If You Do These 62 Things, You’re the Perfect Homeowner
Don't let home repairs sneak up on you.
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Inspect attic for leaks during rain storm
“Go into your attic to spot any leaks during a rain storm,” says John Bodrozic, co-founder of HomeZada. “Roof leaks can go unrepaired for a long time creating damage to insulation and can be a source of mold growth, which is harmful to your health.” Here are 21 things to consider when deciding if you should replace your roof.
Inspect automatic garage door safety shutoff
Test that the safety features of your automatic-opening garage door are still in good shape, says Bodrozic. That includes the safety beams, which should stop the door from closing if it detects anything the door’s path. Make sure you know the 13 garage mistakes that could put you in danger.
Lubricate garage doors
“Your doors are probably a series of panels that are connected with hinges and have either metal or plastic rollers on each side,” Bodrozic says. “Use an appropriate lubricant, depending on metal or plastic rollers, to keep your garage door operating smoothly and prolong its useful life.”
Trim shrubs around your air-conditioning units
Shrubs often grow around your A/C unit, which blocks free air flow, says Bodrozic. “This causes the unit to work harder and can cause damage, so it is important to trim shrubs and remove leaves from the surrounding area.” These are 10 other air conditioning mistakes you can’t afford to make.
Clear snow from all outside vents, meters, and oil fill pipe
Blocked outside vents can be a crucial safety issue as carbon monoxide can build up if they are blocked by snow. Check your dryer, furnace, and water heater vents monthly, and especially after a snowstorm. Here’s a helpful document that explains what these vents look like and what to do. Also, make sure your gas and electric meters are accessible, and your oil or propane company has a way to deliver fuel in the snow, ideally a cleared path.
Clean your refrigerator grille
“The top or bottom of your refrigerator has a grille that you can detach to get access to the compressor and cooling coils. This builds up dust over time and blocks air flow, which can burn out your refrigerator’s cooling system,” says Bodrozic. Forgetting to clean the refrigerator grille is only one of the ways you’re shortening the life of your refrigerator.
Organize your refrigerator
“Whether you live in an apartment by yourself or you have a family of five, somehow food always piles up in the fridge,” says professional organizer Christina Giaquinto, owner of Christina Giaquinto Organizing LLC. At the beginning of every month, take out all the containers and perishable items and decide what is good to eat, and what needs to be thrown out,” she suggests. “If you have a little extra motivation, I suggest wiping the shelves down and doing a thorough clean after you finish de-cluttering.” Here are foods you shouldn’t even be storing in the fridge.
Inspect sinks and tub drains
“If you notice that your sinks or tubs aren’t draining as quickly, there may be a buildup causing a blockage,” says Kyle Gesuelli, home improvement expert at handy.com. “The first thing to do is try to remove anything that is obstructing the pipe manually using a pipe cleaner to pull debris through the plughole. Second, pour a cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by some hot water, which should clear things out.”
Clean the garbage disposal
“The best way to clean out your garbage disposal is with baking soda and white vinegar, ” says Gesuelli. “Take half a cup of baking soda and a cup of white wine vinegar, and put both down the sink. After a few minutes, pour some boiling hot water down, too. Next, fill the drain with some ice cubes, and add a cup of salt, which will help to remove debris. Finally, add lemon halves to the disposal and keep both the water running and the garbage disposal on.” Here are 15 things you should never put down your garbage disposal.
Clean filters in your range hood
“The purpose of the range hood filter is to collect grease, so over time, it will become less effective as the grease builds up,” Gesuelli says. “To clean them, simply remove them and place them in a sink full of hot water, dishwashing liquid, and baking soda. Leave to soak for 10 to 15 minutes. If needed, scrub the remaining grease off with a brush, and then rinse clean. Dry the filters with a paper towel before replacing them.”
