Seasonal tasks to complete every year to keep your home humming
By Josh Potter
Owning your own home is probably one of the biggest accomplishments of your life. You’ve likely saved, planned, and dreamed about buying and living in your own home for a long time. But have you ever thought about what it takes to maintain a home of your own? If you’re like most homeowners, you might find yourself a little overwhelmed by all that goes into keeping a home in tip top shape. Especially if you’re a new homeowner.
There’s no way around it. If you own a home, you’re going to have to put in some elbow grease to keep it a safe, comfortable, and attractive place to be. Ultimately, though, it’s worth it!
Doing routine maintenance on your home will extend the lifetime of its more complicated systems while ensuring its value continues to increase. And the work doesn’t have to be overwhelming if you stay on top of it. We’ve made that part easy with this guide we’ve organized by season.
In this article
Review all the routine maintenance items you should be doing throughout the year. Most of the things we mention, you can do on your own. For the bigger or more complex jobs that are safest when done by an expert, we’ll suggest you call a professional.
Spring home maintenance
Spring is a time of change. From daylight savings to the weather, you’ll be getting a lot more out of your days. With that comes things like pollen, rain, weeds and more. Here’s how to prepare the inside and outside of your home for the warming months.
Reseal windows and doors
Water, snow, and ice can batter your windows and doors during the colder months. Check for drafts, leaking, and water damage around your windows and doors. Reseal the caulking if necessary.
Dust ceiling fan blades
Your fans probably sat dormant all winter (though there’s a way to use them to encourage warm air flow). You’ll be turning them on soon. Make sure they don’t spray dust everywhere.
Clear dryer vent
Your dryer vent isn’t the same as your lint trap. Don’t make this mistake. At least once a year, get behind your dryer and remove any buildup from the vent itself. A duster or vacuum will work great.
Replace batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
Don’t wait for the warning beeps, the light to blink, or the alarms to fail. Just plug in some fresh batteries now so you don’t have to wonder if they’re really working.
Remove insulation on spouts and hose faucets
Hopefully, you put foam insulation over your outdoor water sources before the weather turned cold last winter. You can it them off now. And test the faucets and spouts to make sure they haven’t leaked or burst.
It’s a nasty job and you can hire someone to do it. But it doesn’t need to take more than a few hours. This way, water will clear your gutters quickly instead of overflowing onto your roof and causing leaks. Just be careful on that ladder.
Moss, leaves and any other debris should be cleared if it built up over the winter. This will cause lasting (and expensive) damage later if not taken care of now. Any missing shingles from storms or visible cracks? Best to know now instead of when water starts dripping into your kitchen.
Over the winter, you were probably using it so you can rest assured it works. But make sure there’s been no damage to it on the outside, paying special attention to missing bricks and the flashing that should be tight against it to guide water away from the structure.
April showers bring flooding issues in your basement. Next time it rains, double check there’s no standing water around your home. This could mean there’s a drainage problem and you might be wading through puddles to get to the laundry room soon.
Inspect HVAC system
Lightly spray your outdoor unit with a hose to clear it of any winter debris, dust, and pollen. Most HVAC systems come with a warranty or guarantee that covers regular check-ups. To make sure you get the most out of your tune-up, clear away debris or leaves so a technician can do a thorough job. Then schedule that tune-up.
Clean or replace air conditioning filter
Some AC systems have filters in the vents themselves. Most will have a filter in the housing cabinet. Even window AC units have filters. These all need to be refreshed before you power them up for the season.
Summer home maintenance
Better weather doesn’t necessarily mean summer is easier on your home. Heat and sun can both do a number on your house’s major exterior systems. Meanwhile, you might be wasting precious energy inside if you’re not cooling your home properly.
Check the weather stripping around windows and doors
You’ll find this seal along the inside of your window and door frames. In the summer, it’ll keep the cold air in and the hot air out. In the winter, it should do the opposite. But every few years it begins to deteriorate. Inspect it for cracks or fading, and replace it if there’s a draft.
