It’s always good to monitor the positioning of your trees so you can look out for any changes, like are they leaning in a certain direction?” Gesuelli says. “Check the roots too if there are cracks in the surrounding earth, as the root may have become dislodged.” If trees hang over your house, Gesuelli suggests checking for broken or loose branches because they can damage the house if they fall. If this is the case, hire a pro to do the trimming for you to avoid unnecessary safety risks. Check out the gardening tips your landscaper won't tell you.

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Check windows for gaps

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Cold and damp conditions can cause window frames to swell, so once they return to their original size, it can create gaps. Not only will this let in drafts, but it will also cost you a lot in lost energy. If you wait too long, you could also end up needing to replace the frames completely, which is an expensive job. “Gaps can be filled using a variety of materials, such as mortar, frame sealant, and decorators caulk,” Gesuelli says. “But generally you should use the same material that was previously used to seal the windows for the best result.” Rickety windows can also invite theft. Use these home safety tips to protect your valuables.

Check decking, porches, and steps

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Case the place in search of rot and structural damage. “For exterior steps, check the overall structure of the concrete or stones,” Gesuelli suggest. “If there is any crumbling, repairs should be made immediately.” (Related: If you have a porch or patio, note the items that should never be left outside, even if you live in a safe neighborhood.)

Empty your pantry

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It’s hard to believe, but it’s not unheard of for homeowners to find expired food up to a decade old in their cabinets. “Too often, food gets buried in the pantry and is never seen again,” says Christina Giaquinto, a professional organizer and owner of Christina Giaquinto Organizing LLC. It’s important to de-clutter your pantry so you don’t overbuy or accidentally eat expired food. Realistically, you should purge your pantry about every six months, but from my experience that doesn't always happen, so I suggest aiming for once a year.” Giaquinto says to pull out every single thing—and while you’re there, wipe down the cabinets. Try the homemade cleaners that really work.

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Purge personal products and medications

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Do a sweep of the bathroom cabinets and drawers. Expired hair and beauty products need to go. “Makeup is one of those things that accumulates without your even noticing it, and makeup does go bad—most people don't know that,” Giaguinto says. It’s critical to toss out old makeup to prevent the possibility of infection. Ditto for medications. Contact your local pharmacy for proper disposal of expired prescription or OTC medications. Don’t miss this list of common items you didn't know had an expiration date.

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