Keep a monthly home maintenance calendar
“Staying on top of all the preventative maintenance tasks throughout each month of the year is important to reduce energy costs, avoid early replacements costs, and keep the home healthy and safe for the family. The app HomeZada creates these tasks and many others automatically for homeowners,” says Bodrozic. Don’t forget about these things all homeowners should do once a year.
Make your furnace last
Regular filter replacement is the very best thing you can do to keep your furnace in top condition. And here’s a way to keep track of that task: Buy several filters and label them. With some systems, monthly filter changes are best. Others can go a few months between changes.
Shut off the water before vacation
Make a homeowner’s journal
– reader Debora Emmert
Deal with drainage
Water has the potential to cause problems in any home, and the skills to deal with drainage issues can be a huge money saver in the long run. Extending downspouts is an easy fix, but knowing how to make a drainage plan is going to provide long-term results for minimal effort. Figuring out a drainage plan is just one of the 50 things you should know about your home by age 50.
Adjust your water heater
If you’ve ever taken a vacation without adjusting your water heater, you’ve already lost money on this easy-to-master homeowner skill. While finding the large dial, usually at the base of your water heater, shouldn’t be hard, finding the correct temperature may be. When going away on holidays, turn your water temperature down to avoid the need to maintain the temperature of the whole tank while you’re away. Just don’t forget to turn it back up when you get home!
Electrical overloads are easily created but can be incredibly dangerous for your home and everyone in it. A solid understanding of how the electrical circuits in your home function will not only make you a master homeowner, it will allow you to make as many DIY improvements as you want while maintaining the integrity of your electrical system. To begin, make sure you know these 8 most common electric mistakes found in home inspections.
Stir-stick paint organizer
When you buy custom-mixed paint, the paint clerk slaps the mix label on top of the can. I always ask for an extra label to wrap around a stir stick. When I’m done with the project, I let the stir stick dry and drill a hole near the top of it. Then I label both the stick and the can with the name of the room where I used the paint. I hang the stir sticks near the cans of leftover paint. With both the color formula and a dried paint sample in view, I don’t have to pull down every can to find the right one for touch-ups. — reader Perry Parson
Test the sump pump or risk a flood
It’s easy to forget about your sump pump, but it’s important to make sure it’s in good working order. If you don’t, you could end up like the homeowner who returned from a weekend trip to discover his entire basement floor covered in 1/2 in. of water. After shutting down the power, he waded over to the sump pump and noticed it wasn’t working. Upon closer inspection, he realized that the cable attached to the float must have gotten tangled somehow. It took him two seconds to untangle the cable, and then he spent the next 15 hours dragging out waterlogged carpet, running the wet/dry vacuum, and moving fans around.
To avoid a similar disaster, be sure your pump has a vertical float switch. Also, check your pump at least a couple of times a year by dumping water into the basin to make sure everything is working properly. Testing the sump pump is just one of the 10 vital home maintenance tasks you don’t want to overlook.
Clean dryer vents or waste energy and risk a fire
A plugged dryer vent will cause your dryer to run inefficiently, and that’s bad. A plugged dryer vent could also cause a house fire, and that could be deadly! Dryers that are centrally located in houses are most prone to plugging because of the longer ducts. Excess lint is only one reason ducts get clogged; nesting pests and stuck exhaust hood flappers can also cause backups. Stronger odors and longer dry times are two signs your vent is plugged.
You’ll have to remove the vent from the back of the dryer to clean it. Suck debris from the ducts with a wet/dry vac, or ream them out with a cleaning kit that includes a brush on a long flexible rod that attaches to a power drill. The kits are available at home centers. If your ducts need replacing, get smooth metal ducts, which will stay cleaner longer than the rough corrugated surface of flexible ducts. Avoid plastic ducting altogether; it can be a fire hazard.
How to stop under-the-door air leaks
If you can feel the breeze and see daylight under your entry door, it’s costing you big-time. It also means you need to adjust your door threshold or install a new door sweep. Door sweeps start at $10. The hardest part about replacing them is usually taking off the door.
