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6 home maintenance tasks you have to learn to do

Shannon Lee | Improvement Center Columnist | January 19, 2016

essential home maintenanceGood home maintenance is absolutely essential to keep your place in good repair. But there are many home maintenance points that homeowners might skimp on or even ignore altogether. Here are the most essential home maintenance tasks every homeowner must learn.

The overall inspection

At least once a year, you should inspect every part of your home from the ground up. That means walking around the house to look at the foundation, seeking out any cracks or trouble spots, and scanning the siding to make sure everything looks as it should. Look at the area around the house as well, to find potential issues with water drainage or landscaping.

You don't have to have a tall ladder and nerves of steel to inspect your roof. All you need is a sunny day and a powerful pair of binoculars. Scan every inch of the roof and make note of any spots that look discolored, any areas where granules have washed away, and areas where shingles might have been raised or shifted by winds. Then head into the attic to look for any water spots that might signal a leak.

Changing filters and cleaning vents

All sorts of things in your home have filters. You might find filters in your water purification system, your HVAC system, and even the range hood. Be prepared to change these out often, maybe every month if that's what the manufacturer suggests.

Keep in mind that there are plenty of vents, too. From the dryer vent to the registers in the floor, these vents build up dust and lint rather quickly, which can eventually pose a safety hazard. In most cases, a quick trip around the house with a vacuum can clean them out. While you're at it, get at the refrigerator coils with that vacuum, too.

Turning off all utilities

Knowing how to turn off all utilities to your home is an absolute must. In fact, it should be one of the first things you figure out as you are moving in. In the event of an emergency, you might have to turn off the water, electricity, gas, and the like very quickly in order to avoid an even worse situation.

Start by figuring out where the cut-off valves, switches, and other means of turning off the utilities are. In some cases they will be right there in your house; in others, they might be outside, even out in the street. You will also need to ensure that you can easily turn them off, as some might require special tools.

Once you have figured all that out, give it a shot -- turn them off, go back into the house to make sure it worked, then turn them back on. Do this once a year or so to make sure no valves are stuck, rusted or otherwise difficult to turn. For even more safety, write out the instructions and put them in a place where all residents of your home can access them.

Cleaning out gutters

Water infiltration is a huge problem that can be avoided with a few simple steps, including regular gutter and drain cleaning. Hire a professional to get this done on a regular basis, or do it yourself with great care -- use a sturdy ladder and have a friend 'spot' you to ensure that ladder doesn't slide.

Better yet, install gutter guards on your home. These cover the gutters and keep debris out, but still allow water to flow through. Gutter guards need to be inspected on a regular basis (at the same time you inspect your roof will be just fine), and repaired immediately if there are any issues.

Keeping your home safe

Check to ensure you have the proper number and placement of smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors; if you aren't sure, err on the side of caution and use more than necessary. Change out the batteries and test them every six months; if one of them starts to 'chirp' at you, replace the batteries immediately.

Check your fire extinguishers (you do have them, right?) to ensure they still have adequate pressure and are easy to grab quickly. If you have a chimney, get it inspected and cleaned once a year. Finally, go over your escape plan with your family at least once a year and act it out to ensure that everyone knows what to do if an emergency strikes.

Always be alert and aware

Good home maintenance goes beyond an occasional cleaning or inspection. Get into the habit of checking things out on a regular basis. For instance, when it rains, take some time to look outside each window and note how water is draining. Venture into the basement to look for moisture.

When the wind blows hard, look for branches that might pose a hazard. During the winter, feel around windows and doors for cold air -- that proves a need for better weatherstripping. By staying alert to all the nuances of your home, you can ensure that it stays safe, secure, and in tip-top shape.

About the Author

Shannon Lee is a freelance writer and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she's not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.