All homeowners are aware that they need to maintain their homes and take care of certain “to-do”s each season, but knowing the right time to do each task can be confusing and, at times, overwhelming. I’d like to provide some clarification on the best seasons to check off items on your home maintenance “to-do” list so you can be confident that you’re doing what needs done at the right times of the year.
First, one of the best things you can do is hire a home inspector to perform an annual home maintenance checkup each year. The checkup inspection will provide you with a thorough overview of your home’s major systems and components as well as information on how much longer they are likely to last based on their average life expectancy. Think of this as a general physical exam you would see your family doctor for once a year. Most homeowners are capable of handling a majority of the tasks that need done each season, but thoroughly inspecting the home is a vital job that is beyond the scope of basic homeownership, and nothing can replace a professional inspector for this important maintenance task.
Aside from the annual checkup, there are certain things you should do at least once a year, and which season you do them depends on when it makes the most sense. Some tasks should be done twice a year, and we will review the two seasons that make the most sense for those tasks.
SPRING: Aside from the spring cleaning most people do, spring is an ideal time to clean out your gutters and downspouts, check your roof and its components, have your central air conditioning system serviced by a qualified HVAC technician, check the shut-off valves on your plumbing supply lines, look over your foundation walls for any new cracks, install screens in exterior windows and doors, and clean your kitchen exhaust filter. The winter can be a rough time for your roof, foundation and plumbing system, in particular, due to freezing temperatures that can affect soil and pipes and snow and ice that exert pressure on the roof. Once the cold weather has cleared up, it is a perfect time to make sure there is no new damage to your roof or foundation from the winter and that your plumbing is intact with no leaks and valves that still operate properly. Before the heat of summer comes, having your A/C system serviced is a good idea to ensure it is set to perform optimally before it is frequently used.
SUMMER: When summer rolls around and you will likely be outside more, it is a good idea to check the exterior components of your home. Look over your deck, porches, balconies, and other exterior structures for deterioration. Check your siding to make sure no new holes or deterioration have formed after the heavy rains of spring. If anything needs a facelift, use this time to take care of that maintenance. Since spring brings a lot of rain, it is a good idea to check your foundation and roof once again. If you notice any new damage, contact a qualified contractor immediately for repair. Last but not least, you will want to thoroughly check any children’s play equipment for structural integrity since summer is when the equipment will be used most and the safety of children is of utmost importance.
FALL: The fall requires more maintenance than any other season. As the leaves begin to fall and the winter approaches, there are unfortunately many tasks that need to be done. Fall is the best time to have your gutters and downspouts thoroughly cleaned. I mentioned doing this in the spring as well, but if you opt to only have them cleaned once a year it is ideal to do it in the fall and at the end of the season. To ensure your heating system will function well all winter, it is important to have a qualified HVAC technician service the system and to take measures to prevent frozen pipes; and fall is the perfect time. Along those lines, you will want to have a qualified chimney sweep clean out your chimney and check the damper for proper operation. This is important for any chimney, but especially if you have a wood-burning fireplace. After mowing all summer and using other gas-powered outdoor equipment, you will want to be sure that the fuel for that equipment is used up prior to winter so it doesn’t stay sitting in the equipment all winter long. Any bird nests that have formed in the flue or around the exterior of the house during the warm season should be removed during the fall. Finally, you should take time near the end of the fall season to check your caulking around exterior doors and windows to prevent unwanted heat loss in the winter and replace any door or window screens to aid in energy efficiency.
WINTER: Most home maintenance occurs in the warmer months between spring and autumn, but winter still requires some attention. Since combustion is much more likely to occur during the winter from fireplaces, furnaces, and other heat sources, the beginning of the winter is the perfect time to check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors so you know they are working properly and will help keep your family safe during the cold season. Along those lines, you should ensure that all family members are aware of where gas shut-off valves are located and how to shut them off in case of emergency. Water hoses for appliances like dishwashers, refrigerator icemakers and washing machines should be checked for cracks and deterioration at the beginning of winter, and any damaged hoses should be replaced. If you burn wood during the winter, you will want to make sure that all wood is a good distance away from the house, despite how tempting it is to keep it nearby. Twenty feet or farther from the house is ideal. If you have a generator, you will likely want to test it at the beginning of winter to make sure it will work well if and when you need it most, and unless you have a new house with PEX plumbing and more than adequate insulation you will want to frequently check for plumbing leaks throughout the winter season.
This list is certainly not exhaustive, but doing the tasks listed at the recommended times will help a great deal in maintaining your home, prolonging the useful life of your home’s systems and components, and keeping your family safe. Remember, while you can likely do a lot of the work listed here on your own, nothing can take the place of qualified contractors for servicing and/or repairing certain components of your home, and nothing can act as a substitute for a professional inspector who can thoroughly evaluate your home year after year.
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