Start by adjusting the threshold. Newer versions have screws that raise and lower them. Turn all of the threshold screws until the door opens and closes without much drag and any draft is eliminated. If that doesn’t work, or your threshold doesn’t have adjustment screws, replace the door sweep.
Close the door and pop out the hinge pins with a pin punch to remove the door. Set the door on a work surface and remove the old door sweep. Caulk the ends of the door, then install the replacement sweep. Some sweeps are tapped into place and stapled along the door bottom; others are screwed to the side along the door bottom. After you’ve perfected your door, check out these 40 other home repairs that anyone can do.
How to seal outlets and ceiling boxes
The tiny gaps around outlets on exterior walls and ceiling boxes let cold air in (and warm air out). Sealing these areas takes just half a day and will help cut down on drafts (and your heating bill!).
Protect wood from moisture
Insects and other small pests need to draw life-sustaining moisture from their surroundings, so they avoid dry places and are attracted to moist ones. If the soil around your house, the foundation, and the walls is dry, it’ll be less attractive to insects, spiders, and centipedes. Rake moisture-wicking soil and mulch away from the window frames and low wood. Turn your mulch periodically to help keep dampness down, and keep bushes trimmed back as well.
Guard your chimney
Install a chimney cap and screen to keep out pests like rodents and birds. Not only can they do damage, but they often bring in smaller bugs that will take up residence in your home. Check out our ultimate guide to getting rid of pests for help on how to deal with them as they start to look for warmer locales in the fall.
Check seasonal clothing for pests
Do you have seasonal clothes or bedding that you are bringing out of storing? Wash and dry it all thoroughly to kill any waiting bug eggs, and inspect everything for signs of an infestation before you pack it away—or start wearing it. These are 15 pest control horror stories that will make your skin crawl—and make you really stick to thoroughly washing your seasonal clothes.
Trim plants against your house
Once you kill the ants in your house and yard, take steps to ensure they don’t come back. Trim back bushes, shrubs, and trees that brush against your siding or roof and provide a bridge for ants to reach your house. Keep a 3-in. to 6-in. clearance space between the soil around the foundation and the bottom row of siding to prevent ants from nesting in the siding (and make sure the soil slopes away from the house). Avoid stacking firewood next to the house. Firewood makes a perfect retreat for ants. Ants like bare spots in the yard and they like to build nests under layers of thatch. Maintaining a healthy lawn is one way to discourage ants. If anthills pop up in bare areas, spray the mound with insecticide and plant grass in the bare spots. Rake the lawn or bag the grass when you mow to eliminate thatch.
Don’t let pests in through the dryer vent
Examine dryer vents to ensure the damper isn’t stuck open or broken off completely. Also check that the seal between the vent and the wall is tight. It might also be a good time to clean the dryer vent cover to prevent cold drafts from coming in during winter. Here are 15 essential products for people who hate bugs if you really want to put these pests in their place.
Check your crawl spaces
Take a flashlight and protective clothing into your crawlspaces and/or basement and have a look around. Look for large, obvious nests of shredded material, which indicate rodents. Watch for smaller signs too, like lines of ants or scrambling cockroaches looking for a home. And remove these pests and find out how they gained entry to stop future incursions.
Store firewood away from the house
While firewood may be an important summer staple for your backyard fire pit, it’s also a magnet for pests that will happily make the jump into the house. So store firewood at least 20 feet away from the house.
Look not only for larger gaps in your attic or garage but watch for small, unsealed gaps where electrical lines and pipes enter your house. Bugs, mice, and other pests love these small gaps. So caulk them closed or use expanding foam insulation to deny entry. Read up on these 15 hidden home dangers you should never ignore.
Protect the A/C compressor or risk damage from a falling icicle
There’s no reason to wrap your entire air conditioner for the winter, and many manufacturers advise against it because it can invite rodents and cause condensation, which can lead to early corrosion. But it’s not a bad idea to set a piece of plywood on top of the unit to protect it from falling icicles. And see our maintenance guide to learn how to clean your air conditioners in the spring.