Reverse ceiling fan direction
In the summer, your fan should rotate counterclockwise. The blades are set to push air down when they spin in this direction, creating a cool breeze. If you bought and installed the fan yourself, consult the directions that came with it. If not, most major manufacturers and retailers have resources available online.
Inspect and clean grout in kitchen and bathroom
Clean and inspect the grout and tiling in your kitchen and bathroom. Cracks can form over the winter as the cold air seeps in. Giving it a nice scrub will help you see if it needs any attention or repair.
Vacuum refrigerator coils
It sounds crazy, but pulling the refrigerator off the wall and cleaning up the coils will enhance your refrigerator’s efficiency. The dirt and grime that can build up behind major appliances is a big contributor to your home’s low energy efficiency. Keeping electrical coils clean is a small task with big returns.
Check for plumbing leaks
Are your sink, shower, and toilet still sealed? Inspect each connection point along these main plumbing lines to avoid water damage later.
Now that the animals are out again, they’ll be coming for your crawl space, attic, and garage. Look along the interior and exterior of your home for entry points and plug them up. And consider starting a yearly contract with a pest control company if you’ve had problems with bugs or mice in the past.
Your deck’s sealant protects against water as much as it protects against sun. Now that it’s dry out, sand and refinish the wood for a fresh look and a new coat of protection against the coming weather.
If you have vinyl or fiber cement siding, you can safely pressure wash it, making sure there’s no damage along the way. Cedar plank siding is susceptible to dry rot, which should be dealt with quickly by a contractor to ensure it doesn’t spread.
Trim hedges and trees
Trimming hedges, trees, and bushes isn’t just about the look of your home, even though a nicely manicured landscape will create great curb appeal. Keeping branches from overhanging the roof, and creeping toward windows and doors, will protect you from nasty damage later on.
Inspect crawl space/foundation
Now that it’s warm, get under your house if you can. Over the winter and spring, cracks can form in the foundation from the changing weather and it’s time to determine if you need to have a professional take a look.
Fall home maintenance
As the air cools and the days get shorter, make sure that your home is ready to protect you from the cold and the weather. Pay close attention to details in the autumn. Any small drafts or cracks in your windows, roof, or siding will be a big problem when the first storm hits.
Flush your hot water heater
Flushing removes sediment and resets the water pressure. Doing this will prolong the life of the unit and ensure you get nice hot showers throughout the season.
Open and clear heating vents
Check all the outputs of your heating vents to see that they are open and that furniture is not covering them.
Service your furnace
Especially if you have an older furnace, have a professional make sure it is working efficiently and safely so that you don’t find out the hard way it’s not when you need the heat later.
Seal doors and windows
Drafts will lower the efficiency of your home and cost you piles of money if you have to crank your thermostat just to be comfortable inside. Recaulk around your windows if you detect any air coming through and make sure the seals in your door jambs are still keeping cold air out.
Say goodbye to your AC unit
Protect your unused outdoor AC unit by covering it with a tarp and clearing it of any debris or nearby branches that could damage it during bad weather.
Close and store outdoor water systems
Remove your hoses, flush them, and store them. Meanwhile, make sure you cover your outdoor spouts and faucets with insulation. Any pipes close to the outside of your home will burst if water is left in them when the temperature falls below freezing. Make sure to either flush them entirely or keep warm water running through them at a drip.
Get chimney cleaned
If you’re lucky enough to have a fireplace, make sure you can actually enjoy it! Have a professional clean and service it so that you can start to cozy up next to it right away. Soot buildup and any other blockages could spell disaster if you don’t have them cleared before your first use.
Make sure there is no debris that could cause water or snow buildup and lead to leaking or damage. Any missing shingles, cracks, and damage should be fixed now so you don’t have a worse problem if the outside gets in during the winter.