Clean weep holes
Reseed late in the growing season
Get your gutters ready
Check exterior caulking and weatherstripping
Fall is the perfect time to make sure your house is properly caulked and your weatherstripping is in good shape. Inspect around windows, doors and anywhere else two materials meet to make sure the caulk is in good shape. Check weatherstripping around doors and replace it if it’s broken or missing—it’s super easy to do.
Give your roof a once-over
No one wants to be fixing a roof in the dead of winter. Give it a once-over to make sure there aren’t any signs of trouble. Pay attention to broken or missing shingles, missing flashing, and any discoloration. Check out 100 of the scariest home inspector nightmare photos.
Fix driveway and sidewalks before they get worse
Changing temperatures and moisture can turn a small concrete problem into a big one. Take some time to repair broken concrete and get some more time out of your sidewalk, driveway, and steps before they’re in need of full replacement.
Install frost-proof outdoor faucets
New outdoor faucets are frost-proof and also prevent unsanitary water from contaminating your water system. Installing a new outdoor faucet takes just a few hours and will give you peace of mind all winter long. Make sure to take care of these 50 other crucial fall maintenance tasks.
Take a peek at your furnace
Make sure your furnace is in good shape before you really need to use it. With a few tools and some time, you can perform a DIY furnace inspection to head off problems before they start.
Check your chimney or risk a fire
Creosote buildup causes chimney fires. You should have your chimney professionally inspected or cleaned after every 70 fires. If you burn wet wood (which you shouldn’t), have it inspected or cleaned every 50 fires.
Don’t remember the last time you had it cleaned by a pro? A quick way to tell if your chimney needs cleaning is to run the point of your fireplace poker along the inside of your chimney liner. If you find a 1/8-in. layer (or more) of buildup, call a chimney sweep.
Fertilize your lawn
It’s important to apply fertilizer to your lawn during the fall—in fact, if you only apply fertilizer once a year, fall is the time to do it. Your lawn has spent all summer growing and it’s hungry.
Bleed hot water radiators
When trapped air clogs a hot water radiator, some or all of the ‘fins’ will stay cold. At the top of the radiator, look for a small valve like the one shown. Take a radiator key, 1/4-in. 12-point socket, or a flat screwdriver (depending on the valve type) and slowly turn the valve counter-clockwise until water starts dripping out. This releases the trapped air and lets hot water into the cold fins. While you’re at it, you might as well repeat the process on all of your radiators. Have a cup or dish handy to catch the water.
Check your detectors
With furnaces turned on, the windows closed, and portable heaters humming along, fall is a great time to make sure your smoke and CO detectors are working. Check batteries and expiration dates—smoke detectors are typically good for 10 years, and CO detectors last for about six years. A faulty smoke detector is just one of the 20 hidden things in your home that may be a fire hazard.
Pipes running through unheated basements and crawlspaces as well as exterior walls can be prone to freezing during winter (and causing bigger problems). Make sure it doesn’t happen to you. Check out these easy ways to insulate pipes.
Test for radon
If you haven’t tested your house for radon, now is the time to do it. Sealing up your house for the winter also means you’re trapping potential cancer-causing radon gas. Get your house tested and take means to mitigate it if it’s a problem. Asking about radon in the house is just one of 10 home questions you’ve always wanted to ask but were too afraid.
Clean dryers and vents
Thousands of dryer fires are caused by lint every year, yet they can be easily prevented with a few minutes of cleaning. With drier air and cooler temperatures approaching, make it a fall ritual to clean out your dryer and vent.
Handrail safety check
Go around your property and test and secure any loose handrails. Think about someone grabbing a handrail when slipping on some ice or snow, and make sure it’s up to the task. Here are 39 other home repairs you need to make before someone gets hurt.
Garage door foul line
Here’s the straight solution for keeping bikes, trikes, garden tools, and car bumpers from being squashed by a descending garage door (or keep them from triggering the electric eye). Close the garage door and press down a strip of 2-in.-wide masking tape along the inside edge. Lay another strip of tape 1-1/2 in. to the outside of the first. Spray on the line, pull the tape and let dry. Now when you close the door, glance at the line to be sure the door will seal on concrete, not on a tool or the tail of your sleeping cat.
Preserve lawn supplies
Lawn products like seed and fertilizer soak up moisture in damp garages. To keep them fresh, store them in giant zip-top bags (available at discount stores). Find out the answer to these 17 mysteries explained.
Check the intake and exhaust pipes
Newer high-efficiency furnaces will shut off if something like a bird or ice buildup blocks either the fresh-air pipe or the exhaust pipe. You’ll need to go outside and peek inside the pipes to see. Sometimes a critter can get lodged in the pipe all the way back to the furnace and you won’t be able to see it without taking the pipe apart, a job best left to a pro.
If your furnace heating ducts also serve as air conditioning ducts, they may have dampers that require adjusting for seasonal changes. The seasonal settings should be marked. Two-story homes often have separate supply trunks to serve the upstairs and downstairs. To send more warm air downstairs (winter setting) or more cold air upstairs (summer setting), adjust the damper handle on each supply trunk. These are 19 home mistakes you can’t afford to make.
Seal leaky ducts
Seal leaky ducts, especially return air ducts, with special metal tape (available at home centers) or high-temperature silicone. Then conduct a backdrafting test to make sure the combustion gases go up the flue. Adjust the thermostat so the burners come on.
Test your water heater for backdrafting
Test your gas water heater for backdrafting while your furnace is off. Turn up the water heater thermostat until the water heater burner comes on. After a minute or more, hold a smoking stick of incense or match up to the exhaust stack. The smoke should be pulled into the stack. Conduct the test with all exterior doors and windows closed and bath and kitchen fans running. If the vent doesn’t draw, call in a heating specialist or plumber to find the problem. Turn the thermostat back down. The water heater is one of the 6 trouble spots home inspectors hate to see.
Check for high water pressure or wreck fixtures and appliances
A technician was assisting a water softener installer who was replacing a fairly new softener because the first one had ruptured and filled the pipes with little zeolite beads.
The installer didn’t seem too worried about why the first one failed, but the assistant did a little investigating. A water pressure test gave a reading of more than 110 lbs. psi. The culprit was the 20-year-old pressure-reducing valve. After a new valve was installed, the pressure went down to about 75 lbs. Pressure-reducing valves are usually found near the main water shutoff valve, but not all homes have them. It depends on your municipality.
High water pressure can harm pipes, connections, and appliances. It also creates water hammer and waste massive amounts of water. Checking for high water pressure is an often overlooked maintenance item, and one that’s easy enough to perform. A new pressure-reducing valve and a simple pressure gauge like this one that hooks up to a spigot or laundry tub faucet are both available at home centers.
Check garage door balance or wreck your opener
A properly balanced door is less likely to injure someone or something and keeps the door opener from working too hard, which will shorten its life.
To check the balance on a door, close the door and then disengage the opener by pulling the opener release handle. Manually pull up the door about halfway and let go. A properly balanced door will stay in the halfway position by itself. If it falls, the tension needs to be increased. If the door rises, the door spring has too much tension, which means it’s working harder than it needs to.
Check the door a couple of times a year. Adjusting the spring tension is tricky and dangerous. Call a garage door professional to perform the service, or see advanced garage door repairs. While you’re at it, try out some of these 50 genius ways to clean up your garage.
Check for ice dams
If your home lacks good insulation and venting, there’s a good chance it may be prone to ice dams. Get outside regularly during the winter and check around the house for signs of icicles and large chunks of ice near the edge of your roof.
Water melting off the roof pools behind the ice and then seeps back up under the shingles. And sometimes water can work its way 5 or even 10 ft. back up under the shingles. Eventually, it drips through the roof into the soffits (the outside overhangs), walls, and worst of all, onto your ceilings.