Repair cracks in driveway and walkways
Cracks and splinters in your concrete will only get bigger when rain or snow gets in during the cold weather. Sealing them now with quick-drying concrete will save you time and money on major repairs later.
Check exterior grade
Look for any standing water. That means your grounds aren’t properly drawing water away from the property. As it rains or as snow melts, the moisture could find its way to your foundation or into your home. Regrade with some simple landscaping or, if there are major puddles, consider a sump pump.
Winter home maintenance
In the winter, you’ll want to be able to stay warm and cozy inside. If you’ve done the necessary tasks throughout the year, you’ll be able to go mostly dormant when it comes to home maintenance. But to make sure your home can withstand the weather of the season, there are just a few things you’ll want to keep your eye on.
When the temperature fluctuates the way it does in the winter, wood will expand and contract, leading to loosening screws in things like doorknobs, cabinets, and furniture. Go around your home with a screwdriver and tighten everything that needs it.
Vacuum exhaust fans above stove and in bathroom
Now that you’re inside more, you might as well get to this task that shouldn’t take too long. The fans in the bathroom and above the stove will need a good cleaning. A nice powerful shop vac should do the job.
Check and test electrical plugs
Your outdoor plugs should all be GFCI plugs (ground fault circuit interrupters). This means that there is a built-in circuit breaker that switches off when the flow of electricity comes in contact with water. If it’s snowing or raining a lot where you are, you can test these by using the test button — plug something in with a light (like a night light), then hit the test button. When the light goes out, press the reset button. If the light either doesn’t go out during the test or doesn’t come back on after you reset it, the safety mechanism isn’t working properly.
Check for ice dams and icicles
Not only are icicles and ice dams dangerous but they can cause irreparable damage to gutters, siding, and eaves. Shovel these away or knock them off your roof as soon as they form.
Salt walkways and driveways
Keep snow off your driveway and walkway to keep you and your family safe while also protecting the integrity of your concrete. Water will seep in and create big cracks that’ll be a bigger problem later. Plus, a lot of cities have official ordinances that require you to keep these areas clear for pedestrians, mail carriers, and other municipal maintenance workers.
Close foundation vents
If your home has a crawl space under the structure (instead of a basement) it will likely have foundation vents which should remain open in the spring, summer, and fall. In winter, though, keep the home warm and the heat trapped in by closing these vents.
Cover the grill
You can barbecue right up to the first snow. A lot of people do! But as soon as snow starts building up on the grill, it’s time to cover it and store it to keep rust from forming and moisture from damaging valves.
Regular maintenance throughout the year
Test garage door reverse feature
Your garage door has a legally required feature to reverse on its own as soon as it hits anything that’s not the ground. This is intended to prevent injury in case it closes on someone. Simply place a block in the way of the garage door and make sure it reverses.
Inspect fire extinguishers
Fire extinguishers have a pretty long shelf life as long as there is no wear and tear. Ensure yours has the correct pressure (as per the instructions that came with it) and that it is accessible to everyone in the home.
Run water in unused bathrooms or showers
Continually flush the pipes of standing water in bathrooms that are used less. Think of your guest rooms or basement bathrooms.
Clean buildup from sink faucets and shower heads
Mineral buildup around your shower heads and faucets will corrode the metal and mess up water pressure. There are plenty of methods to cleanthe metal, from chemicals to common household ingredients.
Clean range hoods
The inside of your range hood captures all the grease, oil, and food splatter from every meal you cook. Can you imagine what it must look like if you haven’t cleaned it in a while?
Owning your own home is an incredible accomplishment you can work years to achieve. But it also comes with work if you want to keep your home safe, comfortable, and valuable over the years. Most of the maintenance items you should focus on are relatively small and won’t take long. Making an annual plan and sticking to a list will help keep you organized and spread the work over the year.
About the author: Josh Potter is a writer and journalist based in Seattle. He works for Flyhomes.